The number of employees working remotely continues to grow. According to Gallup in 2016, 43 percent of working Americans report working from home at least some of the time. Employers are responding to this demand, although cautiously.
Alex Turnball of Groove HQ, where the entire workforce is remote, notes that “Successfully working from home is a skill, just like programming, designing or writing. It takes time and commitment to develop that skill, and the traditional office culture doesn’t give us any reason to do that.”
Managing remote employees requires a different view from traditional in-office managers and employees. It involves making remote employees feel like they are part of the team to avoid the feelings of isolation that can come with working remotely.
Establishing Bonds of Friendship and Empathy
A recent MIT study concluded that one of the most important ingredients in building a valuable team was to “consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe,” which they label “Theory of Mind”.
This might involve some travel at first to establish some face-to-face interactions and build an understanding of team members. Building this sort of rapport helps establish trust and allows for a healthy, collaborative environment.
Set Clear Expectations
Whether showing examples or clearly stating expectations, enabling remote team members to work for an expected goal is paramount to collaborative team success. Task management software is widely available to track tasks and expectations, as well as tracking milestones and achievements.
The technology that makes remote work possible is also what makes it thrive. Internet-driven video chat programs allow the kind of face-to-face communication that employees need in order to interpret the types of non-verbal cues they would get from in-person interaction.
Schedule regular video conferences, both one-on-one and with the team, in order to keep remote workers connected.
Empower Team Members
Part of the draw of working remotely is the freedom to work without direct supervision. With freedom comes responsibility, of course, and remote team members must be empowered to make decisions that directly affect their work without the need for constant approval.
The Muse makes the case, “As a manager, plan your assignments for remote workers so that they include a variety of different kinds of tasks. Many will require collaboration, but make sure that at least some can be completed individually (without having to wait on colleagues or approval).”
Stress the Importance of Over-Communication
Again, technology makes it all happen. Many chat platforms and collaboration tools exist that allow constant messaging and coordination.
Find the applications that work best for you and your team. Encourage the use of such platforms and lead the conversation in order to get all team members, in-office and remote, to participate.
Hire the Right Candidates
No matter your business, you can successfully hire excellent remote workers, from those highly trained in a specialized field to those hard-working, diverse candidates. All you have to do is apply basic management skills and practice good communication.
At the root of it all, you are hiring a person to work for you, even if you only see them through a computer screen. For more information on smart hiring, and help with smart employee recruitment, contact SelectOne.