There was a time (not too long ago) when working from home was a foreign concept to most. Even though workers wanted the option, employers considered it not only challenging to implement but also risky. Books, blogs, podcasts, even entire conferences were geared towards teaching people (both employees and employers) how to break away from the confinements of a traditional office space and create the flexibility of working from anywhere.
Remote Working Options Expanding
Today, the idea of ‘working from anywhere’ is much more accepted, and is an achievable reality for many. In fact, remote working is becoming more prevalent in the modern workplace.
As the New York Times reported, a Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults found that “43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely.” They also found that 31 percent of respondents reported working remotely four to five days a week. That’s nearly 1 in 3 respondents who said they worked nearly full-time from home or away from the office.
Overcoming Challenges of an Untethered Workforce
While remote working or telecommuting is more commonplace, it doesn’t mean it’s not without its challenges. If companies want to succeed with the concept, now and in the future, they must know how to work with and manage remote workers well.
Whether you already have a remote workforce or just made your first remote hire, here are 5 ways to stay better connected with remote workers.
1. Focus on results, not tasks
Most people know micromanaging is not okay, but it’s much easier to avoid when you’re surrounded by your team and you can at least somewhat see what they’re doing. But remote workers have the ability to work from anywhere they want, which adds a layer of uncertainty in the mix. You might find yourself wondering where they’re at or if they’re fully engaged while the rest of your team is working diligently in the office. The truth is, working with remote workers requires a level of trust that is above and beyond what many companies are used to dishing out. One solution to alleviating worry associated with remote workers is to give them a result to achieve, then you can worry less about how and where they’re getting it done.
2. Loop them in on all relevant conversations
Working in an office setting makes quick meetings, casual office drop-bys, and pop-up lunches, and other unplanned conversations much easier than working remotely. These may seem like nuances to office workers, and sometimes it seems unnecessary to round up remote workers for each and every one of these interactions. However, important developments can come out of short, unplanned meetings, and when remote workers miss them they can start to feel like they’re out of the loop.
3. Utilize real-time chat
Chat apps, like Slack and Jabber, offer the benefit of having everyone – even virtual workers – in the same place at the same time. These chat services allow real-time conversations to happen much the same as they might in a physical workspace, but without being discriminant against those who work off-site. They also make each member of the team much more accessible, which has the added effect of making small talk and regular casual conversation much easier.
4. Don’t skip the small talk
One of the distinct advantages of working in an office setting around other co-workers is the sense of camaraderie that comes out of everyday interactions and small talk. It’s easy to forget about making small talk with remote workers, but it’s important to go the extra mile to make casual conversation with them in order to keep them engaged and feeling like a part of the team. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as the weather, sports, or weekend plans. Just be sure to remember to engage your remote workers in a casual, personal way on a regular basis.
5. Schedule regular meetings
Working remotely and hiring remote workers has its advantages, but you simply cannot replace direct encounters. You might work with someone remotely for months – even years – and still never feel like you’ve truly “met” them until you see them in person. Of course, the frequency of in-person meetings depends on the distance between the company and the worker, but regardless of distance, you can’t afford to go too long without coming together face-to-face. In between face-to-face meetings, it’s important to schedule regular conference calls with remote workers, too.
One of the best ways to stay connected to remote workers is to have a phone system that allows your team members to be just as accessible outside of the office as they would be if they were sitting at a desk in the office. To learn more about how your remote workers can communicate as if they’re sitting in the office, check out our free on-demand webinar Mobility in the Modern Workplace.