The pandemic has made remote and flexible working a commonplace occurrence. Once headlining the “benefits” section of any job ad, flexible, remote, and hybrid work has become a no-brainer.
Professional networking site, LinkedIn has reported a 60% lift in searches for ‘remote working’, while applications to these roles have grown by a huge 189%.
Not only is flexible and remote working attractive to job seekers, it’s also critical to those already embedded in your workforce.
But just offering flexible and remote solutions isn’t enough. Flexible working is harder to manage well. Preventing remote workers from feeling isolated and adrift is challenging. Company culture is so highly prioritised by employees, it can’t be offered without planning and consideration.
Here are some tips on how you can manage your remote and flexible workers to ensure you both attract, and retain this cohort of your team.
Onboarding is critical.
Hiring remote workers has many benefits, but ensuring that these workers receive a full and detailed onboarding experience can be tricky. Employers should have a detailed plan in place that covers the projects that your hire will be part of, the platforms you use, the technology they’ll work with and of course welcome meet and greets with the team.
Of course, this schedule will vary in duration and detail depending upon the role in question, but having an onboarding set up in place will ensure nothing goes uncovered.
Help with the home setup.
Not everyone is set up for remote working. It’s important to help support remote employees with their workspace. You should ensure they have all they need to work comfortably and effectively. Do they have the tech they need? Do they have the equipment to work comfortably? If they don’t, could you offer to help?
Office working means that sundry items, such as tea, coffee, and (if you’re lucky) the odd biscuit are communally available. Although these items don’t break the bank, they are an added expense. Could you offer a small expenses allowance for these sorts of items so that your remote workers can enjoy working from a local coffee shop every so often? A change of scene can help to increase productivity and well-being. Not to mention, this is a lovely perk and ensures your remote workers feel valued and ‘part of the team’ despite being out of the office.
Working remotely means it is much more difficult to get an instant answer to a query or a response to a problem. This means that there needs to be plenty of opportunities for employees to reach out to management and colleagues. WhatsApp groups, project management software, and regular zoom meetings are just a few ways to keep the lines of communication open.
Fresh off the back of keeping the lines of communication open, is the idea of creating a virtual open-door policy. You may like to make sure that your employees know that you are available at the end of the phone. Perhaps you could share your calendar with the team or add a zoom link to your email sign-off. This way your team knows they can reach you with ease and that initiating contact will be welcomed.
Accessibility encourages communication, builds respect, and strengthens relationships. The team needs to know that this hasn’t been lost because you are not working in the same building.
Create a virtual break-out area.
Every bricks-and-mortar workspace has an area where colleagues congregate, chat, and get to know each other. Remote working has voided this space. Office chit-chat is a great way for colleagues to build friendships; spontaneous conversation is not supported by remote working. Therefore it’s vital for leaders to create these spaces virtually. For example, could you create a Zoom or Teams meeting in which any ‘work’ topics are off the table? Anything but work chat is acceptable…games, quizzes, activities, or just a chance for colleagues to catch up.
While virtual meetups are OK, nothing beats getting together in person. Team lunches, away-days or morning breakfasts are great ways to boost morale and give everyone a chance to form connections that integrate a team and underline that common goal.
Remote doesn’t mean ‘at home and on call’.
Studies have shown that diligent remote employees are anxious about being seen as productive and hard-working as their on-site colleagues. It is vital that you can recognise signs of burnout from your remote workers. Are they responding to emails late at night, or early in the morning? Are they taking a proper lunch break? These are all behaviours that indicate they are not adequately switching off after the working day is done.
Celebrate remote employee success.
If an on-site employee has a great day, does a masterful piece of work, or spots a critical oversight, it is easy to acknowledge their achievements as you pass them or by visiting their desks. This isn’t quite so easy if you have a remote team. But it is of course possible, it just takes slightly more effort. How about sending a team email highlighting their success, arranging a small gift to be sent to their home, or giving them a Zoom call to say thanks face to face?
Employees have always prized remote work, seeking it out amongst the benefits section at the tail end of the job ads. The pandemic and the period of time we have spent working from home has just cemented this desire. Huge swathes of us will not consider a role without some element of flexibility around remote working. Just offering remote work is not enough. Business leaders must make sure that this cohort of staff is managed well and are just as much part of the team as on-site employees. Communication is key, and there must be lots of opportunities to get together virtually and where possible, in person so that connectivity is prioritised.
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