By Mark Jourdain, Director, Solution Consultants
Remote working is becoming an increasingly common feature across the growing business landscape. As new technologies have enabled the way we work to evolve, ambitious businesses of all sizes are adapting to the transformed workplace, recognising the genuine business benefits a remote workforce brings. Cost savings, eliminating commute time and productivity are other well-documented outcomes, as is the ability to tap into a wider source of talent, creating a presence in new locations and an agile, scalable model for growth.
Remote working can bring its own set of challenges; working online can sometime be perceived as less formalised with companies needing clear policies on how to manage virtually. As a business owner, the onus is on you to adapt a management style to suit this:
Invest in the relationship
Getting to know employees is vital, even when face-to-face interaction is limited. Taking the time upfront to understand each team member’s career aspirations, strengths, any development gaps and working style will make it easier for you to manage them in the longer term. Regular catch-ups are also a good way to gather feedback and understand how their individual work experience can be improved.
Communicate your working culture
Provide clarity around what your expectations are across the business. While allowing a degree of flexible work hours comes with the territory, keep some consistency too. Setting core working hours will ensure the team has structure and can reach each other when working on joint projects. Transparency is vital; by tracking outputs and focusing on KPIs you can better understand progress.
Face-to-face has a place
Encouraging your team to build up their own relationships will help create a more supportive, collaborative culture. Isolation and lack of opportunities to idea share, brainstorm or just let off steam can be the downside of working in a virtual team. Schedule kick-off meetings and regularly scheduled project-led meetings where staff can interact. Face-to-face meetings can be incorporated into team-building exercises creating the opportunity to develop a personal connection and build relationships.
Aligned, engaged teams perform best. Bring your people close to your wider organisational vision together with the steps the company needs to take to get there. This helps individuals understand how they each fit in to the corporate future vision and are contributing to the team’s common goal.
Create a culture of collaboration
Be creative about the way your team communicates. Embrace the right technology to create a forum to share ideas, knowledge, and accomplishments as well as ask questions. Web conferencing, Skype, enterprise social networks such as Yammer are all great, cost effective resources.
Recognition is a powerful driver when it comes to keeping employees engaged. Leverage your communications platforms to reward and celebrate team and individual accomplishments and successes.
This final point is probably the most important, tying into leadership styles, company culture, management processes. Independence is a major reason why people choose to work remotely in the first place, so it’s key this is maintained. Trust your team to deliver the way you expect them to and resist the urge to micro-manage. The right technology, culture and processes should all mean that you can give your team the breathing space and independence to take your business forward.