Odds are that at some point in your career you’ll work with remote colleagues, if you aren’t doing so already. In fact, the trend of remote work is on the rise year on year, with more companies opting for a flexible work environment in order to take advantage of a wide range of benefits.
This increase in remote workers presents a unique set of challenges, as you’ll need to adapt your approach to how you work with them. Fully integrating and supporting remote workers will take a well thought out and purposeful plan.
Why Remote Workers?
The benefits of working with remote workers are numerous. On the one hand, without the limitation of hiring only from your local labor market you’ll have access to a much wider talent pool. On the other hand, employees themselves value a more flexible work environment, with over 30% recently saying that they would change jobs for one that offered the option of at least part time remote work.
Apart from these main reasons, remote work can also be a cost saving method as you eliminate the expenses of renting and maintaining a large office. Given the numerous benefits it’s no wonder that more employers are turning towards remote work, which raises the question:
How to Support Remote Workers?
Learning how best to support these colleagues is a pressing challenge that you will most likely face in your business. When colleagues are working from separate locations it’s easy for them to become disengaged and face collaboration challenges.
Supporting remote workers to be fully integrated into with their colleagues is fundamental to developing high-performing and collaborative teams. Here are a few strategies that will help you along the way.
Make it personal
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face working with remote workers is making a personal connection. This type of connection is crucial for working relationships, as it builds trust and can keep employees engaged. Colleagues are much more likely to proactively collaborate with people they know well.
Set aside time in the beginning to share about yourself- your background, professional goals and interests. In this way you’ll begin the process of building a trusting relationship with your remote workers. Take it one step further and encourage all team members to do the same.
Set aside regular time for meetings
Without the benefit of regular daily interactions around the office, it’s crucial that you set a clear schedule for virtual meetings and stick to it. These meetings should be both individual ‘one on ones’ as well as wider team meetings. In this way you’ll be able to both support your remote workers through feeling connected to the team, as well as give them a regular opportunity to ask questions and share progress.
Show and tell
The increase in remote workers is happening alongside constant technological innovations in the field of communication. This means that it’s easier than ever to stay connected not only through the odd phone call and email. With Instant Messenger and Team Communication solutions you can simulate an in-person work environment, which allows you to
When starting out make sure that you and the remote workers have the basic IM functions covered, how to share a screen and grant remote desktop, how to send a screenshot, etc. That way you will be able to do more hands on online work together and effectively collaborate.
Seek out feedback
Any working relationship relies on constant feedback. Again, the nature of remote work means that it will be difficult for you to directly monitor your employees in order to seek out cues as to how they’re feeling on the team. That’s why it’s crucial that you purposefully seek out their feedback on how their work is going, and how supported they feel.
Create space for two-way communication where you can both seek out this feedback, and share any of your own. This type of communication will allow you to build clear channels of communication with your remote workers that can help to develop your working relationship.
Helping remote colleagues reach their potential is a pressing challenge for the modern workplace. How businesses balance both the benefits that working with remote workers brings in terms of flexibility, with the need to keep them engaged and supported, is of the utmost importance.
Many of the natural interactions that happen in an office space and keep employees engaged are missing when it comes to remote workers. That means its’s important to take the time to think out exactly how you’ll support your remote workers. Once they start performing at their best you’ll see that it was time well spent!