As technology has evolved and improved over the past decade or more, there has been a massive surge in employees looking to work remotely at least part of the time. Recent world events, including the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19 across the globe, has pushed not only the demand but also the need for remote working to an all-time high. The substantial increase in remote working undoubtedly has both positives and negatives for employee and employer, not least the need to find the best ways of supporting remote workers so that they continue to feel an important part of a team and maintain a great work ethic as a result.
The 5 Ways of Better Supporting Remote Workers
In many ways supporting remote workers is a completely different management style than when supporting workers in a traditional office environment, since things don’t always translate well from the real to the virtual. However, these simple tips will help you and your business adapt to the world of remote working by better supporting the remote workers in your company.
1. Avoid communication solely by email and written workspace platforms
There’s no doubting the importance of email for communicating important points effectively as well as sharing documents with colleagues. The same can also be said for the cloud and workspace platforms that bring groups of colleagues together. However, sole use of these systems can take the personality out of meetings and work-related communications, making remote workers feel like under-appreciated robots. More importantly from a business perspective, over 50% of communication is subconscious and nonverbal, demonstrating how somebody feels about a particular topic. Instead, be sure to take advantage of the video conferencing that now exists, whether that’s Google Hangouts, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and you’ll find group chats with your remote workers become much more agile and beneficial to you and those workers.
2. Make time for small talk
While video chats are great for all the reasons outlined above, there is a danger that they become rigidly fixed on business and don’t provide the time for workers to enjoy each other’s company. In an office environment, this happens spontaneously when grabbing a coffee or celebrating a successful project completion or birthday, but takes a little more effort when some colleagues are working remotely.
Allowing video chats to continue for a few minutes after the business of the day has been completed is actually a very good way of supporting remote workers without even realizing it. Workers feel like a valued member of the team, and see you as someone who is approachable, so if or when they have an issue to discuss they will be much more willing to do so, limiting any impact that it may have on the company.
3. Schedule virtual one on ones
Another aspect of making time for small talk is ensuring you have one to one time with each of your remote workers. It’s easy to have unplanned one on ones in an office environment, but less easy when staff are working remotely. One on ones remain an important way of supporting remote workers through allowing the two of you to discuss the bigger picture, such as where they might be headed within the company, or what extra expertise they could learn to improve the work on their projects. But these sessions are equally important to ensure a worker is mentally and physically happy and enjoying working remotely. The fact is, a worker who is unhappy or feels undervalued will soon be looking elsewhere, at rival companies who are supporting remote workers better.
Scheduling your one on ones in a shared calendar, with a dedicated time slot each week or fortnight for every worker helps to ensure these important informal meet-ups aren’t lost in the maelstrom of the week. Avoid scheduling these meetings for times when you know there’s a possibility they might end up being canceled. Also avoid scheduling them for times that could be resented by the team, such as early on a Monday morning, or late on a Friday afternoon. Much better to schedule them in the middle of the working day during your company’s core hours.
4. Provide positive feedback
Positive feedback for a job well done is even more important for remote workers than for those based in an office. And by that, J+F mean more than a quick email reply of ‘thanks’. Words such as ‘awesome’ will be received with much more positivity than ‘thanks’. And while some find emojis and gifs to be unprofessional, amid the privacy of your office environment – whether real or virtual – they are much more effective in conveying how you feel – a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Another great way of showing that you are supporting remote workers is to share that positive feedback with the entire team rather than just an individual worker. That will foster a feeling of togetherness among colleagues and push everyone to work better. Be sure to praise everyone in your team, though, and not just one individual, or you will soon create resentment and division
within the team.
5. Ensure equivalence between face-to-face and remote workers
It can be easy to fall into the trap of sharing information in passing with those in the office, and forgetting to mention it to remote workers. But more than that, remote workers can end up feeling like second class citizens if everyone in the office is talking excitedly about the arrival of new office furniture or a new piece of kit while they are struggling at home with a workspace created from odd bits of furniture. Offering to buy your remote workers a desk, chair, or printer may be an initial expense to the company (one which can often be set against your tax liability) but it will more than pay for itself in the long run, with increased employee retention, improved efficiency and productivity, and greater satisfaction.
Essentially, remote workers want to feel like a valued member of the team. Adopt our ways for better supporting remote workers, and we think you’ll soon see a noticeable difference across your workplace.