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It’s extremely difficult for a manager to pinpoint when an employee is struggling. Double that if the employee is working remotely.
Since the pandemic reconfigured the workplace, many teams operate in a hybrid or remote environment. This means that managers must develop a new skillset: identifying the signs a remote employee is poorly managing their time and is stressed.
At-home employees need as much, if not more, support from supervisors and management as traditional in-office workers. Human resources specialists and anyone in a supervisory role should know these six telltale signs that an employee is struggling with time management and stress levels, and needs assistance to be more efficient and in a better place.
1. Late, Missing and Rushed
The most obvious signs a remote employee is poorly managing their time is a worker who is constantly late to online meetings or missing assignment deadlines. Even when they are on time, an employee may seem rushed or unfocused.
2. Changes in Communication Habits
One of the more subtle signs a remote employee is poorly managing their time involves communication habits. The remote work environment is entirely reliant on communications technologies since co-workers cannot rap on each other’s doors when they need facetime. A worker who is stressed may disable video during meetings. Or, maybe they were once responsive to communications and become less reliably communicative. Employees who are not engaged in team chat threads may also be having difficulty managing their time or stress levels. Finally, supervisors will want to keep an eye out for workers who have not changed their communication rhythms per se but have become less likely to speak up during meetings. As they say, silence can be deafening.
3. Making Repeated Inquiries
Workers who are experiencing poor time management and stress may ask the same questions over and again. Feeling strained by expectations and not in control of your work makes it harder to process information well, sometimes leading to repeating questions or asking for the same directions on assignments. If an employee is doing this, it is a good opportunity to ask how they are feeling about their work and if they need resources to perform better and alleviate their stress.
4. Reduced Output Or Quality of Work
Employees whose work output becomes less consistent or whose quality of work is not what it was may be struggling. This can be more difficult to identify in new employees, but supervisors will be familiar with the working habits of team members who have been around for at least several months. Before work output or quality suffers, an even earlier sign a remote employee is poorly managing their time is a noticeable change in attitude about work. This usually precedes a reduction in deliverables and quality.
5. Difficulties with Scheduling Deliverables
An employee who is pushing back on project schedules and delivery dates may be having time management issues. Supervisors should also be on alert for employees who keep pushing back soft due dates.
6. Taking More Time Off
One of the bigger signs a remote employee is poorly managing their time and is becoming stressed is an uptick in taking time off. There may be more sick time or personal time usage because the employee is feeling overwhelmed.
Develop a Plan for Better Team Time Management
Managers who learn the signs a remote employee is poorly managing their time and are feeling overburdened will be better equipped to address this issue when it arises. Developing an intervention plan for employees struggling with time management can not only get the most from employees, but it can improve team cohesion and employee attitudes about their work. A well-prepared management team with strong soft skills in handling employee relationships can work wonders in getting everyone on board in collectively managing their time and hitting deliverables.
Of course, even better than responding to time management problems in the workforce is being a step ahead and preventing problems in advance. Training on time management and time management technologies can make all the difference for employees who have difficulty meeting deadlines and juggling responsibilities. Time management training can also boost the abilities of employees who do not have problems with time management, making them even more efficient.
An outstanding company will bring all of this together by folding time management training and regular check-ins with employees into a larger employee wellness plan. Shifts in the job marketplace have put employee wellbeing at the heart of employee retention strategies and creating a company culture that puts employees first. The future of work is the employee experience and companies who realize this and enact policies that facilitate it - like time management training and employee wellness programs - will reap the benefits of a productive, content and efficient workforce.