How to manage performance and absence with a disbursed workforce?

April 11, 2022

manage performance and absence

Managing Performance and Absence with a disbursed workforce is not a simple task… How do you measure the performance effectively of 2 people doing the same job one who may be working remotely, and one who may be in the office?

New challenges for the HR function

The pandemic has thrown up a series of challenges for HR professionals.

Whilst coping with a backlog of problems from the past emergency work measures and the ever-changing circumstances of the Now, they are busily having to work out how to prepare to meet Future events with confidence.

The emergency measures have thrown a harsh spotlight on existing HR systems. Whether these systems are not fit for the purpose they were intended or inadequately configured and implemented, HR have in many cases been hamstrung in keeping the people side moving smoothly, and meeting management information needs. One of the key failings has been a poorly executed self-service function. And this function was essential for a widely distributed workforce.

Manage Performance and Absence

HR have identified the need to enable mechanisms for: 

  • The traditional workplace-based employees.
  • Remote or home-based workers.
  • And those with ‘hybrid’ arrangements.

Apart from the contractual and compliance obligations, they also must contend with the operational side. And this is no easy matter. Two that stand out immediately are the key questions of Absence Management and Performance. Performance management is a key tool to identify the critical points to be addressed by remote HR management.  BTW, for Performance Management, choosing the right indicators is very important. 

Absence has always been a headache for line managers. Why? Because there can exist a fine line between the genuine and the capricious. In other words, the symptoms of frequent absence can indicate the presence of underlying problems, for instance:

  • Domestic issues.
  • Or work-related problems.

An HR system provides the necessary dates and figures. So, dealing with this in a fair, sympathetic and above all consistent manner – must be a basic element in every manager’s skill set.

It is important to review for usability all processes for the recording of absence. Especially when deployed through the self service module.

An absence system as a clever tool to identify burnout

However, with evolving work patterns, employers have come to understand that monitoring employee hours is not just to establish if they are working or not. Quite the opposite! It is a way to ensure those employees are not overworking and heading for burnout.


Identify easily burnout risk situations.


Anecdotal evidence from a wide range of sources has suggested that the previous ‘days off’ registered in the office as sickness have reduced due to increased remote working. But that there has been a higher incidence of psychological episodes such as depression and lack of motivation. The causes are not difficult to pinpoint. Not everyone is psychologically equipped to do perform well whilst working unsupervised and unsupported.


Besides, no commuting meant that employees had more time available to work, and a form of guilt because they were at home, which made them feel ‘obliged’ to do it. As a result, line managers were confronted with a new people management requirement.

Wellness as part of HR strategy

What these two years have taught us is that for employees to perform optimally, they need to be the best version of themselves. However, we can only achieve it by ensuring well-being.

Presenteeism vs. Wellness

Presenteeism, as an empty show of dedication either in the office or remotely, has no place in the modern organisation.

Now, the focus is moving towards quality of output and not hours spent at the workstation. In their December 2020 survey, the Global Payroll Association reported that 56% of their members were working as effectively in the office. And a further 27% actually reported increased efficiency.

Companies are now placing great emphasis on Wellness as part of their strategy to attract and retain the best candidates in the current competitive Recruitment market.

We can predict with some certainty that the power of HR software systems will be increasingly deployed to assist in the monitoring of employee health, both physical and mental.

Performance Management in real time

Another perennial issue for management is that of Performance.

Even with the variety of working locations, there is no pressing need for the fundamental performance measures for employees or departments to be re-written. Nevertheless, they should be re-assessed for validity. For instance, if staff are working too much overtime, there are two options:

  • Either they are not properly equipped for the task.
  • Or the job is actually beyond the number of people assigned to it.

Rather, the demands of today’s fast-moving businesses are such that managements must have performance data in real time. In fact, taking the temperature at quarterly or annual intervals by  subjective appraisal discussions is no longer acceptable. To enable this, HR system Performance modules must be able to set up configurable targets such as KPIs and milestones, and capture progress – or otherwise – at a commensurate rate.

Performance Management and technology

We are seeing moves towards self-managed performance. Employees are responsible for reporting their progress. How? Via systems and with the increase in distributed workforces, both nationally and globally, this will lead both to timeliness and objectivity.

Much has been made from various quarters of the possibility of the remote worker element being disadvantaged based on ‘out of sight out of mind’. Certainly, this might have been true in more traditional working environments. However, we are now in an era where bias and discrimination are being identified and driven out of the corporate culture.

Technology will be a valuable ally in achieving this. In fact, system reporting can be harnessed to highlight areas of inequity or bias so that corrective action can be taken.

Employers now must look to comply with their publicly declared values and principles. If not, they risk damaging their reputation – and their desirability in the crucial candidate stakes, at a time when there is, genuinely, a very intense War for Talent.