The workplace as we know it is changing. The standard 9-to-5 job is evolving to take on new meaning, and working remotely is a significant component in that shift. Remote employees are becoming the new norm for companies across the globe—according to research from Global Workplace Analytics, 90% of current employees would prefer to work away from the office for at least part of the week, and other studies confirm that 85% of Millennials would like to telecommute 100% of the time.
What Is Telecommuting & What Does It Mean for Your Company
Telecommuting simply means that your employees log into their office environment from a web-connected device rather than physically going into the office—91% of remote workers believe that they get more work done and 70% of employees feel that it’s crucial for companies to give their employees a chance to work remotely.
Managing employees who work in a completely digital environment can be challenging for traditional leaders—in fact, 64% of companies don’t have a formal remote working policy. That said, joining the telecommuting revolution doesn’t mean your company culture has to become stagnant. There are plenty of ways that you can maintain an effective corporate community when your talent works from home.
1. Communication Comes First
There are plenty of benefits to managing remote employees. Fewer distractions from the traditional workforce can contribute to higher efficiency, lower stress and boost morale. In fact, 82% of telecommuters report reduced stress levels. Unfortunately, remote working can also contribute to feelings of isolation. The lack of team camaraderie in a physical space can begin to dissolve your corporate culture, making it harder to keep staff spirits high.
Fortunately, an internal communications platform can help mitigate feelings of isolation, ensuring that employees inside and outside of the office all have access to the same information, resources and communication solutions. This can reduce those feelings of confusion, minimize the risk of misunderstandings and ensure that the lines of communication between employers and remote workers remain open.
2. Make Time for Face Time
When it comes to remote employee engagement, remember that face-to-face interaction can be one of the most important factors in managing mistrust and improving coworker relationships. If possible, it might be worth asking your telecommuters to come to the office occasionally—whether for a group meeting or company outings. This can drastically improve the overall team experience and help make the people behind the computer screen in your workforce feel more “human.”
If your remote workers are too geographically diverse to attend office meetings, you can still achieve a stronger bond using regular video conferencing. Research suggests that more than half of our communication is non-verbal, and when you don’t see someone in person, it’s hard to know what they’re thinking, or feeling. Managing remote employees effectively could be as simple as setting up regular video conference chats. After all, 87% of telecommuters say that they feel more connected to their workforce when they use video conferencing.
3. Focus on Results, Not Timelines
Figuring out how to engage remote employees can be difficult for managers that are used to a traditional office environment. It can be easy to forget that remote employees often prefer a little more flexibility when it comes to their schedules, meaning they might not be available for the nine-to-five work employees in the office are used to. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Research shows that remote workers are twice as likely to work for more than 40 hours per week, and can be 20% more productive when they follow their own schedules.
If you want to keep your telecommuters happy, the easiest solution could be to simply allow them to work in the pattern that feels comfortable for them. Remote employee engagement doesn’t mean forcing your external workers into the same boxes as your in-office staff. Flexible working is all about versatility, and your remote workers will be much happier if you give them their freedom.
4. Make Culture Count
Worldwide, more than 50% of the people who work remotely part time have said that they’d prefer to increase their telecommuting hours, and 60% of professionals would leave their current job for a full-time remote position. While it’s true that this trend is driving workplace transformation, remember that traditions and culture are still important.
The more you can make your culture count for remote workers, the better you can ensure that all your employees feel as though they’re part of the same team. Think about how you can bring people together to celebrate the same values and traditions—you might acknowledge employee birthdays and anniversaries on your company intranet, or bring people together for a video conference to inform them about changes in your business.
5. Remember Recognition
Finally, remember that everyone, including your telecommuting workers, wants to be recognized for the things they achieve. A poll from HR magazine found that 52% of employees feel that their boss could do more to show their appreciation of them. When you can’t physically give your workers a pat on the back for a job well done, it’s easy to forget that they need the same appreciation as your in-office employees.
Try broadcasting achievements that your telecommuters make over your communication channels or think of ways you can celebrate your employees when they do something well. Broadcasting the achievements of all of your team members—including the ones working remotely—is a great way to ensure remote employee engagement, and maintain your sense of corporate culture.
Transforming for the Telecommuting Era
The accessibility of the internet and cloud computing has meant that flexible working is more feasible than ever. Telecommuting not only meets the demands of younger Millennial workers, with 68% of job-seekers suggesting that they would prefer to consider an employer with remote working options, it also reduces turnover.
As more companies embrace the trend of remote working, it’s important to make sure that you don’t allow your corporate culture to suffer from the arrival of flexibility. Managing remote employees can be much easier than you think—all you need is the right technology and a plan in place to make sure all employees are engaged and kept in the loop.
Kevin King is the Marketing Lead for Bambu by Sprout Social and film lover turned SEO geek. When he isn’t poring over massive Excel files, he can be found enjoying live music, superhero movies and select craft beers.
Working Remotely: 5 Steps to Cultivate an Environment Telecommuters Thrive In
Written by Kevin King on September 29, 2017