For many workers today, a world where interdepartmental memos were physical papers sent from floor to floor is a reality only represented in period television shows and movies. The workplace has completely evolved.
The traditional 9-to-5 schedule that Boomers and Gen Xers followed is on it's way out, along with the days of being restricted to a company network in one office.
More than ever, companies are expanding their workforce to include talented employees wherever they happen to live. In fact, in the last decade, the number of remote and work-from-home employees has grown 115%.
And with that growth comes unrestricted work environments and cloud solutions that enable work to happen outside the workplace.
This shift can present challenges for a company, such as finding the right work-life balance in an always-on culture, choosing the right technologies to help get the work done, and managing remote employees.
If you're in a leadership role, you need to keep your employees and their success top of mind as your company adapts. Here are some tips on you can foster a culture that supports remote employees.
Encourage in-office employees to adopt a remote culture
Company initiatives must become a part of internal company culture if there’s hope for widespread success and adoption—this is even more important with remote workforce management.
Most organizations today have access to the tools and solutions necessary to make remote work feasible and productive, but if policies and procedures aren’t adopted and welcomed fully by employees and leaders who work primarily in the main office, then remote work will not succeed.
Encourage collaborative work between those in-office and those who work remotely, starting with these methods:
Always ensure every single meeting is available to everyone on platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype. Your co-workers may not be physically present, but reacting to discussions and ideas through visual meetings creates a warmer, more collaborative atmosphere for employees. Video conferencing requires some work at the outset, and it’s well worth the investment to have the right technology.
Be flexible with meeting times, particularly recurring meetings. It can be tricky to accommodate time zones across the world, but by keeping everyone’s schedules in mind, each employee will feel valued.
Be deliberate and clear on expectations so employees—both remote and in-house—know how, where, and when communication occurs. Teams can’t be expected to collaborate efficiently if a team member seems to go MIA from responding to Slack messages or isn’t up to speed on the company-adopted solution where progress is tracked.
Additionally, an easy way to build both team productivity and morale is to provide a dedicated communication channel that’s direct-manager-free. This gives workers the space they need to share with each other while also building bonds.
Learn how to improve the effectiveness of your meetings with remote employees.
Incorporate cloud solutions people can access from any device
Giving everyone employee access to their work across all devices, wherever they are, is critical in setting the stage for remote workers and in-office workers to be able to work efficiently.
Whether it’s a matter of managing remote employees training, facilitating remote team communication, or simply getting work done, cloud solutions are a must-have and have changed the way people work in exponential ways. These solutions can be as simple as document and sheets intended for collaborative work or as sophisticated as work management tools that drive innovation across multiple teams.
In providing an atmosphere where one can keep tasks and projects progressing from any device, an organization empowers its workforce to get the job done in a way that fits the way people work and live their lives today.
Document everything and make it accessible to all employees
When a company has employees across multiple states, and even multiple countries (sometimes even continents), knowing exactly what is expected can start to break down, leading to serious deficiencies. When a company has specific documentation that’s clear, easy to understand, and accessible for every employee regardless of where they place their computers, expectations are clear and better results achieved.
Every company has critical processes unique to their business, and every company has important information that must be readily available, especially in the event of a crisis. For example, if a company’s network goes down in one office, employees from other offices have the ability to help fix the problem remotely—all because the setup was documented and easily accessed remotely.
Clearly define roles and responsibilities
Just as an expectation for communication is critical, so is knowing who owns which stage of a project or which portion of a deliverable. Additionally, setting expectations for how team members work together to accomplish a goal is best when set ahead of time. It’s not uncommon for most workers to experience a duplication of effort at some point in their career—even when those efforts are taking place within the same building! It’s frustrating for both managers and employees, as time feels wasted and employees may even feel undervalued.
When teams need to collaborate remotely, a beginning step of every project should always be classifying and determining ownership. Roles and responsibilities become more clear when you can visualize processes from start to end. This kind of visibility is good for any team, but is even more critical when you’re managing employees in different locations. Clear processes also help avoid unnecessary (and ultimately costly) duplication, while also promoting a stronger collaborative atmosphere and team relationship.
Establish clear performance metrics to be reviewed often
A typical challenge when bringing in-house and remote workers together can be managing expectations. Output and deliverables should always be expected on an even playing field from all team members, but this isn’t always easy to do. When managing remote employees, consider their contributions in the same way internal contributions are considered, and manage to those expectations accordingly.
Documentation outlining these expectations helps ensure adoption from everyone. This also means checking in and reviewing work on a consistent cadence will all team members. It will keep the team performing optimally while also fostering a strong culture of collaborative success.
Include remote employees in company events and culture
The International Data Corporation expects remote employees to make up around 72% of the American workforce by 2020. Whether they work in sweatpants at home or joggers in the office, the value remote workers bring to the table is no longer in question.
There is, however, something to be said about helping a team feel like a team, and that can be difficult to accomplish in a remote setting.
To help remote and in-house workers collaborate as a team and build bonds of camaraderie that strengthen an organization, take a couple of steps to create opportunities for inclusion. When financially possible, give new employees the opportunity to see your main office and to meet the coworkers they’ll be working with face-to-face. Host events or meet-ups during the year where everyone can be present and included. If events like a weekly company lunch are on the calendar, help provide lunch for the remote workers and be sure to have a Zoom or Skype camera and microphone to help them feel like they’re there.
A typical business saves $11,000 per year per remote worker. Investing just a small portion of that into bringing the company together as one will ultimately improve productivity, build the team, and grow a positive company culture that every worker can feel proud of.
Want additional ideas on how to include your remote employees in team building?
For some additional ideas on how to include your remote employees in team building, take a look at this list.
Building a team is never easy, especially when you want top talent regardless of where they live. Managing remote employees makes it even more complicated. Today’s workforce is primed for this kind of work, however, and when implementing some best practices, an organization can see incredible results.
Ultimately the key is to treat all team members as essential members—in-house or remote—and give them the tools they need to succeed. Investing in a workplace culture that’s supportive, conducive, and even encouraging to remote work will allow your company to grow—and your employees to work in a way that makes sense for both their careers and their lives.