Telecommuting, or the option to work from home or outside the office, has become a viable and respectable option for any job-seeker who is looking to work as either a full-time or part-time employee. In a study from Global Workplace Analytics, 3.7 million employees (2.5% of the workforce) utilize at least half of their time working from home. This statistic shows a 6.5% increase from 2013 to 2014.
A study conducted in 2015 by the Association for Psychological Science found that the happiness of employees has increased since they started telecommuting. This can be attributed partly due to the employees’ gratefulness for the extra flexibility, and would therefore work hard to prove they can achieve the same results and remain responsible outside the office. Other surveys show that telecommuting is associated with greater job satisfaction, less work-related stress, and improved job performance.
However, due to their distance from the office and the limited interactions they have while working from home, Superior-Employee Engagement tends to suffer or be weakened. So in this article, we will bring up different methods on how to maintain a healthy working relationship with your remote staff:
Communication Is Key
With the various improvements in technology, it is now possible, and easier than ever, for an employee to communicate with their colleagues and superiors in real-time regardless of the distance to the person they are speaking to. There are now many options to choose from should you want to have a real-time communications platform, be it Skype, Zoom, or many other applications that are not named here, the only differences in these applications is what manner of functionality they offer.
Whether you are an in-office employee or remote, it is always comforting to be kept in the loop. This can be done by making a scheduled get together for quick chats, either to discuss demos or interviews or to simply say “hi” would go a long way to making remote workers feel that they still have the benefit of regular, real-time reactions as they would have if they were in office. Allowing employees to use emoji and GIFs to express various emotions would help bridge the gap for remote workers to relieve some stress and anxiety by adding a dash of humor in their messages to colleagues. This also alleviates the slight issue of the inability to distinguish between humor and seriousness in messaging.
Respecting Cultural Differences
When working remotely, it is not too uncommon to have virtual teams consisting of people from different countries, and as would be expected, it could take some time before one would get accustomed to someone’s way of doing things. Be it their different communication patterns and work habits, which may be unexpected by other remote workers. To ensure that these habits will not result in any misunderstandings, it would be helpful to mention these new members and that some members of their team will have specific habits. These habits may come in the form of available hours due to time differences, a preference when it comes to calling one another, preferred tools to use while collaborating, or even their personal interests.
This ties in with the previous method, as knowledge of one another’s preferences and interests would help in making small talk, strengthen camaraderie, and improve the overall teamwork due to a better understanding of how each member would go about accomplishing their work.
Hiring the Right People
Remote working brings the benefit of being able to work from home or wherever, but not everyone is suited to the style of work. Thus, a solid working relationship with your remote workers is dependent on who you hire. The concept of remote work may look very appealing, but the person may not be cut out for it. Because remote work demands plenty of independent work, a person who can manage their time and deadlines, responsible, can pace themselves, is comfortable working on their own, and has solid communication skills would make that potential employee more appealing than if the opposite was true.
By ensuring that you hire the right people, who can handle the shift in work style, who can embrace the culture of the business, and are willing to exert effort into building relationships with their colleagues, you can minimize the chances that team members will clash over differing opinions or practices, and increase their productivity and teamwork.
Should you be able to afford it, bring your entire remote working team together at least once or twice a year. These sessions are a significant stepping stone when it comes to building working relationships, but you may be surprised by how much you and your team can accomplish when time is allotted for focused, whole-team engagement.
In the event that it is not possible to assemble the team at an off-site event, an effort must be made to have in-person meetings among key employees when you can. Due to the social nature of humanity, our brains may process interactions in a different way as opposed to using technology. These kinds of in-person meetups help smooth the work process, crucial production hurdles, or even conflicts between employees amongst themselves.
Distributing Tools for Working Remotely
Ensuring that remote workers have software that would give them the ability to communicate and collaborate with one another easily is one of the best ways one could use to build strong relationships between the remote workers and their colleagues. Keeping the software uniform between the remote workers and in-house employees is a great boon for morale and overall productivity.
Instant messaging is a good example of one of these kinds of software. It greatly assists in disseminating work-related information without the extra time spent spreading it through other means. Another example would be a file sharing and document management system. Having an online repository for files would expedite the need to send the files to a specific account or computer. These kinds of tools are designed to boost overall productivity and efficiency, of course, one would want their remote workers operating at their best.
Having a uniform set of these kinds of software between your in-house employees and remote workers helps foster a sense of connectedness between both sides of your workforce, and help the remote workers feel that they are part of a larger team.
Now, when it comes to working with remote employees, it may not always be very smooth or very easy, but with these tips in mind, you can now make the most out of your team, and ensure that they are having a pleasant work experience with the company’s culture, comfortability, and familiarity when working with others and that they feel a part of a larger team regardless of their distance from their co-workers and their cultural differences.