Working away from the office has become much more common in recent years. A study published in 2018 found that 70 percent of professionals around the world are telecommuting at least one day during the week, while 53 percent are doing so for at least half the week.
Working remotely can offer important advantages to both workers and employers, including greater productivity and happiness. But there are also challenges.
People who work from home may feel isolated, disconnected from their peers in the workplace, and overlooked by their boss. They may also find it more difficult to structure their day and get their work done, especially if they have other obligations or are struggling with a lack of motivation.
If you’re managing a team that’s working remotely, how can you make it easier for each team member to deal with the challenges? In what ways can you improve your employees’ experience?
Get to Know Them
Your remote employees should never be faceless units. Beyond their work responsibilities, what do you know about them? When you find out more about your employees, such as their interests and concerns, you’re in a better position to give them guidance and offer them incentives they respond to favorably.
For example, some employees may place the most value on schedule flexibility, while others may respond most strongly to certain kinds of positive recognition. Maybe they have preferences for different kinds of productivity tools and other work-related software.
You can get to know them by organizing in-person social events for your team, such as an evening out at a restaurant. Some companies use blogs or chat groups for conversations, comments, feedback, and even fun contests.
Scheduling one-on-one discussions, conducted in-person or through video calls, can also be useful. These one-on-one meetings are an ideal opportunity to conduct a performance review, which helps ensure that your employees are staying productive, meeting various goals, and developing their abilities.
Have Social Video Calls
Video calls are an excellent way to foster stronger working relationships among the employees on your team. If they can chat with each other, they’ll feel less isolated, and their morale will improve. The ability to socialize during work will strengthen the feeling that they’re all on the same team and working towards shared goals.
Audio conferences typically aren’t enough. Employees benefit from seeing each other as they work and socialize. There’s a variety of software that supports video calls for multiple team members; Skype and Google Hangout are just two examples. Video calls can be used for work meetings, casual chats, or team-building exercises for a better connection.
Encourage Them to Unplug
When employees feel constantly tethered to their phones, computers, or tablet devices, they’re more likely to suffer a variety of problems. This includes increased stress, burnout, and less commitment to their work.
It may seem productive for employees to be available at most hours of the day and night to respond to emails, texts, or call. But, a failure to unplug can hurt both employees and companies.
Employees who work remotely may already struggle to keep their work life separate from their home life. When managing your team, you should discuss establishing boundaries that allow employees to enjoy their personal time without feeling anxious or guilty about unplugging.
Recognize Their Work
When employees are working away from the office, they may feel as if their supervisors or managers aren’t noticing their efforts and accomplishments. Fortunately, there are multiple ways for you to help your employees receive positive feedback and public recognition for their work.
You can nominate them for a workplace award and make a company-wide announcement about their win. They can be eligible for various rewards, anything from a gift certificate to a paid trip. During video conferences, one-on-one chats, and performance evaluations, you can praise their achievements and give them concrete feedback that will help them keep producing high-quality work.
Your employees’ morale depends in part on the opportunities you give them to develop professionally. If they feel that they aren’t experiencing any growth, they’ll be less likely to engage meaningfully with the work or remain loyal to your company.
Employees who telecommute can be given opportunities to learn a variety of skills, including coding and the use of new kinds of software. Sites like Lynda and Coursera offer numerous classes that are accessible online on a flexible schedule.
Depending on the nature of their work, your remote employees may also be able to develop skills related to marketing and customer relations by assisting you with your company’s social media accounts.
Other possibilities for development include introducing your remote workers to coaches, mentors, and other inspiring individuals who can help them broaden their professional network and develop their capabilities. By helping them network, you’ll be showing your employees that you care about their success and aren’t neglecting their needs.
Employees who work remotely need to feel that you trust them. They need to know that you don’t view them as lazy, easily distracted, or sloppy. Because they’re out of the office, you may be tempted to micromanage them, but too much scrutiny and interference will damage your relationship with them.
They’ll assume that you think poorly of their character and capabilities, and this assumption may cause them to feel resentful and disengage from the work.
If you follow the other tips presented here, you’ll already have a good idea of how your remote employees are doing. You’ll be chatting with them, holding discussions and performance reviews, and receiving regular progress reports on a project. You won’t need to act as if you suspect them of shirking their responsibilities.
How Do You Plan to Improve Your Remote Team’s Work Experience?
Your remote team can be a powerhouse of productivity, creative ideas, and superlative work. The key is to treat them with respect, get to know their needs and preferences, and increase the ways they can meaningfully develop as professionals and form connections.