3 Best Practices For Managing Remote Employees Long Term
By Gina O’Reilly, COO, Nitro
There’s no denying that the working world has changed significantly over the past year. While remote work isn’t a new concept, it has taken some time to get used to it being the norm. Even though more offices will open back up in the coming months, many people want to continue working from home (WFH). According to a recent survey (1) conducted by Nitro, 73% of workers plan (or at least would like) to work from home as much or more frequently post-pandemic, and 67% believe a WFH policy is very or extremely important to future job opportunities.
Whether it’s full-time or part-time remote work, employees expect some sort of flexibility when things return to “normal.” But lacking those in-person interactions is, and will continue to be, challenging.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to start developing a smart and thoughtful remote/digital-first strategy. Here are three best practices to keep in mind as you build out your plan:
1.Give employees the right tools and equipment to succeed
This one should be a no-brainer, but make sure your employees have an optimal WFH setup. Surprisingly, there are still a ton of people using stacked books as laptop stands or their kitchen table for a desk. This might work for some, but for the majority, it’s hard to be productive when you don’t have a dedicated and functional workspace.
Companies should consider reimbursing employees for office equipment such as a headset, camera, extra monitor, or even a desk. If you have the budget, it can also be helpful to offer employees a monthly tech stipend that can go towards their internet or phone bill.
In addition to physical workspaces, it’s also important to provide teams with the right set of digital tools. With almost everyone at home, traditional working habits that involve printing and scanning documents won’t cut it anymore. So, companies should think about implementing solutions that digitize more processes and help boost efficiency. After all, “work smarter, not harder,” is the motto of today’s workforce.
2.Adapt expectations from time spent to outcomes
As we move to a more permanent remote work structure, we must also change the way we may have traditionally measured success at work. The workday is no longer 9 to 5, and many employees are dealing with personal and family matters during “standard” working hours, like taking care of kids or attending appointments. Because of this, leaders should focus less on hours worked, and more on the outcomes. Managing a remote team is difficult because it requires a deeper level of trust. There has to be a mutual understanding that employees can work flexible hours but still need to deliver and perform at a high level. It’s a quid pro quo set-up that should be clear from the get-go so expectations are aligned.
Along with shifting expectations, companies should also consider introducing a hybrid work environment—especially if you don’t plan on continuing WFH full-time. A recent FlexJobs survey (2) found 31% of employees want this type of environment post-pandemic. Being able to work remotely or in the office is a nice option for those who still want the flexibility but also want access to activities like meetings, planning sessions, and social events that are naturally easier and more productive in person.
3.Create a tight-knit community with virtual and digital programs
It’s crazy to think that most of the people who started a new job in 2020 haven’t yet met their teams or managers face-to-face. The lack of in-person contact definitely makes it challenging to cultivate meaningful work relationships, but there are ways to foster a strong community virtually.
Transparency is crucial when managing remote teams and building a community, so companies should focus on enhancing internal communications. Consider hosting monthly town halls or Ask Me Anything (AMA)-style meetings to share company updates and openly address employees’ concerns and questions. Allow for asynchronous communication between employees that might be working flexible hours throughout the week.
Outside of company-wide communications, you can also set up smaller, internal resource groups that focus on causes or topics people are passionate about. These can help connect more team members and facilitate non-work-related discussions.
In addition to transparent communication, it’s also important to keep employees’ health and wellbeing as a priority. The past year has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health and many are feeling burnt out or anxious. Think about implementing health and wellness programs—either with apps or digital platforms—or offering monthly stipends for therapy sessions or exercise classes. Showing your employees that you care and prioritize their health will help them feel happier and more comfortable at work, even if they’re remote.
Although we’re almost halfway through 2021, companies are still learning how to manage their teams remotely. This is uncharted territory for everyone, and it will take time to figure out what works best for your organization. However, leaders should focus on equipping their teams with the right tools, shifting work expectations, and creating a strong virtual community to make long-term remote work not only successful but a big positive for everyone involved.