More organizations are beginning to realize the benefits of telecommuting, and in the current climate, it may even be a necessity. Recent analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics shows growth in remote work has increased 44 percent within the last five years. Today 4.7 million U.S. workers work remotely.
Businesses don’t seem to mind at all, considering 85 percent confirm that they’ve seen their productivity increase when they started offering flextime and flex workspace.
While some employees may feel totally at ease with a virtual work environment, others may struggle with setting boundaries, feelings of isolation and invisibility. To tap into the motivation and productivity of every employee, advocate for an environment that embraces a balance between technology, community and collaboration.
Luckily, tools and best practices exist to give every remote worker the same employee experience as those who work on-site. Here we take a look at the five best practices for offering employees an ideal work-from-home experience.
1. Create a List of Essential Technology for Remote Employees
Whether your IT team provides the equipment, or it becomes the responsibility of the employee; you should start their orientation with basic technology every telecommuter needs to make their work-from-home experience seamless.
High-Speed Internet or WI-FI
For quick downloads and access to cloud-based platforms, high-speed Internet allows remote workers to avoid lags or delays in communication and entry into company servers. They’ll also avoid disruption when making video calls and conferencing with internal teams or clients.
Computer, laptop or other device
Determine, with your IT department, how remote employees will work.
Will employees access their computer desktops from home with a secure connection? Will they be given a dedicated laptop from IT? Will laptops come with department software tools and virus protection? Is it more convenient to outsource laptops and other office equipment for convenience?
If connecting to in-house servers disrupts employee workflow, ask about cloud computing and storage. Lastly, don’t forget logins and passwords to essential apps and software for a smoother onboarding experience.
This is especially essential for sales, support teams and anyone working remotely. Microphones within headsets produce a better sound quality than those enabled through a laptop or other device. Workflows become more manageable with hands-free technology, not to mention that noise-canceling headphones provide a way to block unwanted noise or distractions.
A separate computer monitor works well for those employees working with graphics or spreadsheets. If you have employees who work with 2 monitors on-site, a second monitor will keep the workflow optimal.
Have a Backup Plan
Lastly, devices can malfunction. It happens to all of us, so be sure remote employees have a backup plan should their device become inoperable or their WI-FI goes down. Do you want all remote employees to have a landline or more than one smart phone as backup for critical situations? What if their device is stolen? Devise a plan so that employees still feel connected in the midst of a temporary setback.
2. Improve Orientation and Engagement with Collaborative Tools
If you are looking for a communication method that allows for video conferencing, messaging and the ability to share screens for an increase in collaboration, you may want to consider this all-in-one platform. RingCentral allows you to join in the conversation from a wide range of devices and if you run into any difficulties they offer training and 24/7 support.
A communication tool that allows video or audio/video calls regardless of the device. Its features include text messaging, sending attachments and the ability to integrate into web browsers to call from web pages by clicking the phone number. The best part is calls are free, unless it’s a call to a landline or an international call which requires a subscription.
A popular communication tool that goes big on the collaboration features, if you like the idea of online orientation, training and demos in one combined tool. You can share screens, photos, web pages and content from the cloud with Google Drive or Dropbox. Conferencing is limited to 50 active participants and 10,000 silent live views making it an optimal communication tool for company-wide events or meetings.
This communication method allows users to call in from any device. Its features include scheduling team meetings, sharing documents and presentations and recording calls to review at a later date or share across departments for project team meetings.
3. Combat the Invisibility Syndrome
If managers worry about the productivity of their remote employees, virtual team members often worry about being invisible or “out of sight; out of mind,” and therefore expendable. A 2017 HBR study indicates that remote employees are more likely to feel left behind or invisible. Here’s how you can overcome that invisibility hurdle between management and remote employees.
- Offer training to managers on how to effectively lead remote workers.
- Send cards, marketing swag or celebratory emails for holidays, accomplishments or project milestones.
- Schedule a Q&A session for remote workers with company leaders, human resource professionals and other directors.
- Consider having weekly check-ins or daily stand-ups to see how remote and on-site employees are handling projects and team dynamics.
- Pair a ‘new’ virtual employee with another colleague to help with adjusting to the culture and responsibilities of their new role. Whether they have questions or need more training, it’s just nice to have someone in a similar role to shed some light on their current circumstances.
- Schedule team-building events through collaborative technology like Zoom or Skype regularly.
- Provide a method for remote employees to give feedback. A dedicated email address, a 1-800 number or a private space on a collaboration tool allow remote workers to address issues proactively, yet privately.
- Schedule one-on-one meetings with managers so they can share their struggles privately rather than in a public forum.
4. Help Managers Help their Virtual Employees Feel More Inclusive
Making remote workers feel more inclusive starts with their managers. According to Gallup, seventy percent of an employee’s engagement is driven by their manager. It’s not only the collaborative tools that make the difference but how effectively and how often those tools are used that count.
A guide to remote working or even e-learning courses to help virtual employees not only feel like they matter but help with motivation and improve productivity. Topics can include how to stay motivated in a work-from-home environment to how to stay involved within project teams.
Advise managers to weigh accomplishments rather than hours when evaluating virtual employees.
With the help of managers, offer the same opportunities, recognition and rewards equally to all team members whether they work on-site or remotely. In other words, all team members should receive consistent treatment regardless of where they are physically located.
5. Keep Virtual Employees Engaged Consistently
No one likes to feel left out or forgotten. But workplace collaboration tools provide virtual employees with opportunities to schedule fun impromptu group chats or direct message a colleague halfway around the globe.
Consider creating a virtual space where employees can relax and talk about life outside work, their favorite movies or TV series, share photos of office events or family time, and maybe offer a virtual bring-your-pet-to-work day. These communication team tools also integrate seamlessly with workflow or project management tools.
Remote work may not be a new idea, but how you adapt to retaining and keeping valued employees engaged will be new territory. There is incredible potential for productivity, creativity, and innovation, but if remote workers are limited by what they need to thrive they move on.
As best practices evolve, it doesn’t mean that meeting those challenges comes at a great expense. It may feel strange at first, but with practice virtual collaboration and connection will feel as natural as stopping by the break room or checking in at a colleague’s cubicle.
When you think about it, creating an ideal environment for remote employees simply requires a shift in outlook and a desire to put in the extra effort.
If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy:
Like this Article? Share it below!