Remote working is on the rise, with the Global Leadership Summit expecting that by 2020, 50% workers will work remotely at least some of the time. Employees that work remotely can enjoy benefits like a more flexible schedule, forgoing lengthy (and costly) commutes, and access to a wider pool of jobs. For employers, implementing remote working means access to a wider talent pool, saving money on overheads, and better staff satisfaction and retention. It’s even been shown to increase productivity, perhaps due to cutting down on distractions from the office.
But if remote working is to be successful, managers need to take steps to integrate the remote workforce and make them feel a part of the team. Here are some tips on how this might be done…
Make the most of Technology
Technology enables remote working, and using it right will result in cohesive, productive teams. You’ll want to be using (a) a form of internal messaging platform to keep all employees connected to each other for quick enquiries, (b) conferencing or video software for when you need face to face communication (c) a platform that enables document sharing, project tracking and collaboration and (d) a central platform for learning and training (see here for our specialist solution if you’re in iGaming). There’s many different options out there – some popular workplace solutions include Slack, Confluence, Trello, Skype for Business, Zoom and Basecamp. It’s not just enough to have the technology though – you need to encourage using it, for example making sure all projects are uploaded regularly and meetings documented for those who couldn’t attend.
Regular FaceTime and Meetups
Scheduling regular facetime (at the very minimum, a weekly call) helps build rapport and communication with your remote employees, and allow you to address things that are better discussed in person – including taking an interest in their general life and wellbeing! It’s also important to arrange for in person meet-ups, the regularity depending on how easy it is for remote workers to travel to the office. Including them on company socials, meet-ups, or even scheduling in a quarterly trip to the office can be a useful way of ensuring they feel part of the team.
Make an effort to include them
Working from home can be lonely without the buzz of an office and colleagues to talk to, and a lack of regular contact can sometimes lead to unproductive or fragmented teams. Managers should set an example by ensuring they check in with remote workers regularly, ask their opinion where relevant, and make sure they are patched into team meetings via video link (or even better, have everyone carry out the meeting at their desk so everyone is on the same level). Tools such as newsletters or weekly team reports can help everyone feel included and aware of what’s going on.
Encourage a healthy work-life balance
Often the danger with remote workers is not that they’ll slack off, but more that they’ll burn out. People working from a home office may to want to ‘prove’ they’re being productive by always being available to answer requests over email, and it’s more difficult to set boundaries between work and personal life when you’re working from home. Help support them by not expecting immediate responses so long as they are being productive, and encouraging them to set working hours (including proper lunch breaks), to ensure they have time to switch off. Paying for a co-working space for remote employees could help with this, with the added bonus that they could represent the company in their local community by organising or attending meetups and networking events.
Focus on their development
Just because an employee is remote, it doesn’t mean they should be treated any differently when it comes to development, progression and retention. Schedule in time for feedback and performance reviews, and try to promote a culture of open (such as making it clear you’ll try and respond to queries quickly, since they can’t ask over the desk). Bear in mind that it’s often easier to give informal advice to staff in the office, so make their professional development a conscious focus.
It’s worth remembering that technology is changing the very nature of the modern workplace, so to a certain extent you’ll never be able to recreate the atmosphere generated by everyone being in the office together. It might be the case that the team are rarely all in one room, but the advantages – better access to talent, happier employees and higher productivity – will benefit everyone.