Remote work is becoming the norm rather than just a buzzword in 2017. Many organizations are realizing that as the economy evolves alongside technology, the workforce is experiencing some major shifts as well.
There has been little research done to determine the best ways to keep your remote workers motivated and engaged. How do you overcome the challenges of supervising someone who is in a different location and time zone? How do you build trust and open lines of communication? How do you drive a sense of team when some, or all of your team, works remotely? The following blog post is pulled from our most recent ebook, The Rise of the Remote Worker in the Digital Age, and presents five critical tips for leaders trying to navigate the new world of remote workers.
1. Set expectations about communication.
Communication is both the biggest obstacle and solution to keeping a remote team “on the same page.” Therefore, it is essential you establish clear communication guidelines from the very beginning. Expectations should be set for things like response time, who to include in what communication, and when you are expected to be available. A good communication plan will also discuss which formats are preferred for different types of communication. For example, when is it OK to use chat over email, and when is a phone call best practice? Finally, there should be clarity around the regular meetings and scheduled check-ins, including what information each team member is expected to contribute.
2. Share goals and successes.
Off site workers are at risk of feeling disconnected from the organization’s goals and objectives. Even if they are great at their individual role, it’s important that they have an understanding of what impact that is having on the business at large. Knowing how to measure goals and productivity is important for any manager-employee relationship, however it’s even more important when the employee is remote and more likely to be insulated. It is also the manager's responsibility to communicate and share their remote team members successes with the broader team to help inspire and motivate remote workers.
3. Meet face-to-face.
In-person meetings are still important to building a rapport and strengthening relationships. Face-to-face meetings also force you to be present in the conversation. When possible, travel and spend time together. If there is a particularly long distance or travel is not a viable option, use video chat technology like Google Hangouts to check in virtually as much as possible. Facial cues and recognizing emotion is an important aspect of your relationship with your team. It’s easy to miss out on these cues if you’re just using the phone for meetings, and/or doing most communication through written mediums. Consider a video hangout if you and another team member consistently have lackluster discussions.
4. Be proactive and impromptu.
One downside to being remote is that you miss serendipitous interactions in the office. For example, literally having a water-cooler conversation. Ironically, when dealing with remote workers, you need to be deliberate about these more casual conversations. You do not need to pre-schedule every meeting, just pick up the phone. Encourage the type of collaboration where everyone feels comfortable picking up the phone to ask a question, as opposed to simply relying on email and written forms of communication. Make it known that if a remote employee reaches out via phone, they get a call back. Responsiveness is key.
5. Get to know your team personally.
Today’s geographically distributed workforce means you probably have colleagues on the other side of the world, and even though you may have worked with them for years, it’s likely you have never met them in person. When managing a remote team, you need to make sure there is the opportunity for people to get to know each other on a personal level. What are their hobbies, their kids names? Also try to allow for all new members to have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the company in-person. It is imperative for each remote worker to feel involved and welcomed, especially when the majority of their time will be spent outside of the organization’s four walls.