In 2018, there are more remote employees in the world than ever. They sit at home, in a coffeehouse, or gather in coworking spaces, and do their job. Even though an opportunity to work far from loud offices is appreciated by people from various professions, such an approach also has its disadvantages.
Unlike the office workers, remote employees often feel undervalued. They are afraid of their coworkers talking behind their back or forgetting about their best interests. Feeling underappreciated, employees become less productive. Their morale declines and their retention gets more difficult, which results in the increased costs. What are the possible solutions to this problem? First of all, companies need to improve their corporate culture, pushing it beyond the office walls. During the past three decades, sociologists have been studying business communication and found out that better communication makes teams more successful. It becomes especially important to communicate with your remote employees when they are located overseas, for example, in the U.S. or Canada, while the company is based in China.
Reasons Why Remote Employees are the Future of Innovation
More and more companies understand that remote work is not only convenient but also more effective. Remote work is no longer associated with programmers and copywriters only, as legal and accounting industries also grow online. Companies from various spheres hire remote workers because the internet offers a constantly growing pool of affordable and talented freelance workers.
Remote work has long been a popular solution for companies from the tech industry but now it gains popularity in other fields as well. Programmers and developers often choose not to waste their time looking for a daytime job, being able to find many interesting projects on freelance platforms like Upwork. Here, they can also find a company interested in long-term collaboration. College graduates and people with Ph.D. degrees become academic writers. Kevin Scherker from College-
Benefits of remote working for employees are rather obvious, but how do employers benefit from it? First of all, they encourage creativity by getting rid of traditional meetings. According to research, companies waste up to $37 billion on meetings. The thing is that meetings don’t boost creativity, quite the contrary, there is such a problem as “anchoring” — when somebody expresses some idea, other ideas are perceived as less relevant and are forced to orbit the first one. Companies like Apple quickly realized how dangerous it is for innovative companies, that’s why they urge all their employees, regardless of their positions, to do creative thinking and to share ideas. Google created its 20 Percent Projects, giving every employee 20% of the week to work on a project of choice. This idea was also quickly replicated by Apple and other successful tech companies.
Innovation is closely related to the issue of autonomy. In turn, autonomy is impossible without trust. Remote employees won’t be engaged with your company if they don’t feel that you trust them and that the company cares about their interests. Innovations don’t happen in the boardroom because someone always dominates and others cannot express their ideas. When a company allows employees to work remotely, it doesn’t encourage laziness. Instead, it allows them to have the necessary level of autonomy. When people feel the trust, they are willing to do their job well and to make a bigger contribution.
The Biggest Remote Work Challenges
The first and the most obvious difficulty is the difference in time zones. For example, when it’s Tuesday, 3:00 PM in New York, it’s already Wednesday, 3:00 AM in Beijing. Employees may want to discuss some issues with a manager, being unable to do it because he or she has already left the office. Of course, if the difference doesn’t exceed 3-4 hours, it doesn’t cause much trouble, but when it reaches 12 hours, a company is mostly disconnected from the workers. The good news is that this problem can be solved.
You can discuss this issue with the team and find appropriate hours for meetings. There are also many time zone converters available online. These programs will help you contact your employees at a right time. Group chats also help solve any problems as soon as possible: Leave your message and employees will start working on your problem as soon as they get to work.
Another challenge associated with remote work is a lack of feedback. Employees don’t receive feedback immediately or don’t get it all. Without feedback, employees are uncertain about the quality of their performance and don’t know what areas need to be improved. This problem can be easily solved if employees start asking for feedback. Managers also should address any problems as soon as possible. At the same time, they shouldn’t hesitate to say what they like about the job done by the staff.
Finally, the most difficult challenge is bonding with your team and developing personal relationships. In an office, bonding happens naturally. Employees gather around a water cooler and talk about work as well as about their personal lives, which increases the level of trust. It seems impossible to build the same emotional environment with remote workers, however, you can tackle this issue as well. According to Kim Moir from Mozilla, an employer can start a conversation about something that isn’t directly related to work. You can find some common interests with your employees and meet them in person from time to time. When you know your employees as people, your team gets stronger and its members want to help each other.
Ways to Make Employees Feel Valued
- Rethink your corporate culture
First of all, you have to determine, what values does your team represent? An understanding of your corporate values is the basis for the whole corporate culture. Therefore, the improvement of your corporate culture should also start with revising corporate values.
If you work with a remote team, communication is one of the most important things, along with recognition, collaboration, trust, and autonomy. These values will help your employees feel like they are more than just tools. Organize brainstorming sessions and receive suggestions from all members of your team, regardless of their position.
Talk about team values, make announcements on your website or even create corporate merchandise, like t-shirts or coffee mugs.
- Improve Technology
Members of a team must be up-to-date about the status of current projects. If they don’t talk to a supervisor for a long time, it’s hard to run through all the updates. This is where technology comes in handy. For example, software like Asana can help in managing projects, notifying everyone when some project is completed and tracking project assignments.
Instant messengers are another useful tool that improves communication. They are much more convenient than emails and allow employees to collaborate regardless of what department they are from, which is great for sharing creative ideas. Remote workers will also be more engaged in meetings if a company uses video conferences. If there is a big difference in time zones, all important meetings can be recorded so that all employees can participate and leave their comments.
- Use incentives for motivation
Provide your remote employees with incentives that will help improve their performance. Proper motivation increases the level of personal commitment and builds the environment where employees and employers support each other. Ask your employees about their biggest achievements and challenges they need to deal with. Discuss their short-term and long-term goals and create a system of rewards taking into account their main priorities and needs. Encourage your employees to share their achievements with the whole team in online chats so that they would want to have some victories worth a little bit of bragging. Friendly competitions quickly boost productivity, especially when you offer valuable rewards.
- Don’t forget about one-on-ones
According to research, one-on-ones are a necessary part of the effective management. Some managers think that they don’t need to do them regularly if employees are not located in the office, but it’s a misconception that can damage the effectiveness of your management strategy. Managers must reach out to employees, using any possible ways to stay connected. It’s always possible to find an appropriate time to schedule one-on-ones, even if the office is located in China, while workers are based in Europe or America. Remote employees shouldn’t feel excluded from the team.
Sometimes managers may also use video calls instead of phone calls. Video conversations allow participants to read each other’s facial expressions, which is especially important when managers want to make sure they are understood correctly. We also suggest delivering feedback or bad news using video calls.
- Eliminate micromanagement
One of the biggest advantages of remote work is that your employees can focus on doing their job without all the distractions associated with the office environment. However, they won’t be able to benefit from it if they constantly receive questions from their micromanagement leaders. You need to teach your managers that a productive workflow is impossible when employees get overwhelmed by distractions. They shouldn’t waste their time writing countless updates for their managers, otherwise, they will feel stressed out and frustrated.
Remote work becomes more and more popular every year. Advanced technologies make it possible to create teams that consist of workers from all over the world. Implementing modern project management solutions and improving corporate culture, companies can benefit from engaged workers who are willing to contribute to their company, feeling that their employer cares about their best interests.
Use our simple tips to create a more productive work environment where every remote employee of your team feels valued and connected to others. Invest in effective communication and you will see how your remote workers become more engaged in your business,
About the Author
Ester Brierley is a QA Engineer in software outsourcing company, a seasoned content creator and virtual assistant for College Writers. Adores researching cutting-edge digital (and lifestyle) trends and sharing them in her writing pieces. Follow her on Twitter.
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