Work-from-home flexibility has been on the rise for a while now. Whether you chalk it up to technology, or environmental factors, remote work increased by 173% in the United States between 2015-2018. An impressive number that we’d be willing to bet spiked even more in the face of the pandemic this past year. Regardless of whether businesses are ready to accept it or not, remote work is the future of the modern workplace.
The surge in flexibility boasts a slew of benefits for employees and employers alike. In fact, 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when working from home and are able to cut out lengthy commute times and distracting office chatter. And companies that support work-from-home have a 25% lower turnover rate than those that don’t. Not to mention it’s a huge factor in recruiting top talent in 2021. Because of the above, many businesses have pivoted to adopt a more flexible workplace.
Over half of workers in the United States claim that remote work is feasible within their industry, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Transitioning employees from the office to their homes and managing remote employees can be harder for some businesses than it is for others. When your team is remote, you encounter issues like miscommunications, distractions (like children, laundry, or noisy neighbors), and even internal security issues. Luckily, with the right tools, there’s a way to overcome these obstacles and master managing remote employees in a way that promotes healthy motivation and engagement.
Challenges with remote employees
Lack of face time
A big obstacle with remote work is the lack of face time that many teams require for efficiency. Being able to grab a colleague from their desk and bounce ideas off of each other in real-time can help facilitate better (and more instantaneous) collaboration than communicating from behind a screen. Without the constant face-to-face interaction, there may be a greater disconnect and lag time between teams.
Whether it’s children, pets, laundry, or the yard work happening across the street, there are significantly more distractions at home than there are in an office. In order to be successful at home, it requires discipline and self-motivation, which are not traits that every single employee can easily tap into.
Less access to resources
Your home office is probably less ergonomically equipped than your work office is. But more than that, you have less access to valuable resources from home. Whether it’s that extra computer monitor, a file you left sitting on your desk, or the expertise of your colleague that sits next to you, your set up at home could be limiting compared to your set up in the office.
Managing remote employees
Foster a growth mindset
It might be easier to get stuck in a rut while working remotely, so it’s important for managers, and executives to foster a growth mindset. Don’t let performance reviews, feedback, or praise fall through the cracks just because you’re not in the office. Set up check-ins (one-on-ones) with your direct reports often to see how they’re feeling, what roadblocks they may have, and how you can aid them in being more successful in their roles. A growth mindset is crucial to help support motivation.
Be organized, but flexible
A big component of making remote work work is flexibility. The flexibility in location, office hours, and work-life balance can help increase creativity and prevent burnout among teams. Provide your employees with the right tools so that they can be firm on their goals, but flexible on their methods.
By enabling a more flexible environment, you’re able to build trust with your team. If you can trust that they’re getting the work done without having to micromanage and track their hours, they may be more inclined to own their projects, feel more motivated, and work longer hours in return.
Communicate with presentations
Overcommunication is key in managing remote employees. Nearly 20% of employees say that communication is the biggest challenge with being remote. Managers can stay connected with their employees through weekly huddles, open discussion channels, product demos, virtual bug bashes, and presentations. To help keep your employees engaged in virtual meetings, try incorporating visual presentations into your communication strategies. You can create decks for all-hands meetings, quarterly planning, to celebrate company wins, or even for Friday happy hours.
You might hide hidden images or words within decks and offer prizes for whoever finds them first to encourage employees to actually pay attention to the presentations, or have each employee add a personal update to a slide at the end of an all-hands. Presentations don’t have to be strictly business, and can be an easy way to get your team engaged.
Explore new ways to collaborate
Nothing fosters motivation better than collaboration. Get your team engaging with one another on a regular basis so that they can feel excited about projects in the pipeline. However, what once worked in the office to create buzz and excitement won’t necessarily work now. In order to facilitate collaboration virtually, you’ll have to get creative.
Keeping team members connected and excited is critical. Put a biweekly brainstorming session on the calendar, plan online team building games for remote employees, happy hours, and encourage support across different departments. Boosting the office morale and culture could have a direct correlation to collaboration and teamwork.