How To Avoid Micromanaging Your Remote Workers: 6 Essential Tips
One of the more challenging aspects for managers pivoting to remote work during a global pandemic was how to avoid micromanaging remote workers. Leaders were tempted to constantly check in with their remote teams to keep productivity high, but it came with the cost of fostering an environment of distrust.
Micromanaging is a bad habit. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to stay in the loop of employees’ progress and asking for constant check-ins. After all, not working from the same office space can leave managers with no control over what employees do daily.
A 2020 study by Microsoft reported that 61% of managers feel they haven’t effectively learned how to delegate and empower virtual teams. TrackTime24 reported in 2020 that 48% of employees believed trust levels had changed after the pandemic, and 1 out of 5 believe that micromanagement is the most stressful aspect of working remotely.
The good thing is that this doesn’t have to be true for all remote work experiences. Nowadays, most companies have learned from past mistakes and implemented thorough planning to support their decisions to stay remote. Heads of remote are typical roles in remote-first companies that ensure executives embrace new ways of working.
Let’s dig into ways to avoid micromanaging your remote workers and provide an environment of trust that aligns with your remote first company culture and values.
What is micromanaging?
Micromanaging is the act of being overbearing or controlling. It’s a management style that involves constantly checking up on your employees and making sure they're doing their jobs exactly as you would do them yourself.
The problem with micromanaging is that it can lead to increased stress and burnout, lost productivity, and even turnover among employees who feel they've lost their autonomy.
An environment of scrutiny harms office morale by creating a “me-vs.-them” mentality in workers. It also makes management less productive; by spending their days surveilling the work they hired someone else to do, they’re left with less time to allot to bigger-picture matters.
In the early days of the pandemic, we saw clear examples of micromanagement when people were asked to attend daily meetings first thing in the mornings (with the sole purpose of ensuring they’re awake), to have their webcams on at all times during their shifts, and even to inform their supervisors of bathroom breaks.
The detrimental effects of micromanaging are not so micro and can cause permanent damage to the relationship between leaders and their teams, as well as to the company’s general remote work culture. So how can you avoid becoming a monster-like manager and stop micromanaging your remote workers? Here are some tips.
6 Ways To Avoid Micromanaging Your Remote Employees
It’s worth stating that the sudden shift to remote, which many managers and employees experienced in 2020, is not representative of an ideal work-from-home scenario.
In a perfect case, there’s a thorough planning process behind a company’s decision to take the plunge and go remote. This means that measures should be taken before the switch to ensure that workers will have everything they need to thrive in the comfort of their own homes.
Aside from providing equipment, tools and technology to work off-site, companies need systems and best practices to ensure leaders are supported and their team members as well.
1. Trust your remote workers to do the best job they can
The basis of healthy work culture is trust. To protect your team from micromanagement, you must build trust in your remote environment. Let them do their job on their terms while letting them know any expectations and deadlines. Device a strategy to receive updates that is not invasive and detail how managers can provide resources.
2. Give your employees autonomy and independence.
If you want your employees to give their best, it's essential that they feel empowered to do so. Giving your employees the freedom to do their jobs will help them feel more satisfied and increase their productivity, leading to better results.
When an employee is micromanaged, it's easy for them to start feeling scrutinized and like they can’t make decisions about their work. It increases stress and lowers self-esteem, and ultimately leads to poor performance.
3. Establish clear expectations and deadlines
Micromanagers often don’t lay out their expectations enough for the people they manage, which leads to confusion, frustration, and ultimately resentment on both sides.
Make sure everyone has clear goals and understands what is expected of them before they start working on a project. Talk to your employees to establish how long it will take to complete a task and set realistic deadlines.
Once you are clear on the expectations, there’s less room for confusion or miscommunication down the road.
4. Use project management tools
Managers who micromanage often expect their employees to follow up on every little task and detail. This can lead to overbearing supervision, which can harm the employee's performance.
A project management tool is a great way to keep track of what your team members are working on without micro-managing them. You can use the tool to assign tasks and track the progress of each project from beginning to end.
For example, suppose you want your team member to work on a specific project. In that case, you can assign it in the tool by setting them as a task owner, delegating it, or putting it into a group for collaboration. Project management tools also allow collaboration with other team members, so everyone knows what's happening at all times.
5. Create a structure for check-ins
Too little contact with your workers can be just as detrimental to productivity as too much. Managers should set up a schedule for check-ins with each team member to have a regular cadence for interacting with them.
Face-to-face check-ins through video calls can be every two weeks, but if your company promotes async communication, written daily progress reports can help everyone stay on track. The written reports should be short, so it doesn’t take employees all of their time to write them.
6. Track productivity, not time
It's important to know how much work is getting done by your team, but don't get hung up on how long it takes them to do it. You should be tracking results rather than how long it takes to complete tasks — if you're looking at hours worked as a metric, you could end up micromanaging by telling employees they need to work faster or harder.
Instead of monitoring the hours each employee has clocked in, set goals for what they need to accomplish during their time with you and then track those goals over time. With this method, employees can work at their own pace and really take ownership of their time.
The road to a solid remote culture can be challenging, but it's one that many companies are now willing to travel.
Managers may feel out of control when they don't see their team members in the same space and develop micromanaging tendencies.
But companies now have the experience of working with teams worldwide and even have specialists come in to ensure their remote strategy works.
Micromanaging can become a thing of the past when you acknowledge it and take steps to avoid it. A remote company playbook and other systems can support managers and employees to ensure that they work in a comfortable environment.
Having trust in your employees is what will allow them to flourish and achieve their goals within the company.
You must also provide the right tools to support your globally distributed teams. GroWrk can help you keep your team productive by procuring and managing equipment for globally distributed teams. Request a demo today to scale your teams and reach your goals.
FAQs on how to avoid micromanagement in remote work
Why do managers micromanage remote workers?
As the old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Micromanagers fear that their distributed workers won’t be productive if they are not physically present in the same space. They don’t trust employees to get their work done or want to be involved throughout completing a task. Ultimately, micromanagers show distrust as a standard management practice instead of empowering employees to make decisions independently.
How do you manage employees while working remotely?
Set up a remote work policy to guide leadership and employees while navigating the remote work waters. Managing remote employees can be easy when you have suitable systems in place like communication channels and clear expectations.
How do you politely stop micromanagement?
Talk to your manager to establish deadlines and be diligent about providing updates on the agreed timeline. If your manager insists on having check-ins before the agreed deadline, remind them that you will give more details on the agreed date. If the problem persists, explain that their behavior causes mistrust and doesn’t allow you to focus properly on tasks.