Now more than ever, an increasing shift in the work environment, brought on by the evolution of remote working models, is changing the way work gets done. It's also making a significant difference in employers' abilities to attract and retain top talent. Fostering employee satisfaction through work-life balance is critical to building positive employee relations--aside from being an effective way to position the company ahead of other organizations in a highly competitive talent landscape.
In a recent survey of 18,000 professionals conducted by International Workspace Group (IWP), the company reported that 70% of the respondents said they worked outside of their employer's primary offices at some point each week, and 53% said they work remotely at least half of the week (The Workspace Revolution: Reaching the Tipping Point).
If we are indeed nearing the tipping point in the worldwide prevalence of employees working remotely, as TWC's report title suggests, what does this mean for managers? Another recent survey report, this one from LinkedIn (2019 Global Talent Trends The 4 trends transforming your workplace) listed the top challenges of employees working remotely as (1) Team bonding, (2) Collaboration and (3) Work oversight. Management can make a tremendous impact on all of these areas, but to stay jumps ahead of the challenges, they must evolve in step with changes in the workforce environment. To follow are some best practices to provide guidance for successfully creating, maintaining and engaging a remote workforce.
Identifying the right individuals for remote roles is critical. In addition to evaluating whether a potential employee has the abilities needed to perform the day-to-day tasks required for the position, it's imperative for hiring managers to concentrate on the individual's soft skills such as level of discipline, their comfort with working independently and strong communication skills. Working remotely is not for everyone. Recognizing that reality and setting expectations, along with a trial period, will provide managers and individuals the opportunity to determine what works best and who can succeed. It is not uncommon for individuals to be interested in becoming a remote team member, but after some time, determine that they prefer the office environment.
Communication is vital to the success of working remotely. Establishing clear performance guidelines and required touch points will support success. In addition, there should be a shared understanding of what communication format is appropriate for which communications. For example, all should be clear on whether the phone/teleconference, videoconference, messaging or email is best for the business at hand. Supporting an open communication environment where individuals can solve mishaps (miscommunication and interpretation) is also important and not always easy. Persistence is the only means to achieving this feat.
With a remote workforce in place, finding the appropriate instances for in-person meetings is important. Proactively planning get-togethers and allocating budget to do so are standard best practices to be followed.
It is not uncommon for remote workers to feel disconnected and isolated from the greater team. There should be consistent communication and inclusion of remote team members--not only related to their day-to-day responsibilities but also to greater organizational initiatives and/or task force assignments. If these suggestions aren't possible or part of the company culture, other options are to reach out for input, insight and feedback to promote inclusion.
Technology continues to play a significant role in facilitating successful remote worker models, bridging the team and closing the gaps created by distance. Therefore, setting aside and ensuring appropriate funding for technology and certain tools are equally important. Some considerations may include video compatible computers or video cameras, cell phones, and stipends for fast internet connections. As LinkedIn says in its survey report, "Video conferencing and instant messaging can recreate the real-time availability of walking up to someone's desk or chatting around the proverbial water cooler. These tools aren't just useful for collaborating--they're helpful for team building, too."
Managing a remote team comes with some struggles, but all the positives that result from growing the talent base and retaining top talent will outweigh the challenges. Creative leaders who create and foster an engaging remote workforce environment will recognize great benefits and camaraderie for themselves and the greater team as well.