Remote working is an example of a business transformation that works on various levels. It serves the needs of individual employees, it provides businesses with new flexible and adaptive ways to engage within their ecosystem and deliver economic value, and in our current climate, it serves the larger community by addressing public health needs.
But the rise of remote work isn’t something entirely new. With increasingly easy access to the internet and with organizations moving to SaaS-based applications, it’s never been easier to work remotely. In fact, research done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that there has been a major upward trend in the number of people working remotely in the U.S. In the span of one year, from 2016 to 2017, remote work grew 7.9%. Over the last five years, it grew 44% and over the previous 10 years, it grew 91%.
Hiring remote employees allows employers access to a huge talent pool not restricted by location. It also helps save money on company infrastructure. Embracing remote work culture is easy, successfully implementing it within the company can be quite a challenge.
In this article, we’ll describe how to manage a remote workforce by identifying the challenges of going remote and the right tools to help productivity, collaboration, and communication.
What is a remote team?
A remote team is a group of professionals working from varying physical locations on a unified project. According to a recent survey, remote work helps organizations achieve higher employee engagement and satisfaction, which helps them retain top talent. The survey also found that remote employees experience less stress and 30% believe they are able to accomplish more in less time.
Managing a remote workforce
While its easy to see the benefits of working remotely, managing a remote team does come with its own sets of challenges. Below are the top three challenges that organizations face with a remote workforce.
Communication is key in any workplace and it is especially important for those who mainly communicate via email, chat, or calls. To ensure a free flow of open communication throughout your organization’s structure means hiring the right people, cultivating a communicative culture, and using the right tools for the job.
Technology is what makes remote teams possible. Below are types of tools that can facilitate communication in remote teams:
Chat: Slack, Google Hangouts
Project management: Trello, Jira, Asana
Web and video conferencing: Google Hangouts, Zoom, Cisco Webex
Collaboration and prototyping: Invision, Marvel, Adobe XD
Scheduling: Calendly, Doodle, Google Calendar
Another tool that is often overlooked is workflow automation. In order to run any remote team well, you need to create well-defined processes. Streamlining remote employees’ workflow reduces tedious and time-consuming tasks. An ADP Research Institute study shows that 81 percent of employees feel positive about using technology to complete tasks and connect with peers.
For example, onboarding a new remote employee can be easy when you have the right BPM platform in place. By using third-party applications like DocuSign or Amazon Textract, organizations can easily extract information from scanned documents like a passport or state ID to verify employee work eligibility. This workflow can be easily managed via email or other communication tools like Slack.
Trust is paramount to any relationship. When employees trust their managers and coworkers and believe in the work they are producing, collaboration happens naturally. But trust isn’t easily garnered where face-to-face interaction is non-existent.
To gain trust, organizations need to establish a mission statement as nontraditional workers value mission-driven organizations because they want to feel that their time is being used for something impactful. Organizations can demonstrate dedication to a cause by donating to charity, holding volunteer incentives, or partnering with nonprofits that share their mission.
Organizations also need to encourage collaboration and team building by having clearly defined teams. This sets the expectation that people should be working in tandem with one another. By not forming teams, employees are often left confused and not driven to work. It’s important to know where to belong and who to report to.
In an environment without day-to-day supervision, low productivity is an obvious risk. On the other hand, some employees might be at risk for burnout while working remotely due to a lack of boundaries.
The best way to ensure everyone is doing their job is to set clear expectations for each role and have regular check-ins to gauge progress. Organizations should have a general idea of how long tasks take and how much each person is accomplishing week by week. Companies can also conduct regular one-on-ones with each team member to not only hold them accountable for their work but to check in on their workload and if any support is needed.
Organizations can also set up daily stand-ups (daily scrums or huddles) to foster productivity, transparency, and collaboration as well. By having an informal group check-in daily, it takes the team on the same page and holds every accountable for their tasks and projects.
Wrapping it up
As with anything related to work, there are challenges, but when organizations overcome these challenges of managing a remote workforce, they’ll reap the rewards of a strong remote workforce. Develop a set of expectations, keep in close communication, and treat remote employees are the valuable and highly productive team members that they are.