Here’s another blog I wrote for The Booth Company:
Where’s the remote? (Finding the right channel for distance workers)
These days, many companies have remote workforces. In fact, according to Global Workplace Analytics, about 3.3 million Americans work from home, and the total number of employees who work remotely has risen by 79.7 percent since 2005. The increase is due in part to how competitive the employment landscape has become. To attract and keep high-performing employees and to appeal to the incoming millennial workforce, businesses are offering perks like flexible schedules and work-from-home options. If your company is thinking about launching that type of plan, here are some points to remember to make the system more successful.
First, communication is going to be key. As you know, when it comes to romance, good relationships are built on a foundation of solid communication, and distance relationships rely on it even more. It’s the same for the working world. And there’s a way to do it without being invasive. To start, let your employees know from the get-go how often you intend to call or email them and how often and with what information you’d like them to do the same. Regular check-ins will help everyone feel comfortable with the work being done.
Even with a good base of communication, remote workers can sometimes feel a little left out, especially if they feel like they’re missing aspects of your company’s culture. Plus, millennial workers appreciate having access to the C-suite. So consider putting in place tools like Skype and Google Hangouts to have virtual meetings as though you’re in the same room and to get some face time. And more important, ask your remote folks to come to the office once every quarter—they’ll get a chance to experience the physical environment of your office, meet up with coworkers, and even potentially get some face time with some of your company’s leaders.
Technology will also be important to success, in part to help ensure that collaboration can run smoothly. Collaboration is easy if all you have to do is poke your face over a cube wall to exchange ideas. It’s a bit more of a challenge at a distance. So give your employees a hand by using technology that can help bridge the gap—have a solid file-sharing service and system (you’ll probably need something a bit more substantial than just email). A project management tool is a good idea as well. Services like Basecamp can help teammates stay in touch and work together on projects with a bit more organization and focus.
Finally, it’s a good idea to set clear expectations from the start. Be sure that your remote employees completely understand their accountabilities and what they will be seeing from you. Set goals and milestones, and discuss the importance of all of them so that your employees are better able to stay the course.
A well-planned system for remote workers can help ensure that distance workers aren’t so…distant. Which, in the big picture, will be a big piece to helping everyone reach success.