4 “Secrets” for Better Remote Workers

10-03-2018
Chad Crescibene


Surprise! People can be as unproductive in the office as they are at home. That’s the first point to recognize if you’re wondering whether you can trust people to work even when they don’t come to work. The workers who might spend half their days watching cat videos at home can just as easily view old clips of Toonces at work.

Yeah, yeah, time-wasters are going to waste time regardless of where they work. But what about collaboration? Isn’t it easier if people are physically together?

That depends. Employees can be just as uncollaborative on- as offsite. Look at almost any open-floor environment. Most people in such workplaces are likely listening to Viventium podcasts on their headphones or quietly focusing on their screens. Or they’re instant messaging coworkers sitting three feet away. In other words, they are already remote — mentally, if not physically.

By this point, you probably get the point: You shouldn’t assume or gauge employees’ performance based on where they work.

And that’s a good thing, especially as companies struggle to find people to narrow skill gaps, they are increasingly looking to remote workers and teams. Indeed, more than half of hiring managers who work at companies with remote-work policies believe that such flexibility and inclusion have made it easier to find talent.

But it’s not just hiring managers who benefit from the flexibility. Employees also appreciate the autonomy remote work offers. The ability to have a life — run errands, take care of children or parents, cook lunch — during the day doesn’t take people away from work. It helps them accomplish it. By integrating work and life more efficiently, people work more effectively.

At the same time, employees are often more productive when they can work with fewer interruptions. That’s hard to do in the office when colleague after colleague continually asks, “Do you have a minute?

It’s therefore no surprise that about two-thirds of organizations have remote workers. What they may not have are policies or good practices to help remote people function optimally. Yet it’s important to have at least basic protocols to support your remote (really, entire) workforce. Just because remote workers can work similarly to their onsite counterparts doesn’t mean they do. Like all employees, they can benefit from some guidance to help them succeed in their roles.

Here are some tips to help boost productivity and engagement among remote employees:

 

A Google Search Says to Recruit for These Skills!

 

It all begins with the candidates you recruit. A quick Google search will “reveal” a range of traits to look for in job applicants. People should have great communication skills and a positive attitude. They should be agile, adaptable, reliable, organized. You want self-motivated individuals who can work independently and manage their time well.

That was a pretty lame list not because such characteristics aren’t useful. They are. It’s because they are the very same attributes you’d likely want in any employee. In every employee.

Come to think of it, this tip easily applies to all workers.

 

Email Is Not Enough!

 

A kaleidoscope of tools makes it easier than ever for remote people to work productively. From cloud-based collaboration software to digital whiteboards to interactive polling, you owe it to all of your people and your organization to leverage consumer-grade technology in relevant ways. Simply put, email is not enough to engage your remote employees, especially among today’s digitally native generations.

Speaking of technology, make sure you familiarize new remote hires with the resources they’ll be able to use to help them facilitate communication. Here too, the landscape is probably the same for remote employees as for those onsite. Still, it’s worth spending extra time with remote people acclimating them to your communication technology and processes. After all, it’s not as if they can call a colleague or IT person to troubleshoot physically.

The more remote employees understand how to video conference, communicate on Slack, or work on shared documents from Day One, the more confident and engaged they’ll feel on Day Two and beyond.

Actually, this is another tip that applies to all workers.

 

More Meetings!

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Sure, they already clutter your calendar. Never mind all the unscheduled pow-wows that blow up your day like land mines. Nonetheless, remote people don’t like to feel remote, and meetings for them can be a way of staying connected. More to the point, they want to hear and see what’s going on in the company as much as anyone who’s actually in the building.

Once again, emails can accomplish connection to an extent. But nothing beats regular phone or video calls to inform and excite people in meaningful ways. Whether it’s team meetings, companywide gatherings or one-on-ones with managers, it’s critical to use engaging communication to maintain engagement among remote workers.

And guess what? This too applies to all workers.

 

It’s About the Work!

 

Do you trust your people?

If you can’t answer that question with one word — the right word — then your organization is not ready for remote workers. That is, you can’t enable remote workers to do their best work if you don’t have confidence in your workforce. You’ve got to have faith that your people are bringing their best selves to work to accomplish great things.

That means focusing on the work itself, rather than where or when people do it. This is especially relevant when you consider that 77 percent of people say they are more productive off-site. By emphasizing accountability and results instead of time spent in the office you can send a message to your remote workforce that you trust them to get the job done.

Turns out, this tip also applies to — well, you know the rest.

The reality is that engaging remote employees is not so different than engaging all of your people. Improving productivity rests first on giving everyone the tools they need. Then it demands trusting them to use those tools to accomplish work according to their unique work styles. That’s no secret. It’s just common sense.

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