More and more companies are taking to hiring remote employees as a cost-saving measure. Hiring remote employees mean they don’t have to extend their office space to accommodate a larger workforce physically. They not only save up on real-estate costs but also on the resources required to sustain daily office-comers.
That said, it isn’t easy to manage remote workers. Communication is the life-force of any successful company. Fostering in-office interaction between employees is easy. You can hold regular meetings, have brainstorming sessions, walk over to a co-worker’s cubicle to clarify your doubts and build strong interpersonal relationships with your office peer down by the water-cooler. Remote workers do not have access to these. So how do you inculcate a sense of togetherness and unity in a distributed company with its workforce spread across the globe?
The many advancements in communication technology and ever-evolving managerial techniques have made it easier than ever to facilitate communication and collaboration between remote teams. If you’re still concerned about how you can improve collaboration amongst your remote employees, here are eight tips to help you out:
- Acquaint them with your company culture – Introduce the way things are done at your company to your remote workers. Tell them who to seek out if they run into an issue. Familiarise them with the company values and the overall vision of the company and it will help them function better as a cohesive workforce along with your offline employees.
- Rely on cloud services – Besides e-mail and file sharing applications, your company also needs a cloud tool to facilitate instantaneous communication between you and your remote workers. When you encourage all your employees to be on a cloud platform, you induct your remote workers into a community atmosphere that makes them feel more like they’re equally as part of the company as your other in-office workers. It also facilitates more natural collaboration efforts.
- Set up a space for informal interaction – Apart from professional communications, your company would do well to put in place a “virtual water cooler” so to speak, where the employees could go to discuss their personal lives and current affairs. It always helps to have a workforce that shares some level of camaraderie. While this is easier done between employees physically present in the proximity of a brick-and-mortar office, the management needs to put in more of an intentional effort to enable such a space for remote workers. It kept them more involved and motivated with regards to company operation.
- Be careful of the tone you use while communicating virtually – The problem with written communication is its susceptibility to misinterpretations. When you interact face-to-face, the person has access to other cues such as facial expression, intonation, body languages and such as to form meaning out of the speech communicated. All of this is lacking when the medium is written. The message being sent can easily be misunderstood as being critical or confrontational even when it isn’t. You may have to spell every aspect of the message out clearly for the recipient to understand it as you intend. Review your written communication before sending it. If it doesn’t go against company policy, you can even insert emojis to lighten up the conversation a little.
- Recognise the excellent work done by remote workers – Rewards and recognition go a long way in motivating an employee to achieve their work goals. A dedicated employee putting in regular work hours from home can feel discouraged if they think their contribution to the company is going acknowledged. It becomes important to recognize and appreciate the good work done by a remote employee. Congratulate them personally and highlight their achievement on the office networking channel, so others can know of their success.
- Organise offline meet-ups – Your remote workers could use the credibility which is expressly derived from being able to meet the people you are working for personally. If your remote workers happen to reside in the same city as the location of your office, ask them to work from the office from time to time. Send out invites to company anniversaries and host offline meet-ups and get-togethers where these workers get to interact real-time with each other.
- Encourage usage of multimedia channels for communication – Textual communication is alright but audio, and video calls are more effective when it comes to communicating with your remote workers. Invest in a conferencing software and bring all teams on board. It will lead to a sense of cohesion among your remote employees and help team-building efforts between your offline and online workforce.
- Appoint effective leadership – Sometimes you find that despite having all necessary technological infrastructure in place, you’re not able to elicit the level of productivity you’d like from your remote workforce. There is probably a fault with the leadership involved here. You need to have an experienced and empathetic manager who facilitates communication between the many office departments working remotely and in person instead of talking down or giving instructions and directives to them.
Working remotely is more than a passing trend. It is here to stay. Increasingly, people are choosing to work remotely for the unique benefits that remote working provides. In a time when people are concerned about maintaining their work-life balance, remote operation enables a perfect solution.
If you train your company management in how to deal with a remote workforce today, you’re only paving the way for your company to successfully employ and optimally utilise the services of remote employees in the future. Today’s workforce mainly consists of millennial’s and millennial’s prefer the ease and convenience of working on the move. The flexible hours and the freedom to work in their pyjamas have a huge draw. Plus, the fact that you could be logging into work from practically any part of the world as long as you have your laptop and a WiFi connection. Your job as a company leader is to make sure that your remote employees work remotely and not remotely work. The eight suggestions listed above should help you ensure that it isn’t a problem.