Almost three quarters of people consider remote working to be the “new normal”, according to a survey of 15,000 US professionals. And it’s no surprise, given that remote working has grown in popularity by 44% in just 5 years, with 4.7 million US employees now working remotely today.
So what makes remote working so popular? A survey by FlexJobs found that businesses and staff alike experience huge productivity and wellbeing gains from embracing remote work. 85% of companies see greater productivity thanks to the added flexibility, and 80% of remote workers experience less job stress. Throw in the environmental benefits of working from home, and the fact that flexible working options are proven to improve employee retention, and it’s easy to see why the remote working culture continues to grow.
With the remote working population increasing every year, business leaders are having to consider new ways of managing their staff. Office time is decreasing, meaning traditional leadership styles are no longer fit for purpose. So there’s a new challenge in town: how do you manage a remote workforce? We take a look at the top 3 recommendations for leading remote teams:
Consider specialist remote leadership training
Despite overwhelming evidence that productivity improves when employees work from home, research by Owl Labs found that 82% of remote managers are concerned about whether their remote staff get any work done.
It’s a different story after they receive training, however. Owl Labs discovered that once leaders received training specific to managing remote workers, including learning how to evaluate performance and manage expectations, they were 15% less likely to be as concerned about employee productivity. This suggests that a better understanding of remote staff assuaged managers’ fears about their working environment affecting output.
If the number of people demanding remote working continues to grow – and all the evidence suggests it will – then business leaders must be prepared to adapt their way of thinking and managing so they can support their remote staff.
Business leaders need to adapt and learn new ways of thinking to support their remote staff
Give staff the best tools to work remote
Laying the right technological foundations is essential for staff to work remotely. “If remote employees can’t download files […] you have failed to address the basics,” says Leila Bulling Towne of The Bulling Towne Group, LLC. Well, quite!
It sounds obvious, but investing in the proper tech is the only way that remote working can even get off the ground. Most businesses will have at least some digital workplace tools that facilitate information sharing and meeting management, but it needs to go further than that. For remote workers to really thrive, business leaders must provide tools that focus on collaboration, communication, and company culture.
Our own CEO at Claromentis, Nigel Davies, is a true believer that the right technology helps remote workers flourish. He says: “All our employees use the digital workplace which offers everything a remote worker needs to ensure they don’t feel isolated. Our internal social media feeds are always buzzing.”
You can use technology to create a digital community that celebrates birthdays, recognises achievements, and promotes company milestones too, which will improve engagement amongst your remote workforce. “Being intentional about creating community helps develop a corporate culture that inspires connection, which can result in increased productivity,” says TC Cooper of UpwardAction LLC.
Keep lines of communication open
Feelings of isolation can be a real problem for some remote workers, with 19% reporting struggling with loneliness in Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019 report. Business leaders must acknowledge and address this to make sure their remote staff are happy and healthy.
Providing staff with multiple channels to communicate – and ensuring everyone knows how to use them – will help keep lines of communication open and minimise feelings of loneliness.
You might consider engaging with your staff on a daily basis through some form of communication, whether that’s a quick ping on instant message or giving kudos on internal social media feeds. Software company GitLab take advantage of video conferencing to engage with their 350 remote workers, where senior leaders are available to chat over video conference at any time during office hours.
Recognise your remote workers with kudos to help them feel connected to the company
It helps to plan regular 1-2-1s with your remote staff too, giving them a dedicated space to share any concerns, and you the chance to assess performance and any training needs. Constant interactions like these will help your remote workers feel connected and part of the organisation, a key antidote to thwarting feelings of isolation.