March 2021

What is a remote performance review?

Going to the office is so 2019. One thing Covid 19 has taught many employers globally is that almost any job can be successfully done remotely. Of course, there are exceptions, and the value of face-to-face contact cannot be underestimated, but Covid has brought us all fully into the third decade of the 21st Century. We can be productive, network and stay in touch, without having to change out of our pajamas!

But how do you measure remote employee performance accurately? You should find effective ways to support the remote workforce. Otherwise, your organisational story can quickly unravel into a 1980s comedy horror like the Gremlins.

The cute and cuddly pet Mogwai very quickly spawns a host of destructive little monsters that will wreak havoc in your organisation. Gremlins are the problems that will pop up if you lose touch with your staff’s needs, wants and how they line up with your business goals. Losing touch with the human side of your businesses can be detrimental to the whole system.

Remote Performance Reviews can be Challenging

Remote performance reviews are unchartered waters, like so many of our adapted practices since 2020 and the Covid outbreak. Under normal circumstances – do you remember those days? – performance reviews are tense and stressful. Pile in random unprecedented stressors like a rampant pandemic, and those anxieties are compounded by a factor of 10.  

Remote working is not a new concept. This time, though, it is for a prolonged period and across entire organisations. Remote working poses many different challenges, depending on a person’s circumstances. Do they have children at home while they need to work? Is their job under threat because they work in a sector that could suffer post-pandemic distress? Are they or someone close to them vulnerable and at risk?

 In remote work settings, we can miss the non-verbal cues that tell us that someone is merely surviving or thriving. The shortcomings of video calls make it hard to read facial expressions and body language. Additionally, analysing employee performance remotely could cause friction in the workforce.

How to Conduct a Remote Performance Review

Know Why You’re Doing It

Today, performance reviews are likely not about weeding out poor performers and deciding on who gets a raise, but rather aim to strengthen your business and its culture and values. Acknowledge that the rules of work have changed with Covid-19 and remote work. Use the review to really listen to what your employee needs.

Re-evaluate the Frequency of Performance Reviews

Early evidence suggests that on-the-spot, or monthly reviews improve employee engagement almost threefold, compared to annual reviews. A little performance review Gremlin called distance bias can often distort an accurate picture, since we tend to remember events that are more recent than further in the past.

Employees want to feel supported to combat feelings of isolation. Otherwise, it would be like dipping the Mogwai in water and spawning an army of Gremlins. Real-time performance reviews allow a quick assessment of employees’ difficulties and a quick response to best support each individual team member.

A useful outcome of video performance reviews is that managers and employees can record the sessions for later review, and it can improve the quality of data for each employee.

Monthly Reviews

Checking in with employees on a regular basis means managers get faster feedback about performance to instantly adjust course to improve. Managers can address small concerns before they become bigger.

Quarterly Reviews

Quarterly reviews can follow monthly reviews in a remote-work environment, or it can be the first pause for taking stock. Like monthly reviews, it gives employers and employees a faster response time to tweak actions for better performance.

Annual Reviews

The annual review is typically an analysis of past events. It can be constructive, but equally futile. Can’t really fix something after several months have lapsed, can you? And remember what exactly you did, why you did it, and the context? It’s vague. Annual reviews are also time consuming, from the paperwork to the time it takes to do the reviews.

However, the annual review includes the horizon in the picture, an opportunity to see the bigger organisational picture, and plan for individual growth and progress within this landscape.

Consider your employee model going forward. Can you see your staff returning to the office, or will you continue with remote-working arrangements? If remote employment is the way forward for your company, consider introducing annual reviews in addition to real-time reviews to keep employees in tune with the business.

 We would not recommend having only annual reviews with remote staff. Beware, the Gremlins will take you down!

Performance Review Tips for Managers

Tip 1: Be flexible

Employees have different challenges influencing remote-work performance. Be more lenient when rating employees. Be generous with praise where praise is warranted and hold back on the criticism, taking onboard each employee’s specific remote-work circumstances.  

Tip 2: Conduct self-appraisals

Same-equipped desks and uniform working conditions do not exist during pandemic remote work. The best person to evaluate performance within their circumstances is the employee.

Tip 3: Set realistic goals

Pre-Covid reviews are not valid reference points for current performance. Adjust employees’ goals to their specific capabilities under the circumstances.

Remote Performance Management

Action 1: Identify data sources

Positive and negative biases can amplify when we’re working remotely. Good data sources to combat biases are self-appraisals and remote employee surveys.

Action 2: Test different tools

Use tools that help gather and analyse data in a streamlined process for managers, employees and HR.

Action 3: Train managers in empathy

Because not everyone has a sensitive emotional radar.


gulfHR can help you manage the feedback and review systems in your company more effectively.

Book a demo with one of our experts to learn more!


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