A growing number of companies are embracing remote work and offering employees the option to work from home some or all the time.
While these options provide a lot of flexibility for employees, WFH can come with some downsides. Supervisors may not like the lack of opportunities for in-person supervision. Employees who aren’t in the office may also have a harder time staying connected with the rest of the team.
Businesses with employees who work remotely can take action to keep these workers. productive and satisfied at work. With these steps, any business can encourage its remote team.
1. Give Employees the Right Tech
For remote employees, the right technology is extremely important. Providing them with the tools they need to succeed will be essential if you want your remote team to stay engaged and productive.
For example, tools like TeamViewer allow WFH employees to provide remote desktop access to IT staff and share their screen with others. A platform like Slack helps workers in and out of the office stay in touch. Zoom, Google Meetings and Join.me have become essential for meetings in the age of remote work.
This is why businesses with a large remote team often have a robust IT department to help them out. One survey of IT departments working with marketing teams, for example, found that they primarily spend time upgrading software and troubleshooting for workers.
While they do work on other tasks — like creating landing pages — most of their time goes to ensuring that the tech necessary for work is running smoothly.
2. Take Full Advantage of Business Communication Platforms
In addition to giving your remote employees the right communication tech, you also want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the tools you invest in.
For example, a platform like Slack can help you ensure access to key information and build team cohesion, even if a large portion of your team is working from home. When important conversations happen in the same place, you ensure that all workers can stay in the loop.
Web conferencing tools also help you bring together in-office and remote workers for crucial meetings, as well as regular face-to-face collaboration.
3. Check in Regularly
Regular check-ins with your remote staff can help them feel like they’re not cut off from the rest of the team.
The best check-in frequency will depend on your team and how often they already communicate with your office staff. Some experts recommend going as far as daily check-ins with remote members of your team, but even the occasional check-in can go a long way.
Scheduling a call with remote team members every week or every month, for example, will give you a great opportunity to address any of their concerns and allow them to socialize a little bit with each other and the office team.
4. Establish a Process for Communication
Workers are split about 50/50 on WFH preferences — meaning that businesses that offer remote work are likely to always have a mix of in-office and WFH employees.
Your remote team will need to keep in touch with their supervisors and the rest of the team. In an emergency, however, they may be unsure about how to get in touch — leading to wasted time and frustration when they guess as to which channel will be best.
For example, your team may have a weekly meeting where employees can raise non-urgent concerns. However, you may also want to provide another channel of communication — like IM or email — for questions that need answers fast.
Clearly establishing how employees should get in touch with supervisors or other workers can help streamline and simplify communication for all employees, whether they’re in the office or working at home. An established communication process can also help ensure that workers know where to go to find important information.
5. Communicate Clearly About Objectives and Deliverables
Remote employees don’t have the same direct access to their supervisors and colleagues that office employees will have.
Communication is also more complicated for remote employees. Even if they’re unsure about exactly what work they need to do or how to proceed, remote workers may be afraid to reach out to a supervisor and ask questions.
Employees who aren’t sured which metrics they’re being judged by may also be less confident in their approach to work.
Clear communication about expectations is always important if you want to create the best possible employee experience. However, communication is much more important for remote employees who you may only touch base with once a week or less.
This is more true the more open-ended an employee’s role is. If the deliverables they’re responsible for change from month to month, or they have a lot of freedom in how they approach their work, they may need more communication about role expectations.
6. Know How to Recognize WFH Burnout
Supervisors and office staff should also learn how to recognize the signs of WFH burnout in remote employees.
Symptoms and early warning signs of burnout include:
- Detachment from work
- Lower-than-average productivity
- Fatigue and complaints of low sleep quality
- Low mood or listlessness
Some workers may also find it much harder to disconnect from their work. They may work longer or more irregular hours and stop maintaining boundaries between work life and home life. During the coronavirus outbreak, for example, more than 50% of all remote workers reported that they were working more than usual.
When you or your team spot a remote worker that’s starting to burn out, you can take steps to help. For example, you may give them space to communicate concerns they have about their role. You might also give them more creative freedom, or offer more guidance with day-to-day work.
In some cases, just asking if remote workers need any support may be a good place to start. If you notice the same concerns or issues coming up again and again, you may be able to help with changes to business-wide workflows or how you manage remote employees.
7. Provide Opportunities for Virtual Socialization
Offering opportunities for virtual socialization can also help encourage remote workers.
For example, one business may have a series of virtual water cooler meetings that give their remote employees a chance to meet each other and chat. Another business may host virtual happy hours every other month.
Even things like group discussions following webinars and seminars can help make the isolation that comes with remote work easier to handle.
8. Emphasize Deliverables Over Workflows
Supervisors don’t have the same access to remote employees as they do to people working in the office.
This can be stressful for many supervisors, who may be used to checking in on employees to see how they’re approaching their work.
While you may be able to simulate the in-office supervising experience, it may be a better idea for managers to focus more on the completed work than a particular employee’s processes.
Communicating that deliverables matter more than workflows can also help put employees at ease and let them know what metrics they’ll be judged by.
However, it’s important that the management team isn’t too distant — some employees will want something closer to the guidance they could get while in the office, and may need things like regular check-ins to stay productive.
Key Tips for Supporting Remote Workers
Remote workers sometimes need extra support and encouragement from management. Otherwise, they may be at higher risk of burnout or be left out of important discussions.
The right tools, good communication and regular check-ins can go a long way. No matter what kind of work your remote workers are doing, these steps can help you provide the support they need to succeed.
About the Author: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.