Author: Geraldo Figueras, marketer at remote company Xoxzo
If you ask most managers and bosses about their biggest fear in letting their teams go remote, the majority will say that they’re afraid of employees not working properly due to lack of supervision.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
Nothing could be further from the truth. But it depends.
Wait, what? That’s confusing, right? Not at all. Just bear with me.
If you need to supervise, you hired wrongly
Let’s address the elephant in the room here.
If you need to be on a constant watch, breathing behind the necks of unsuspecting employees to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do instead of watching silly dances on TikTok during paid time, it doesn’t mean that supervision is the ideal solution.
It means you hired an irresponsible, not ideal for the job, not-functional adult.
The thing with constant supervision in the office space is that it clouds the real truth about your hiring capabilities.
Whenever there’s a manager on watch, you can’t really see which team members are fully committed to the delivery of results.
Some might be delivering due to their sense of responsibility and genuine appreciation for the job they have, while others are delivering because, well, someone’s watching.
The remote work environment is ideal to let go of the reins, because at the end of each cycle there’s only one way to measure the quality of your team: by checking what’s delivered.
If someone does not deliver after a certain period, it might be indicative that such a person is not reliable and not the one you need for the position. Whereas if you kept them under constant supervision that realization might never come.
Flexibility of time leads to innovation of productivity
If you require your team to punch the clock at 9 and 5 sharp, making sure they remain inside office premises during this period, you are guaranteeing that rarely will someone make an effort to be more productive.
Why would one strive to achieve better results in less time if, in the end, they’ll have to stay still on an office chair until it’s time to join the masses on rush hour?
Working remotely is the next Age of Enlightenment for productivity.
Just as in different historical periods (Middle Ages) or extractive political institutions (Latin American colonial periods, current North Korea), where societies are established in a way that innovation doesn’t bare fruit to the individual since it’s always appropriated by an authoritarian system, our current office environment, organized around the amount of time an employee stays in the premises, offers little incentive for the individual to innovate in terms of productivity.
If there is an obligation of staying inside the office from 9 to 5, individuals work to fill this compulsory time they are required to complete. “Why would I spend energy in creating innovative ways to be more productive and bring more results by the hour if I – and to an extent, even the company – wouldn’t collect the rewards from it?“
Remote workers, with their flexible schedules and adherence to results instead of time spent at the office, thrive in pushing innovation on productivity since they can immediately see the gains from such a dynamic workflow.
“If I develop my work to a point where I can deliver a specific result in 2 hours instead of 8, that means I’ll allocate an extra 6 hours in my day to be used as I see fit. Be it for personal matters like having more time to spend with my family or dedicating myself to help in other areas of work, I feel like I have a great incentive to spend energy in developing and experimenting with different approaches to produce better work and be way more productive”.Mr. Rappyw Orcher
Individuals need to see the immediate potential for returns before they can invest themselves into something better.
Accountability is about results, not about time spent
Perhaps we need to revisit the concept of supervision to begin with.
The absence of a watchdog on remote businesses does not mean that team members are not held accountable. Quite the contrary. While working remotely, the biggest metric you can have to track commitment, progress, and compromise, is by holding people accountable with results.
“Oh, but if I just let them do whatever they want however they choose, my team will take 6 months to accomplish what I wanted to finish in 3 months”.Mr. Worid Mehna Jer
That’s a valid point, and that’s where managers can really be useful: by iterating on workflow processes and understanding how to better allocate resources and fix choke points.
Which is, it goes without saying, not the same as micromanaging every minute of your team member’s work.
When the cat’s away, the mice will be more productive because the cheese-prize is exponential
Innovation happens at open environments that are sufficiently connected through like-minded peers with sufficient autonomy and under the influence of egalitarian leaders.
Every point of human history when people were free to explore alternatives, knowing they will be the first ones to relish the fruits of their innovation, were junction points of important development for humanity.
The Industrial Revolution did not happen in the UK because life is random. It happened because there were laws in place that safeguarded the fruits of innovation to individuals.
The United States and Canadian colonies developed economically while their Latin cousins didn’t. Not because of climate or culture or any other factors, but because the propriety laws that made sure people wouldn’t have their work expropriated by an authoritarian force.
And, yes, remote workers are not excelling in productivity because they are super humans. They are excelling because they see the results of such improvements on a daily basis. Because there are cultural laws in place that guarantee better usage of their time.
Because when they stop being treated like teenagers, they actually behave like the functional adults they are.