Flexible work is no longer just a trend. And remote working — mostly from home during this pandemic — comes with a unique set of challenges. While none outweigh the overall benefits of distributed teams, leaders do need to shift their management and processes to get the best results from a remote workforce.
Service providers for the good
And who’s in a better position to enable remote work than service providers like yourselves 🙂 It’s in your power to streamline your end-users’ communications and enable them to manage remote teams more effectively, while maintaining a solid and predictable revenue stream for your company.
Here are five strategies that will help your business customers tackle the challenges of remote work.
Find the right talent
Telecommuting requires a certain skill set and personality. Remote workers need to be autonomous, self-sufficient, motivated and focused. Working alone, especially if the person is used to being in an office, can be isolating. A recent survey of remote workers found that the top challenge to happiness is the lack of community and feelings of loneliness.
Whether you’re branching out to distributed workers to broaden your talent pool or you’re developing a new remote office, you need to find the right candidates. Depending on your workflow and industry, you may also only be able to work with people in a specific timezone.
Assess your company’s specific needs and make sure that’s reflected in your remote job description or the specifications outlined to your employees before they start telecommuting.
The most important attribute for a remote worker is trustworthiness. Because managers and coworkers can’t glance over their cubicle or ensure productivity and results, you need to employ people that you can trust to get the job done. Keep this in mind as you branch out to the remote workforce.
Invest in tech and resources
In the age of SaaS, cloud technologies, and Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) tools, there are many resources to enable your remote workforce. In fact, the same remote survey found that real-time communication tools were the most essential for staying connected.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider the following tools, all of which can meet the most common needs for a remote office:
- Time tracking software
- Unified Communications and Collaboration platforms
- Project management
- Cloud storage
- Document sharing
- Video conferencing
Take advantage of free trials to test out the functionality of new platforms. Don’t forget to look at third-party review sites to get unbiased feedback on how systems worked for other companies.
Practice proactive communication
A recent Harvard Business Review article explained that because digital communication lacks body language, there can often be ambiguities and other significant drawbacks for remote workers. “Misinterpretations create an anxiety that can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation.”
The key to overcoming the disadvantages and potential issues of digital communication is to be proactive and err on the side of over-communication and documentation. For example, after a virtual meeting, send an email to outline specific directives, such as project expectations and due dates. Focus on clear and concise instructions so that your remote team is never left guessing.
Proactive communication also translates into ensuring you’re available to your team for both important questions and impromptu conversations. Furthermore, consider establishing communication protocols, like which channels to use for what and how to request quick responses.
Don’t forget about feedback
Feedback, both positive and negative, can often fall by the wayside in remote environments. However, feedback is essential for any organization. Office Vibes’ State of Employee Engagement report surveyed more than 1,000 organization in 150 countries and uncovered eye-opening insights about feedback:
- 96 percent of employees agree they’d like to receive regular feedback
- 83 percent appreciate receiving feedback regardless if it’s positive or negative
- 62 percent want more feedback from colleagues
- 63 percent feel like they don’t get enough praise
Recognition, constructive criticism and a mixture of casual and formal feedback are all imperative. Without a physical office, remote workers can often forget to give off-the-cuff compliments or offer their opinions. The barrier of having to message or email someone can decrease that all-too-important input.
Nurture a feedback-driven culture by encouraging daily check-ins, planning sessions, and one-on-ones. Managers and team leads should actively give and ask for feedback to set the tone. Remember, the only way your remote team can improve and evolve is with consistent, open, and honest feedback.
Foster team building and engagement
The power of teamwork is undeniable. Teams with positive social relationships work more effectively, according to a scientific study. Unfortunately, with remote work, most typical team building activities and camaraderie that drives that engagement can get lost. Because there aren’t organic interactions around the watercooler, staff can easily be isolated, less productive, or even feel disengaged about their position.
As a manager of a remote team, encouraging coworkers to interact socially is even more critical. And at the same time, also slightly more difficult due to the barriers of physical locations. To counteract this, consider hosting the following types of events:
- A remote happy hour
- Webinars for team-based learning or training
- Virtual games or contests
Another way is to create your own virtual watercooler where people can keep updated with the company’s life and share what they’ve been up to. Our team for example is using the Team Board in Hubgets.
Regardless of which tools you use, focus on creating that team environment and a spirit of unity, even from a distance.
Encourage a successful remote workforce
More than ever before, it’s now clear that remote work is here to stay. Shifting to a remote environment can be difficult, but not impossible. With the right people, preparation, tools, and processes, businesses can develop a productive and engaged remote workforce.
As their communications service provider, it’s within your power to help them succeed. Stay strong!