Remote working: How can you manage performance?

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COVID-19 has shown us that remote working, which often includes home working, can work; at least from a technical perspective and in the short term whilst responding to the pandemic. But what about how it works from the perspective of employee performance?

This article is accompanied by our webinar recording, which you can watch on our website:

Remote working has many benefits for both the employer and employee, yet it also has its challenges. If the challenges are not managed or managed correctly, they can impact on how the employee performs in their role.

Here are some challenges associated with remote working that can impact performance:

• The employee may have technical or equipment issues
• The employee may not be effective at managing their own schedule and time
• There can be distractions, different to those typically seen in the workplace
• There can be reduced supervision and direction, which can often be unintentional
• Communication can become more ambiguous, unclear as the use of email, online platforms and text messaging becomes the norm over verbal and face to face communication
• Social isolation can occur, which for some, could lead to disengagement
• Creativity and idea sharing can become restricted as the debate, discussion and idea sharing gained from face to face, and spontaneous interactions are harder to conduct or even may no longer take place
• The role may not be suited to working remotely simply because of job specific factors such as the role relying on face-to-face interactions, or personal relationships
• If remote working is from the home, there can be a blurred line between work and personal life which can affect an employee’s wellbeing
• Being out of the office can mean being out of the loop on office fun, team spirit and culture.

Managing performance as part of day-to-day line management

When managing a direct report who is remote working, then there are several steps that can be taken to help ensure performance is maintained and mitigate some of those challenges identified earlier:

Encourage boundaries and setting routines
It is vital for an employee’s wellbeing that they set their own boundaries and separate home from work. It is therefore particularly important to set aside a dedicated space within the home where the employee works from which is also set up as a workspace. This helps in the separation of home and work life and helps to prevent distractions, especially if the workspace has been set up without access to a television or other items that may distract them.

Setting routines and having a structure to the working day is equally important for approaching the working day. Whilst working from home has advantages for giving greater flexibility for balancing home and work life, having a structured day provides that clarity around when an employee should be working and when they can spend time with their family or doing personal things. Without structure it can be easy for the day to slide with not all tasks having been completed. A structure also helps to ensure that long hours are prevented as the employee is aware of having completed a day’s work.

A line manager should encourage separation between home and work, and for those who are new to working from home, provide guidance on how best to develop structure.

Having an effective co-ordination of work tasks
If you are a line manager to many employees, and all or some may be working from home, then it can be challenging to ensure you have alignment amongst your team when it comes to departmental goals and objectives being met. Managing a dispersed team requires effective organising and communication skills on the part of a line manager.

Acknowledge and agree that some tasks may still require face to face interaction
Home working is not always perfect and for some roles, departments, some tasks are better face to face, such as those that require creativity, brainstorming or problem solving. Whilst working from home provides many benefits, there is one thing that you cannot replicate, and that is the spontaneous conversations and discussions that take place within the workplace.

Consider therefore, whether any of the tasks are better performed on site and face to face with colleagues. It is important if you do believe some activities require on site presence, to discuss this with your employee, explaining your rationale and agreeing a way of working that can avoid performance issues that could arise through remote working.

Determine how you will be able to monitor performance remotely
This is perhaps one of the main concerns that line managers have; how can you ensure your employee is pulling their weight and doing the work? This is where effective line management skills and having clearly defined performance measures is vital.

Each job should have a job description and person specification so that clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations can be defined. Each role will have performance measures or indicators of what constitutes an effective performance of that role..

Ensure you can build and maintain culture, social interaction, and team cohesion
When working remotely, it is important to ensure that the company’s culture, employee social interaction and team cohesion is maintained. Having a disengaged employee can contribute towards under performance.

Line managers should also encourage and support the use of varied forms of communication tools to reduce and avoid fatigue from long online meetings. Fatigue is another factor which can impact on performance. Incorporating face-to-face contact within your team helps create team cohesion and organisational belonging, it helps the onboarding of new members of staff and cross-team relationships.

Consider how learning and development can develop performance when working from home
Employee development remains crucial post COVID-19 as businesses rebuild. For some employees, working from home was a brand-new experience. It takes discipline and finding new ways of working to adapt to the new environment.

Working in the workplace also brings informal learning, which you do not get in the same way when working remotely, such as the job work shadowing or debating of issues. With home working consideration needs to be given as to how you can compensate for this lost informal learning.

Further Information

• Full Article: For more details on how to manage performance for remote workers, including managing under performance, visit:

• Webinar Recording: you can watch the HR Solutions webinar on ‘Remote working and managing performance’, and download the webinar slides, at

• HR Knowledge Base: this online portal is the go-to resource for thousands of business owners and managers across the UK. The HR Knowledge Base includes HR documents, templates, legal updates, news, and hot topic articles as well as access to free webinars and HR seminars. To find out more call 0844 324 5840 or visit