“How do I know my team is productive when working from home?”

This must be the number one question I get when people ask me something about working remotely. I could tell them to install a camera that records the employee’s every movement, combined with a screen monitoring tool that takes screenshots of their laptop every 5 minutes, but that’s not how I like to work. Let’s see how we can do it better.

Let’s start with trust

If you can’t trust your employees to work flexibly, why hire them in the first place?

Adam Henderson

In these challenging times, trusting that your employees will do the right thing when working from home is important, especially for companies that have little to no experience with working remotely.

“But how can I trust them if I don’t know what they’re doing all day?” 

Well, trusting employees usually has more to do with you as a leader than it has to do with your team. Do you have a team agreement on how you like to work together? What processes do you have installed and documented to show progress? How often do you communicate with individuals and teams? Do you delegate goals or micromanage tasks?

Stop managing the work and start leading the team

During her 2019 talk at the Lead Dev conference in London, Rebecca Hill showed a great slide on the differences in team organization. If you’re currently micromanaging the work of your team, you’re probably close to a manager-led team. That’s not a great way to make your team take responsibility for their work. Ideally, you move more and more towards a self-governing team. This also shifts your role from being someone who manages the work to someone who leads their team and who has space to coach and mentor individuals to become better versions of themselves.

Introducing goal-setting

One of the most important things we do at madewithlove is align on goals. We have them on a company level to facilitate decision making. We can always check those goals and ask ourselves if what we’re doing aligns with those goals. We set goals on projects to make discussions with a client easier: are we moving towards the goals or are we deviating into details that don’t matter that much? And most importantly, we ask every single person to set weekly goals for themselves.


For this week I had set 4 goals for myself:

  1. Help my project team to keep the focus on the milestone they set in any way I could
  2. Think about a new service offering for madewithlove
  3. Write this article
  4. Create a landing page for an internal project I’m working on with a colleague

Is this all the work I will be doing this week? Most likely not, there’s also some administrative stuff and smaller weekly tasks that I pick up. But once I start losing focus, I can always go back to what I said on Monday and concentrate on those goals.

Do we always finish all of our goals? No, and that’s fine. Life happens, projects throw curveballs, and priorities change. We do try our best though to check all the goals at the end of the week.

Do we know now what everyone’s doing every single minute of every day? No, not at all. But we do have an idea of what the end result of the week could be. We can have conversations about the workload someone is taking on (too much or too little). We can set ourselves available to help out others because we have an easy week. We can shift our own priorities to help out someone else who’s swamped with work.

The value of co-creating goals

Setting goals for yourself can be a daunting task the first time. Is no one telling me what to do? How do I know what to work on? That’s why your job as a leader is also to facilitate the process of goal creation.

I see 3 levels that you can go through:

  1. Set the goals for your team: this is the base level. There’s clarity but the team has little to say in the feasibility of those goals. No responsibility. No accountability.
  2. You co-create goals with the team: this is a good spot to be in. You have conversations together on what the goals can be and agree on it. Shared responsibility, shared accountability.
  3. The team creates the goals: the best spot to be in. You’ve set the north star and the team can set their own goals. Complete responsibility. Complete accountability.

“What’s my responsibility as a leader then?” 

You make sure the team has everything they need to do their work. You make yourself available for any help they need. You might look more outside the company (towards the clients) instead of inside the company (towards the team).

Leaders go first

So where do you go from here? Start leading by example. Be transparent about the goals you are trying to achieve every week and report back on them. Think about your company or project goals and document them clearly. They will serve as the starting point for setting individual goals.

Have conversations about those goals and discuss how you can achieve them together. Be very clear in your expectations of the collaboration and at the same time be open to feedback. This is a team effort.

What can madewithlove do for you?

We love diving into specific use cases to see how we can translate our processes and habits towards other businesses. So if you have questions on how this could work for your situation, feel free to email me and I will happily help you out.

Or ask your questions on our Twitter:

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