Today’s working culture is drastically different than it was ten years ago. The rise of mobile devices and social platforms have altered every facet of daily life; from communicating with friends and family to banking and mobile dating, our lives are screen-centric. Thanks to laptops, mobile devices, and a wave of digital communications platforms, it’s easier than ever for employers to create flexible work arrangements for their employees. Both employees and employers enjoy a wave of benefits from this flexibility. On the employer side, managing a remote workforce eliminates significant overhead costs – which is an especially enticing attribute for growing, bootstrapped startups. Additionally, remote working is also said to amplify employee productivity; fewer time-consuming meetings and in-office distractions allow remote works to easily make it through their daily to-do lists. For employees, not having to deal with stressful morning traffic or crowded subway rides is a major selling point. Plus, remote working is said to boost employee morale and lower stress, both of which lead to happier and more productive employees.
Although the lists of benefits stemming from remote and flexible work options are long, there are a few negative consequences in operating virtually – namely, team communications. Too often, messages get lost in translation when they are not given and received face-to-face. And if employees are working from home independently, they may mistakenly feel they are working in a silo and don’t have the support of teammates and managers. There are a few things employers should do to ensure their remote workforce is as productive and happy as possible.
Establish Communications Programs and Protocols
Just because team members are not working in the same room, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t still expected to collaborate. Remote employees want to feel as though they have constant access to their teams. Creating a communications strategy around a messaging platform, like Slack, can ensure that every employee stays on the same page and feels constantly supported. While it’s true that one of the benefits of remote work is fewer distractions, employees still want to feel connected to their company and comfortable asking questions at a moment’s notice. Multi-functional communications platforms that allow employees to chat, share files, and share screens, ensures that quality is not sacrificed as a result of location. In many ways, over communication across remote teams are essential to mitigate misunderstandings. When team leads stress over, or at least, constant communication, it helps employees feel more comfortable stepping up and asking for questions. Because remote teams are not interacting face-to-face, it can be difficult to gauge mood and transparency, so it’s imperative that leaders set the tone that is open to questions and constant commentary.
Create an Employee Success Program
Because virtual teams do not interact face-to-face, often some of the standard practices of typical office structures are overlooked, including performance reviews and employee support. Implementing a product like SAP Success Factors helps virtual teams stay in tune with individual employee’s goals and performance benchmarks. The platform enables teams to centralize all HR initiatives and communications within one place, making it easy for both employee and employer to access. But simply logging goals and inputting performance feedback within a virtual platform is not enough to maintain employee motivation and morale. Managers of remote workforces should supplement an online HR database with consistent check-in calls or video conferences. Making the time each month or quarter to talk through challenges and opportunities with each individual on a team can help employees feel connected and valued. Cracks begin to surface when professional growth goals are ignored. Although they work remotely, virtual employees still want to feel connected to the overall mission of the company, which can be very difficult if they never receive the opportunity to collect feedback or ask questions.
Remote and flexible job opportunities are expected to continue to rise. Employers have seen the value in offering their teams the chance to work when they want, where they want, and how they want. And although the proliferation of remote employment is a positive trend, it must be supplemented by strong working protocols and supportive, virtual environments. Employees, whether they are in an office or not, are still human, and crave connection, communication, and feedback. It’s imperative that remote team leaders consider remote employee success and happiness with the same consideration of an in-office team.