Remote work is undeniably one of the biggest trends of the future. More and more people opt to work remotely – and will often change jobs to be able to do so. Yet some remote workers also frequently complain of feeling ‘left out’, as they don’t have the reassurance of daily personal contact with in-house staff and management.
They can’t gather around the water cooler for a quick chat and a laugh, and catch up on the buzz around the office. Here are some useful tips on how you can get the best work out of your remote employees, and also help them feel fully invested in your company.
Firstly, employ the right kind of people
The flexibility of working remotely appeals to most people, but not everyone is cut out to be an effective remote worker. As a manager it is simply not feasible for you to micromanage your remote employees, so it is essential that you find the right workers.
You need to find self-starters who bring a positive and disciplined attitude to their work, and who are able to work independently. Also look for people who have good communication skills, as good communication is going to be key to your future interactions with them. Software tools like Basecamp, HiveDesk and Slack can make it easier to manage and engage with your remote workers effectively.
Promote a remote work culture of accountability and transparency
The very concept of remote work implies a large measure of autonomy for workers to set their own priorities and schedules. However, first and foremost, the work needs to get done and be delivered on time. So make sure that everybody is on the same page. If you specifically want consistency and stylistic uniformity for a project, rent notebooks for key remote workers. Assign clear and unambiguous responsibilities and roles, and make sure that goals and expectations are set out from the word go.
There must be no misunderstandings about work schedules and deadlines, as well as availability for meetings and feedback sessions. Stress the importance of ongoing communication and ensure that as much of this communication is ‘face-to-face’ through video calls and conferences. Much of communication is non-verbal, therefore being able to see one another is key, so encourage remote workers to have their webcams on during meetings. Also impress on everybody the importance of responding to emails promptly.
Make sure remote workers feel part of the team
Try to combat the feeling of being left out that remote workers often have by regular contact. Include them in company activities that they can participate in remotely. Have frequent one-on-one meetings, as well as group sessions. Give them personal validation by remembering their birthdays, and giving them the occasional gift card and a bit of swag, like a company T-shirt or mug. These will not cost a lot and will reward your company with a more positive and dedicated remote workforce.
And always give credit for good work done. Make a specific point to comment favorably on their work and give recognition in meetings to individuals. Frequent communication with a lot of positive reinforcement will not only make your remote workers feel happier and less isolated, but it will boost morale and productivity to the benefit of your company.
Include your remote workers in your learning and development plan
Mentorship is a power tool in an L&D plan for employees, and remote employees can be very effectively included in this. In this context, mentoring basically means putting a remote employee in contact with an expert in-house. This is an effective way of passing on not just knowledge and skills, but also the company ethos.
Mentoring a remote employee is similar in essence to mentoring someone in-house, with the key difference that it will be done remotely. Frequent face-to-face remote contact between the mentor and the mentee is key to this working well. It enables the mentor to not just pass on skills, valuable lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid, but also encourages the mentee to develop their own ideas under the guidance of the mentor. It will also facilitate the mentee growing their own network.
Actively set out to create a great workplace for your remote workers
In your remote workers you have an amazing resource of innovation, creativity and skills. However, if you do not create an environment in which they can thrive and feel acknowledged, they will take almost certainly take those skills and talents elsewhere.
Adapting to accommodate a remote workforce does not need comprehensive and expensive changes; it is basically not much more than a shift in perspective, and a commitment to putting in some added effort to ensure that remote workers are integrated into the company effectively by daily contact, video calls and regular online check-ins, briefings, and progress reports. A remote workforce is the future of work, and companies will have to adapt to it.