It’s safe to say that the remote employment movement is only going to continue to become more commonplace in the future. With current data showing that the out of office workforce could reach 5 million workers by 2020, astute organizations are familiarizing themselves with what the future of work will look like. Paired with the predominance of coworking and an enhanced emphasis on the employee experience, the landscape is evolving rapidly.
Too, as Quartz discusses,
“Making remote work an option is an investment that can pay off for employers and employees alike. Companies that embrace telecommuters can recruit the best talent without geographic constraints. Employees who have the opportunity to work from home or another remote location are, according to studies, happier, more productive, and more loyal to their organization.”
And although the stats speak for themselves, there are still plenty of people that are skeptical about an arrangement that excludes a traditional office setting. Many believe that an in-house approach is more beneficial than allowing employees to work at will, in their own space, for a variety of reasons, including—the ability to monitor performance, face-to-face proximity with team members and the efficiency of communication between counterpoints—to name just a few.
These fears, although important to acknowledge, can also be easily assuaged with the right structure; it’s possible to overcome the potential pitfalls of hiring a completely remote team—it just takes a little savvy to get started and patience to push through the initial adoption.
With a growing reliance on technology and more innovative hiring practices overall, any institution—from a small startup to an enormous enterprise—has the ability to alleviate most of the major disadvantages of employees being out of the office. Take these ten steps into consideration when getting started to thwart missteps, allowing the ability for the virtual team to thrive.
1. Do a Deep Dive into the Landscape
They say, ‘when you know better you do better’—that most definitely applies to best hiring practices too. Taking the time to understand the remote revolution as it exists right now, and how it applies to the future of work, will make the team’s transition that much easier.
Take for example what HBR highlights between the different types of remote collaboration—and incredibly helpful knowledge,
Consider that there are three kinds of distance in remote collaboration: physical (place and time), operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels) and affinity (values, trust, and interdependence. The best way for managers to drive team performance is by focusing on reducing affinity distance. Try switching most remote communication to regular video calls, which are a much better vehicle for establishing rapport and creating empathy than either e-mails or voice calls. And design virtual team-building rituals that give people the opportunity to interact regularly and experience their collaboration skills in action.
Other easy steps include tasks like setting up a Google alert for ‘Remote Work’ and you’ll easily catch many of the plethora of articles that exist on the topic; as well as identifying the media that best covers topics that affect you—Fast Company, Entrepreneur and Inc. are all great places to get started on studying up on remote work. There are also resources dedicated to from the work from home community as a whole that dive into the nuances of the lifestyle.
2. Invest in the Right Technology
With a remote team, technology is the best asset for success; the idea of remote works practically exists because of it. When the enterprise puts a primary focus on the most beneficial tech solutions for the team, everyone wins.
As Forbes suggests,
“You want your employees to be able to interact with you and their co-workers when they need to. In an office, employees can go to each other’s desks or meet at the coffee pot throughout the day. For a remote team, you’ll want to mimic this accessibility with technology.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up a way for everyone to chat online. Ask employees to keep this chat channel live during the workday. There are plenty of options available, from Slack to Google Chat. Find the medium that works best for your team’s purposes, the size of your group and your budget.”
3. Develop Cohesive Core Values
Taking the time to diligently think through and develop cohesive core values for your team is a monumentally important task. What you cultivate will become the cornerstone of your team’s success plan, and it starts with making sure your team is already comprised of stellar leadership.
As Entrepreneurs explains,
At the end of the day, it all starts with you. Show your employees how to treat long-distance colleagues by checking in with your remote team members frequently, promoting collaboration and finding ways to include them even if it takes an extra step or a few dollars. It’s easy to continue talking with the people in the room if a call drops but model good behavior by making sure that everyone is able to participate before continuing. Once they see that you’ve prioritized inclusiveness, it will become part of your company culture.
Regardless of what you choose to implement, you must lay the foundation for a strong company culture that transcends physical location. By showing all employees that you value each and every person that represents your brand, you’ll set the tone for the months and years to come.
4. Ideate the Managerial Style
Much like creating cohesive core values, ideating a managerial style that fits the company culture will make the entire organization more successful. It’s not as difficult as it may seem with a remote team, as they’re more likely to be better employees to manage overall,
Despite the distance, remote workers make the best teammates. This is because that distance demands more communication. Without being able to lean on physical proximity, remote workers must reach out to one another frequently and with purpose. This leads to stronger collaboration and camaraderie. And all those long-distance video chats? An astounding 92 percent of workers say the video collaboration actually improves their teamwork.
