Remote work is becoming a hotter and hotter topic in recent years, ever since the outbreak of COVID. In fact, it was soon proven that many jobs can be easily performed from the comfort of one’s home, and that entire teams are much more productive working remotely.
Alas, a full-on remote work culture is still some way ahead of us. Despite 77% of workers claiming that they work more efficiently from home, 44% of companies in the US still don’t allow work from home of any kind. Some employers would rather consider the help of staff augmentation companies than hiring a remote worker. For instance, many people who are creative see remote work as an opportunity to express their creativity better in their own space. They will look for various career prospects in web design, especially now when corporate web design is a must for every business.
Be that as it may, the US work culture is slowly moving toward accepting and hiring more and more remote workers.
However, the questions now become: how do we adapt to the changing work culture, how do we facilitate the transition, and, most importantly, how do we maintain the same quality of relationships that we’ve got with in-house employees?
Well, that’s what we’re here to find out!
Below, you’ll find some of the challenges modern managers face when it comes to remote work and what steps they take to maintain control and improve their relationships with these employees.
The Main Challenges of Remote Work
One of the main challenges of remote work is the lack of meaningful personal connections.
While it is true that our world is becoming more connected through technology, the digital world is still unable to fully replace the real one.
By extension, the connections we form online are simply not as powerful and meaningful as the ones we form in real life. This, in turn, results in a distinct disconnect between the people within your team, and between those persons and your company culture.
Without the means to interact with the people in your company directly, a remote worker will slowly start to feel isolated and despondent. Following this, the workers quit and change jobs, leading to a high turnover rate.
The second challenge managers face when working with remote workers, or entire remote teams is communication. Different people have different lifestyles, different daily lives, different needs, different commitments, etc. This, of course, leads to people desyncing, and that’s where communication issues start.
Communication issues also arise from a simple time lag. The employees you’re working with might be in different time zones, and though your messaging platform may be near instant, your workers might have already called it a day and logged out.
Finally, workers working from home have a tendency to burn out more quickly due to their inability to unplug after work. In fact, around 27% of remote employees have this problem.
This issue is connected to the two previous ones, in the sense that, due to communication issues, messages, work emails, calls, and every other method you use, might come in too early or too late, leading people to feel pressured to always be available to work out any issues.
When it comes to the disconnect people feel, people, again, don’t feel enthused enough to keep giving their best, and their work becomes more of a chore and a bother than anything else.
Steps toward a Cohesive Workforce
So, how can we actually help our workers feel that sense of camaraderie and belonging? How do we integrate them into our company, and make them a permanent addition to our team?
Rethink your communication tools and promote clear communication
As we said before, the first problem we need to address is communication. In order to solve this issue, we must make sure that:
a) our communication tools are up to snuff
b) we are making sure our message comes across as loudly and clearly as possible
Just think about it for a second - how many emails do you actually open, work-related or not.
Email communication is so outdated and archaic that most companies nowadays are looking for other means of communicating with their employees.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that help facilitate constant and consistent communication between you and your employees.
Apps such as Slack and Asana not only work as communication tools, but also serve as virtual offices that closely mimic the feel, real-life connection of brick-and-mortar ones.
As for the second point, we must always make sure we’re communicating with clarity. When talking with a person, face-to-face, you can give a number of visual cues to provide context, but when messaging, a lot of it is lost in translation.
So, when trying to communicate our ideas to our colleagues, we must make sure that we’ve made our message as clear as possible to avoid any confusion later.
Encourage the sharing of interests
Addressing the second problem is a little less technical and a bit more psychological. As individuals, we’re all unique in our own way, but we still have shared interests, and we like to befriend people with the same interests.
This is why facilitating shared interests and creating spaces in which this can be done is a great move on your part as a manager.
Of course, there are many ways one can go about it. We can, for example, organize team-building events, in the form of parties, BBQ events, game nights, or group vacations. Some of the best recruiting agencies in the world like to highlight these little perks, as they’re often a way to attract good talent to the company.
However, when planning such events, we must take into account that not all of our remote workers are able (or willing) to attend such events.
At this point, we must also consider that we don’t have to perform such grand gestures; small but careful approaches can work just as well.
For example, we can try organizing a happy hour after one of our Zoom meetings. We can also organize simple game nights online as well. There are plenty of group tabletop games that can be played online as easily as in real life.
But we can also take even smaller steps toward building that sense of belonging. You see, what people crave most is normalcy. Just messaging your colleagues during break time can be of great help to mimic that oh-so-familiar watercooler banter.
We can also organize dedicated break times and invite your colleagues to chat rooms, where they can have small talk with each other, and thus facilitate the feel of a normal workplace environment.
Establish a consistent work schedule
When it comes to the problem of unplugging and burnout, nothing helps more than having a consistent work schedule.
This means that your employees now have a standard workday they can plan around. Most people prefer having some sort of structure in their lives, as it helps them make better plans and eliminates the stress that comes with a chaotic lifestyle in general.
Show gratitude and offer encouragement
Another main issue that causes burnout in people is a lack of appreciation for their contributions to their respective companies. Up to 31% of employees suffer the effects of burnout because they don’t feel appreciated by their leadership.
This is why we must give back as much as we receive. If your employee is performing exceptionally well, be sure to commend them for their work and show them, in tangible terms, how their good work is positively impacting the company.
Another thing related to this: show your employees how their work impacts the client/customer. People are not moved by numbers on a paper - but they will be moved, and extra motivated, when they see how their work impacts the client/customer of their company.
Check in with your workers regularly
Finally, a company that cares about its workers is the one that ultimately keeps them.
One of the best things you can do as a team leader is to check in on your employees, but on a personal level. Ask them about their day, how they feel about their work, or if the workload is stressing them too much and affecting both their professional and personal life.
Of course, this needs to be done with a bit of tact. Nobody is going to appreciate you pestering them during work, or even after, but you can always take 10 minutes out of your next meeting to ask your colleagues how they’re doing and how they feel about their current project and how the company runs things in general.
All in all, creating a cohesive workforce out of remote workers and in-house workers is no small feat. It takes an unusual amount of courage and excellent leadership to keep everyone on your team, and in your company as a whole, happy and content.
However, with recent trends in remote working, we must adapt to the new work culture. If we dedicate the time and effort to finding ways of working with these people, we stand to gain much, both in terms of individual performance, and in terms of the whole enterprise.