The hybrid and remote work trend has been gaining momentum for over a decade. Lower overhead, access to a broader candidate pool, and greater flexibility benefit employers and employees alike. However, the rapid shift toward this entirely new way of doing business has left many employers unprepared for managing remote team members. Here are a few ways to ensure remote and hybrid workers stay engaged and accountable.
1. Establish behavioral and performance expectations
Many companies pivoted to remote work on the fly to cope with COVID-19, which provided opportunities to explore leveraging remote teams. However, many of these decisions were reactionary; leaders were unable to pause to determine an intentional remote work strategy, much less clear policies to support it. It is crucial for organizations to take the time to reflect on what is working and what is not and develop a clear path forward. Once a remote work strategy has been agreed upon, establish clear and comprehensive policies aligned with your current practices, company values, and behavioral expectations.
2. Set your employees up for success
It is essential to provide the tools employees need to work effectively. This includes comprehensive training on company-wide systems, procedures, and tools used at the department or role level and keeping current with technology updates to ensure they are up to date on new features and how they will be used within the organization.
The employee’s workspace is essential to success. We recommend that employers offer guidelines on what constitutes an appropriate workspace and consider potential distractions employees may face, such as children, pets, or roommates. Ergonomics are also important for remote work; offer guidelines on equipment and resources for a healthy and productive workspace, including adequate lighting, ventilation, and ergonomic furniture.
3. Keep employee communication a priority
Once your remote team is set up, encourage regular contact with supervisors and colleagues. This is especially true for employees who have never worked onsite with your company. It’s easy for an off-site worker to feel isolated and disengaged.
In remote work, employees don’t experience the organic interactions that occur during onsite meetings, coffee breaks, and shared lunches. As a result, remote employees may begin to feel disconnected. Providing vehicles for communication like chat and video, in addition to phone and email, make it easier for employees to connect. Likewise, these tools encourage back-and-forth communication about work projects and building team connections which are essential for facilitating solid performance and morale. Employers can also promote engagement by offering employees a blend of personal and work-related activities throughout the week. Brainstorming sessions, book groups, personal interest channels, and cross-department work projects contribute to a sense of belonging and connection. It is essential to get leadership buy-in and for managers to participate in non-work-related activities to ensure team members feel empowered to get involved. You can kickstart engagement with new remote employees by setting them up with an “onboarding buddy” to show them the ropes, answer questions, or be available to chat about their experience.
4. Build a culture of trust
Building trust is a crucial aspect of managing remote teams. Leaders are people, too; managers should let their team see their humanity, shortcomings, and challenges. This includes actively listening, being present during meetings, and avoiding multitasking and distractions. Managers can create a sense of connection and foster relationships with remote team members by showing care and interest in their employees’ lives.
A key component of fostering trust with remote teams is self-awareness and paying attention to social cues. Have your team members been trained to consider how their emotional state may affect communication? Provide resources and encourage managers to monitor their tone of voice and choice of words to avoid inadvertently sending negative messages. When providing constructive feedback, limit your discussion to performance and work behavior. Savvy leaders avoid negativity and defensiveness by concentrating on shifts in focus or direction. Paying careful attention to delivery can mean the difference between disenfranchising or losing valuable employees and creating an environment where team members flourish.
Setting up any work team for success is an ongoing process. The evolving work environment has created unique complications. But these challenges are eased when business leaders, HR professionals, and employees work together to find solutions tailored to the organization. While employers may no longer be able to do things as they always have, embracing a hybrid and remote work environment creates new possibilities and opportunities to thrive.