Remember, too, to encourage feedback from the team, as communication is key when you’re not working in the same physical space
5. Create Off-Site Accountability
Just because no one is watching doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to be done at any given time. As such, there is a delicate balance in discovering how to encourage accountability without employees feeling like tasks, projects or the like are being demanded from.
Flexjobs recommends the following,
“Develop systems that make it easy for your team to report to you how their workload is coming and how they’re progressing on their goals. Whether it’s a weekly team update email, a Google Doc filled in at the end of the day, or some other method of your choosing, let employees know how (and how often) you expect them to fill you in on their work progress so no one is left in the dark and nothing is slipping through the cracks. Employees also thrive on performance reviews, as it gives them an opportunity to point out all the progress they’ve made throughout the year, so keeping track of that progress throughout the year will be a great help come review time.”
6. Set Yourself Up For Success Early On
It’s important to understand what you’re asking of your team— and that begins from the time that you first write the job description. Because of the lack of proximity, clarity is imperative to achieve great accomplishments. Team members must feel informed and understood to best flourish on their own.
When it comes to enticing a potential employee, Zapier notes,
“Before you start sourcing candidates, you want to make sure to do a good job at defining the position. Often times, companies throw up a generic job opening for a marketer or developer, which doesn’t really help the candidate decide if they want to work for your company or not. Since remote companies don’t have a local reputation, it’s up to you to sell your company just as much as the role.”
7. Boast the Benefits of Flexibility
You’re already a little ‘alternative’—so why not make the most of your unique view of how employees work? By creating policies that are open-minded and reformist, you’re engaging a whole new pool of potential talent that understands the idea of balancing work and play.
Giving a team the ability to be flexible in both in the hours they spend and the way they manage their projects creates an overall dedication to their work and sense of responsibility that is often tough to cultivate in an everyday office.
Buffer takes that notion to the next level—describing on their blog,
“Have a family event coming up and need to travel on Friday? No problem.
Want to take off to Bali or Gran Canaria for a few weeks and work from there? Awesome – please share photos 🙂
These things have all happened and are regular occurrences within our distributed team.
It’s the little things too, like being able to avoid a commute and spend more time with family. We don’t have working hours, and we don’t measure hours at all. We’re all excited about our vision, and we focus on results, balance, and sustained productivity.”
8. Make Time for Real-Life Meetings
Although the long-term benefits of remote work are proven, it’s also true that immediate, in-person interaction is necessary to build trust, clarity, and transparency from the get-go.
Upwork expounds on this idea, noting,
“Get everyone together as quickly as possible right in the beginning and straighten out basics. Define requirements, basic terminologies, metrics for progress and success, and objectives that need to be achieved. Get everyone’s schedule beforehand so that the chances of someone missing out are minimized. Be as considerate as possible when accommodating time zone differences and locations but try to get the entire team together for the initial meeting.”
9. Enhance the Employee Experience
Employee experience or ‘EX’ is most easily described as, “a complete redesign of the organization that puts employees at the center… instead of trying to force people to fit into outdated workplace practices, organizations must redesign their workplace practices to fit with their people,” according to SHRM.
“Developing high-level solutions to meet office and employee experience goals is paramount for enhancing the workplace across diverse populations of organizations. The Open Sourced Workplace platform provides key observations and in-depth insight for every member to create the most productive workplace and maximize employee experience for everyone, no matter their function, location or who they work for.”
10. Stay Proactive and Progressive
With the insurgence of millennials entering the job market, there is a unique opportunity for companies to hire top talent by trending ahead of the curve when it comes to progressive work policies.
“Ensuring that relationships between team members are healthy means better communication. A healthy team is capable of collaborating, brainstorming, sharing tasks, as well as working together for optimum results. These healthy relationships allow members to solve any conflicts in a respectable manner and encourage members to evolve those relations outside of the work setting. Minimize gossip and deal with any personal issues head-on and respectfully.”
As the biggest shift in the way we work since the industrial revolution, remote employment is not just something to be aware of, but instead, essential for hiring managers and top-level executives to innately understand and implement appropriately going forward.
Kate McDermott is a digital strategy consultant and professional writer currently residing in central Pennsylvania. A long-time Manhattanite, Kate spent a decade successfully managing myriad growth initiatives as a recognized digital authority, brand builder and virtual voice for over a dozen top-tier companies. When she’s not aiding in architecting other entrepreneurs’ dreams, you can find her developing her passion project for the work-from-home community, These New Walls.