Rethinking the Tight Grip: A Flex Work Tip for Leaders

flex work tip for leaders



By Madison Hanscom, PhD

If you are accustomed to a leadership style that involves close monitoring to feel in control of what employees are doing daily, this will be a point of consideration when employees transitioning to more flexible telecommuting model. Previously, you might have conducted “walk-arounds” to observe work onsite. With a flexible work environment, this will not be as possible.
Excessively trying to monitor the process of all workers in a remote setting will take a great deal of time and effort. Different strategies will need to be utilized to stay aware of work. Instead of a process focus, leaders should focus on monitoring the results or outcomes. This can include an emphasis on deliverables or accomplishments.

This is not to say monitoring is not important. An approach that involves frequent interaction with employees builds trust and transparency, which are crucial for succeeding in a virtual environment (1). Thus, it is beneficial to check in often, but be careful not to cross the line and micromanage.

Once employees are trained and understand the process, it will require trust that they will navigate the process accordingly. A good way to ensure quality will be great training, a psychologically safe space where employees can ask questions and get answers fast, and a fair system to review performance. Rely on objective, documented records of employee behavior as much as possible. These are substantial indicators of performance, like work completed, quality of deliverables, sales volume, orders taken, calls successfully completed, and so on. Avoid using your subjective memory of an employee’s performance. Research shows this usually is not accurate (2). Also, ensure employees clearly understand what is expected of them. They should have clear job descriptions and performance standards to guide their behavior.

At Propulo Consulting, we partner with you to improve the world of work. Our team has the expertise to help your business plan and implement a sensible Flex Work strategy without pain. We work with you to ensure your company culture and processes develop accordingly during or after a Flex Work transition so you can continue to deliver results for your organization and customers. Please visit our website for the latest insights and research into flexible work.

(1) Breuer, C., Hüffmeier, J., & Hertel, G. (2016). Does trust matter more in virtual teams? A meta-analysis of trust and team effectiveness considering virtuality and documentation as moderators. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(8), 1151.
(2) DeNisi, A. S., & Peters, L. H. (1996). Organization of information in memory and the performance appraisal process: Evidence from the field. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81(6), 717–737.