Remote work has grown 159 percent over the past 12 years, with many full-time employees working from home in at least some capacity, along with a thriving industry of freelancers, contractors and gig workers. Yet, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends report, only 8% of organizations have created new processes to manage and develop these workers. When it comes to recruiting and retaining employees, the organizations that put a concerted effort into managing these employees will win.
While there are plenty of challenges leaders face when working with remote employees, there are also some simple solutions your organization can implement today to help. Here are four of the most pressing issues that face remote workers and how organizations can address them:
Remote workers often can feel left out of the decision-making process and isolated from the organization. Employers often worry that remote workers will be less productive when in reality, any drop in efficiency is more likely due to their managers’ ineffective communication.
Ensuring your remote employees feel as critical to the organization as employees in the office is important and often overlooked. By ensuring there is a standard set of best practices when it comes to communication with remote employees, organizations can help prevent feelings of isolation. While the practices will vary by organization, small habits can have a major impact, including:
- Ensuring that the employees calling into meetings have a chance to speak.
- Requiring weekly one-on-one meetings via phone or video.
- Having a process in place for communicating major decisions across the organization.
2. Ad Hoc Connections
A lack of in-person, spur-of-the-moment conversations can limit informal but often highly creative collaboration. Spontaneous mini-meetings can lead to big ideas, personal connections and a deeper understanding of colleagues. Without them, employees can feel less connected to the work and the people they work with.
There is no digital equivalent to watercooler conversations, but informal dialogue can still occur. Messaging platforms can make reaching out to colleagues seamless — even if it’s only to ask what they had for lunch. While they should not rely on these tools as the only, or even the primary, form of communication, leaders can encourage this type of casual banter and even use it themselves when formal emails aren’t required.
Picking up the phone is underrated — and taking a few minutes before diving into business to catch up socially is always a nice touch. For organizations that can, providing opportunities for team members to meet face to face, whether through an off-site once each year or weekly meetings, can make communicating through technology more productive. In a culture where these conversations are not only accepted but encouraged, everyone will benefit and work better together.
3. Lack of Face-to-face Time
Most body language, facial expression and behavior — important factors in face-to-face conversations — become invisible when employees are remote. This can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings and a decrease in productivity.
In this day in age, there is no excuse not to use video extensively with remote workers. Giving employees the tools to communicate effectively is paramount. When in doubt, managers should pick up the phone rather than sending an email that could be misconstrued. Video and phone will make a difference in building, not tearing down, relationships.
4. Lack of Feedback
“Out of sight, out of mind” can be all too true for remote employees when it comes to feedback. They need to deliver on the work they are responsible for, but managers often leave it there, with little feedback on that work. This lack of feedback leads to employees who don’t grow and learn like the rest of the organization.
Every organization should have practices in place that ensure their employees are receiving real-time feedback. It can be through one-on-one meetings, team debriefs on projects or one-off conversations that address anything pressing. Leaders need to ensure that all of their employees are aware of areas for improvement and ways they can actively and continuously expand their skill set.
The bottom line is that organizations are not doing enough to ensure their remote employees have the same experience when it comes to communication. By adopting company-wide best practices to ensure the workforce is making connections every day, organizations can ensure that every employee thrives.