Are you effectively managing your remote employees?

The Mortgage Collaborative offers best practices

With stay-at-home orders rippling across the United States in the past month, many employees and their managers who typically work in an office now have been thrust into working from home.

The Mortgage Collaborative, a San Diego-based network of mortgage banking companies, credit unions and service providers, recently offered best practices for effectively leading mortgage teams remotely in a webinar on the topic.

The keys are maintaining consistent contact with the team, personalizing your communication for each worker and acknowledging the current challenging situation.

Stephen Barton, senior vice president, national retail growth for Eustis/Verity Mortgage, said managers should use Microsoft teams, Zoom or Skype to keep the teams connected, but also carve out time during the day to call their team members individually and ask how their neighborhood and families are doing amid this stressful time.

“Make sure you ask questions about their family, their parents, their children to really connect because it gives them that mental break from work, which is the important part of that phone call,” he said. “You’re not calling to say, ‘How can we get more units out of you?’ Or ‘How can we make you more efficient?’ Those calls need to go away right now. The calls that need to be happening right now are, ‘How’s your family? Do you need anything?’”

Other best practices shared:

  • Maintain cybersecurity; ensure employees are able to keep non-public personal information (NPPI) from being compromised.
  • Create a work-from-home policy and get the staff to sign it; it can be one or two pages, outlining main principles and expectations.
  • Individualize your approach to each worker. Some prefer clear work hours, and others have distractions during the day but will log back on at night to finish their work. As a leader, accept each remote worker’s method; it helps morale and productivity.
  • Stay focused on the goals, not activity, and resist micromanaging: Don’t worry as much about what is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished. Keep an eye on the pipeline to meet important dates and commitments but trust your team to finish their tasks, said Marie Pietropaolo, vice president, operations, Holland Mortgage Advisors.
  • Communicate effectively and appropriately. Establish when to use emails versus phone calls and video. Barton said his company sends important announcements in a standard, consistent format — from an “Office of the CEO” box with an “Urgent Attention, Please Read” subject — so employees know to prioritize reading them.
  • Use technology to build community, such as Zoom, Slack and project management systems such as or Trello.
  • Have one-on-one interactions for tough conversations or even to reassure employees who are stressed or worried. “I sense that some of my young moms … are in that panic mode where they feel they’re having trouble balancing work-life, so I find myself on the phone more with those kinds of situations,” Pietropaolo said. “We’re really not talking about work.”

For examples of remote employee policies and other resources for managing a remote workforce, contact The Mortgage Collaborative.

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