How to support remote and work-from-home employees
According to Global Workplace Analytics, 4.7 million employees currently work remotely at least half the time. As technological advancement grows, the more common it is for employees to work from home. But just because they aren’t physically present in the office doesn’t mean that these team members should be left out of important conversations and activities. Implementing these basic (but important) practices and strategies will guarantee that your remote employees feel supported whether they’re down the road or across the country.
Invest in technology
Before you hire a remote employee or any telecommuter, be sure that you’re equipped with the technology to communicate with them personally and effectively. Utilizing communication tools like Skype, Zoom or other video chat/call solutions will allow you to meet face-to-face, even if they’re several hundred miles away. Not only will this increase personal interaction, but it will limit the amount of confusing emails and will ensure your team member is in the loop about their assigned projects. Moreover, you can use this technology to plug them into important meetings and conferences, as if they’re really in the office.
Apart from video conferencing, you might consider using a project management system like Slack or Asana, so that all of your employees (local and remote) can talk in one place–apart from email. Other collaboration tools like Google doc.
Make sure they have what they need for their remote or home office. Giving remote workers a small monthly stipend to cover things like office supplies, internet connection and hardware can help them have a comfortable and functional home office. Or even offer reimbursement for time at a co-working space, even the happiest remote staff might like to have some face time around others or maybe their living conditions don’t provide a lot of space for a separate home office space.
Since you don’t have the luxury of seeing your remote employees everyday, it’s important to create a communication strategy to help maintain your relationship. This can include frequent and regular phone and video calls, text messages and emails. Try scheduling weekly or bi-weekly call, just to see how things are going. Feeling out of the loop can be extremely demotivating, especially if you’re working out of your home.
Be sure to check in with them regularly to provide feedback, and try not to only contact them when something is wrong–be deliberate with your communication. Sometimes a daily standup meeting at the start of the day can help everyone feel connected and on the same page.
While regular communication is important and it can be difficult not knowing exactly what your remote employee is doing during the day, you want to show them that you trust them to get the job done. Respect their work-life balance, it can often be a struggle for remote employees to separate their work-life from their home life, especially if they are working from their home full-time. Set clear expectations that you may have flexibility in their hours, you still expect them to have a regular workday, both for them and you.
Try not to bombard them at all hours of the day with emails and calls, telling them how you want things to be done or constantly checking up to make sure that they’re actually doing them. Instead, set up some guidelines for them–maybe you want to be sure that they’ll respond to emails within a certain period of time, not everything needs to be answered in real-time, especially after hours. Be confident that they can (and will) perform their job. Try to focus on the end goal and worry about problems as they arise.
Bring your team together
Since your remote employee will be spending minimal to no time in the office, consider bringing them in for a visit at least once a quarter or a few times a year. Meeting them in person will strengthen your relationship and help them to feel apart of the company culture. Have them meet with their coworkers on any important projects and get feedback. This will help them establish closer relationships and get a better sense of the work environment in the office. Moreover, you might consider hosting a lunch or happy hour during their so that they really feel appreciated.
If your team is a complete remote team, consider having regular meet-ups of certain teams, or if budget permits an annual company wide off-site. Telecommuting can be difficult and lonely, communication among teams can be challenging, so these regular points of face-to-face contact can help the entire team feel more connected. This will help your remote workforce better communicate when they are not together as well. However, this has to be done regularly and planned well in advance.
Ultimately, hiring a remote employee has its perks. However, fostering a strong relationship and communication skills is necessary for it to work. As long as you provide your remote employees with the tools to succeed, they can be just as productive as your in-house employees.
Also, it is always a good ideas to send them a package full of company swag every so often to really make them feel apart of the team and boost their team morale.