Employees are increasingly taking advantage of technology to adopt a more flexible style of working, so it’s no surprise that many will take advantage of remote working arrangements over the Christmas season. Remote working can have a number of business benefits; it can help staff achieve a better work-life balance resulting in higher productivity, and it can help a company to attract and retain the best talent.
While there are also challenges to managing remote teams, these can be overcome by effective leadership. By following these three top tips, employers can build positive and productive relationships with remote staff members, and maximize the business benefits of flexible working arrangements:
1. Explain the bigger picture – and keep communication going
To make flexible working arrangements successful, it is vital that both the employer and employee have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. The more remote workers understand project goals, and how their contributions affect business objectives, the easier it will be for them to buy into those goals and make meaningful contributions to the company. Managers should reinforce expectations about performance and deliverables, and work with remote staff to establish a timeline for achieving action items and other objectives. Requesting regular status updates and activity reports will also help to ensure key projects are kept on track.
Make sure that communication is two way, and that employees have the resources they need for success, including any necessary training. An employer must also maintain a positive relationship and an open channel of communication with remote employees to clarify accountabilities and ensure they can continue to handle their workload.
2. Make good use of technology
Technology is vital for employees to work remotely, and although collaboration tools can’t surmount every challenge in remote working relationships, managers should ensure that they are taking advantage of everything they can to enhance communication channels.
Solutions such as telepresence, videoconferencing and web conferencing allows managers more “face time” with remote employees, and can help create a more “human” experience when meeting with dispersed team members.
Additionally, employees can make use of a wide array of online collaborative work tools that allow them, no matter where they are, to contribute to projects and stay apprised of changes. Internal use of social media also can help dispersed teams build camaraderie, which boosts overall workforce morale. Before implementing these tools, make sure the company has clear policies about using these technologies for work purposes and information security.
3. Be inclusive – and give praise
Those who work out of the office may lose the sense of being part of the team. Employers need to help remote employees feel included, so ensure they have the same or similar opportunities as their on-site counterparts. For example, if your CEO is addressing the whole office, let remote workers listen in by conference call or watch the meeting online. If you offer training, allow off-site staff to participate virtually or attend the session in person, if possible.
Last but certainly not least, never fail to personally and promptly praise remote workers for outstanding performance. Be sure to share their achievements with other staff as well – for instance, by sending a “shout-out” email to all project members or specifically mentioning the employee’s achievement during a weekly team conference call. Acknowledgement of contributions will not only help remote workers feel like vital team members, it will also raise their profile throughout the organization.
If communication channels are kept open and functional, remote staff will remain as motivated and efficient as on-site employees during the holidays.
About the author
Kevin Jarvis is director of Robert Half International