Today's economy dictates that most businesses hire remote employees, but this can provide its own challenges. Here are a few tips on how you can still have a great working relationship with remote workers.
The workplace has evolved over the past decade to the point that many people no longer spend much time in a traditional office. Instead, there are now many employees who are mobile.
Fortunately, technology has shifted to keep up with them, making remote employment both an easy and effective option for managers and employees alike. With that being said, it should come as no surprise that the number of remote employees has risen by 115% in the last decade alone and there are now around 4 million workers (about 3% of the U.S. workforce) who work remotely at least part time.
Cultivating this remote workforce and making sure that everyone feels as though you trust, value, and include them in your business is vital for your business’ long-term success. It doesn’t matter what size of business you own, this is important if you want to attract the best talent possible, especially as telecommuting has been proven to lower stress levels and raise productivity.
With this in mind, here are a few of the many ways you can create a successful and inclusive remote working atmosphere in your business today:
1. Leverage new ways of communicating to keep your remote employees connected
Forbes says the first step towards maximizing remote workers’ potential and helping them connect with your company’s headquarters is to provide them with the technology they need to transform a spare room in their home into a functioning office. To do this you’ll want to use tools that make your employees feel like they’re next door to their coworkers instead of across the state.
This is why instant messaging, video conferencing, and virtual hangouts are growing in popularity due to their effectiveness for enabling collaboration, face-to-face meetings, and conferences because they can handle any size group.
2. Use social media to create a sense of community
Social networking sites, internal communities, and virtual forums are creative ways for you to provide visible, collaborative feedback and recognition for your remote employees. This is a great place to offer them praise for a job well done – something that helps motivate them to keep going. It’s equally a great to share ideas so that everyone remains connected since they’ll have a place in which they can see, share and comment together.
Leveraging your company’s active social channels to recognize virtual employees and remote offices works well. You can simply present a “Virtual Office of the Year” award to someone whose home office exemplifies your “People First” culture. While you’ll want to make this announcement at a meeting at your headquarters, you’ll also want to make sure to stream it live so everyone can participate in the celebration. These types of shareable cultural moments shows your virtual employees that you truly value them.
3. Hire the right people to start with
While many remote workers love being able to work from home, it is just not suited to everyone. Therefore, building solid relationships with your remote workers depends, first and foremost, on you hiring the right people. Someone might like the concept, but they may not be cut out for it, so look for someone who can:
- Self-manage their time and deadlines
- Be held accountable
- Pace themselves
- Feel comfortable working independently
- Produce solid communication skills
When you hire people who display these characteristics your team will embrace your work culture and put more effort into building relationships with their co-workers.
4. Provide managers with the tools they need
As today’s workforce grows more dispersed, managers will experience new challenges in overseeing remote employees. And it’s crucial to develop a good relationship between managers and employees. In fact, studies have concluded that most employees will turn down a 10% pay raise if they could stay with a manager they trusted and respected. This is why you must incorporate good strategies for managing remote workers, including:
- Making sure that managers have all the tools they need to connect with their remote employees
- Encourage ongoing check-ins and conversations between managers and their remote direct reports
- Having managers send weekly emails that give recognition for outstanding work
- Setting up digital channels among teams to share funny notes and personal stories – this helps employees to bond
5. Keep your office connected with the cloud
Cloud technology has had a major impact on how remote workers are managed. Employees now have access to necessary information, content and tools to help them remain productive. For instance, many businesses of varying sizes now use a cloud-based phone system for communication.
There are also other tools available to help you reproduce the office work environment, allow teams to brainstorm and help everyone collaborate on documents in real-time.
Your managers can receive reminders about scheduling one-on-one meetings and completing HR tasks such as selecting benefits, viewing pay history or requesting vacation time off via self-service portals.
Some of these solutions come with mobile apps that further extend a remote worker’s power and capability.
6. Offer remote working tools to increase productivity
One of the best ways to build strong relationships between remote workers and their colleagues is to make sure everyone is using software tools that help them easily communicate and collaborate together. Everyone (whether on premises or a remote) should have access to all your tools, including:
- Instant messaging for quickly communicating work-related information
- VoIP so employees can talk to one another for free online
- File sharing and document management systems (e.g. Dropbox, Google Docs) to instantly and easily share documents in real-time
- Screen sharing for easy collaboration, meetings, presentations, and training
- An online project management system to see what’s being worked on, how work is progressing, and who to contact when questions arise
7. Get everyone together in person when possible
Nothing truly compares to meeting, collaborating and connecting in person. When resources and time permit, you should gather everyone together for face-to-face meetings – at least once a year. You should also offer virtual meet-ups for remote workers in various areas throughout the country so they can engage in team building, community service, collaboration, and fun.
Author: Being a senior business associate, Peter Davidson strives to help different brands and startups make effective business decisions and plan effective business strategies. With years of rich domain expertise, he loves to share his views on the latest technologies and applications through his well-researched content pieces. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.