Remote Work: Performance Management

All established expectations, Collective Bargaining Agreements, policies and procedures related to performance management apply to employees who have a flexible work arrangement. Supervisors must ensure they have methods in place to evaluate the work of employees who have alternative hours or work location and to hold the employee accountable for the volume and quality of work expected.

All work shall be performed according to the same standards as is expected at the primary worksite. The supervisor and employee will meet at regular intervals to review the employee's work performance. UO policies, rules and practices shall apply at the remote work site. Failure to follow policy, rules and procedures may result in termination of the remote work arrangement and/or disciplinary action.

When working remotely, employees are expected to maintain productivity, performance, communication and responsiveness standards as if they were working in a UO work location. Employees must perform all of their duties as set forth in the position description, as well as those additional and/or different duties that the Department may assign from time to time. 

Expectations for staying in touch and dealing with the worker’s absence from the workplace should be communicated before implementing the arrangement.

Supervisors should:

  • Set clear and objective goals – in a remote environment, leaders do not have the ability to course correct employees through in-person observations or conversations. It is vital that remote employees understand their goals and how their success will be measured.
  • Help the employee prioritize their goals to ensure their time and energy is placed on the right initiatives.
  • Give employees stretch goals – challenging assignments will challenge them and grow their skillset.
  • Ensure goals have check in points and due dates to track progress.

Conducting the performance management/coaching discussions with remote employees:

  • The purpose of these conversations is to encourage growth, focus the discussion on achievements, learning and development opportunities, career aspirations, supervisor feedback, and employee self-reflection.
  • Positive feedback – ensure feedback is specific and shows that you understand the individual’s role and their contributions.
  • Constructive feedback – be prepared to provide an example, discuss the solution collaboratively, and set next steps and action items.
  • Conduct the conversation on a video call, such as Zoom or Teams. This will allow you to pick up on critical nonverbal cues and engage your employees in a more organic conversation.
  • Prepare for the conversation yourself. Coaching conversations can motivate or demotivate an employee based on how the conversation is conducted. Try to be in a mental state of curiosity and appreciation as you conduct the meeting.

Remote coaching/performance management conversation tactics

  • Before diving into a meeting, leave a few moments for social interaction, such as engaging the employee in non-work related topics such as family or weekend plans, provided that you have that type of relationship with your employee. This will lighten the mood and set the stage for a more productive and amicable discussion. These types of conversations aren't able to happen organically as they would in an office environment, so it is important to intentionally devote time to these interactions.
  • Start meetings by sharing the intention behind the conversation and how the conversation will be structured.
  • Conduct a two-way conversation instead of monologue – this will provide the employee with an opportunity to share their thoughts, ask questions, and openly discuss their needs and career-growth ambitions.
  • Utilize screen sharing to display relevant data or materials.
  • Observe employee reactions – pay attention to employee nonverbal cues such as crossed arms, shoulder shrugging, lack of eye contact, and the tone of their voice. These reactions are not as easy to spot in a virtual working environment as they would be in an office. Staying aware of these actions will help you navigate when to ask clarifying questions and deepen the conversation.
  • Be aware of burn-out. The reality of what working from home actually looks like is usually very different from the stereotype. Many employees are more productive working from home and put in more hours out of fear of being labeled as lazy. Since virtual meetings are much easier to set up (since physical space and travel time is no longer an issue), increased virtual meetings leave less time for work, causing employees to put in more hours. Working from home can also blur the lines between home and work life causing employees to always stay connected (i.e. respond to emails)
  • Try to develop results-based objectives for your employees and continually monitor those objectives, adjusting as needed. It is difficult to avoid interruptions while working from home - for example, packages are delivered and children may need assistance with remote learning, need to be fed, etc. - so rather than measuring success based on hours worked, measure success based on completed tasks and the quality of the employee's work product.
  • Establish trust. Assume positive intent and begin with the belief that your employee is working hard and devoting the required amount of time to their assigned tasks. Allow metrics and results to speak for the employee’s productivity - not how many hours they are sitting in front of their computer.
  • End critical conversations on an upbeat note. A lack of in-person interactions may leave an employee feeling excluded or questioning "where they stand" with their supervisor of that with their job. Reinforce that critical feedback is simply intended to be constructive in order to facilitate change and improvement.
    • Set a positive tone for future conversation
    • Ending on a negative note may leave the employee feeling that their job is at stake which can lead to loss of productivity and struggle for support while working from home.
  • Feedback and follow-up should be frequent and consistent occurrences during one-on-one meetings.
  • Remote employees can feel disconnected from the business and the team. Holding regular check-ins will make them feel valued and recognized and allow for clear communication.
  • Devote time during regular check-ins to discuss personal goals, training opportunities, and career development goals.