The workforce is shifting out of the office with more employees working remotely. As is true with most significant changes, this new way of working has brought both benefits and some unique challenges.
Interestingly enough, 82 percent of Millennials want flexible work options and state that they are more likely to remain loyal to a company that meets those needs. This palpable shift to cater to employees' desires will be rewarded by attracting top producers who want a better work life balance.
Establish Communication Policies and Methods
As the number of staff members working in different locations continues to grow, ensuring that communication channels to do break down will become even more important. 38 percent of remote workers surveyed by Software Advice in 2014 stated that communication challenges were the hardest part of being a member of a virtual team.
One of the ways communication is negatively impacted by fewer in-person conversations and a heavy reliance on emails, texts and other messaging platforms relates to a lack of body language. There is no substitute for a conversation standing in the same room where subtle physical cues can be viewed from a personal interaction. Based on this fact, it is no surprise that there are more misunderstandings that arise from electronic messages.
A Get to Know Your Employees form is an excellent tool for gathering information about how each employee likes to work or communicate. For example, some employees might be more inclined to check their email once a day, while others might check it hourly. Others might be more likely to answer a text message. It pays to know your employees.
Training is recommended to cover the different ways to communicate with remote workers. Employees need to grasp which communication methods are recommended for passing along different types of information. For example, emails might be a perfect way to relay progress reports, while video conferencing might be a better tool for a give-and-take conference call where ideas are being exchanged.
One excellent strategy that managers should consider is establishing ongoing and continual contact with employees. Weekly or daily meetings over the phone on conference calls or personal one-on-one interactions will ensure that remote employees are up-to-date on any changes or news. Additionally, constant contact will provide the connection that off-site employees need to feel like part of the team.
While there is little doubt that there are many advantages to working offsite, one problem this type of working arrangement can cause is loneliness or a lack of commitment. Smart managers recognize the importance of invested employees. That's why regular communication is important. Not only does it provide a way to give constructive feedback to workers, it also establishes structured interactions that remote employees can count on and look forward to, in many cases.
Publicly Acknowledge Contributions of Remote Workers
Anyone who has worked remotely understands how it feels to be "on the outside looking in." It doesn't matter how hard you work for the team, it is far too easy to feel unappreciated, like no one really knows how hard you are working or cares that much about how you feel. This is a big problem. Harvard Business Review reports that the Gallup Poll findings suggest that employees who feel unrecognized are twice as likely to leave.
Based on this information, company leadership must make an extra effort to acknowledge the contributions of remote workers. Giving a "shout out" to remote workers on group emails and on conference calls is an excellent way to recognize these important team members so that they feel valued. By acknowledging remote workers on a regular basis, the rest of the team will be encouraged to view them as an integral part of the group too and also be encouraged to reach out.