Hiring managers according to a survey conducted by UpWork Inc, claims that 21.8% of their workforce will be fully-remote by 2025, and current estimates conclude that 56.8% of the U.S. workforce is currently working from home part of the time, splitting their hours between remote and in-office work (2020 survey, UpWork). Adapting to the trend of remote work, hiring and team managers need to be ready to build productive off-site working conditions and expectations. All of which starts with clear communication.
Communicating with Remote Employees
This necessity poses a myriad of difficulties yet promises a valuable future. So… How to get started? Clear expectations from day one, for example, you as the hiring and team manager, hire a new programmer for your remote team within a larger company structure. Expectations start in the initial interview (we suggest video-conferencing as an appropriate interview medium). Schedules, tasks and deadlines must be covered from the beginning, if the new hire fails to understand and adjust to your internal policies the working relationship will be fraught with disappointment for both parties. Now a grace period of adjustments is normal, but starting off on the right foot is crucial to building an engaged workforce – and the only way managers can repeatedly ensure this result is by individually cooperating and assisting with new hires and existing employees. A team that moves as one is achievable regardless of where they are located while working.
Expectations to set; frequency of reporting, team meeting times and input-involvement, platforms for task-sharing and completion, equipment/program requirements, and hours versus output. If your company or team hosts daily live-video conferences, then new hires need to know the times and what they are expected to bring with them to each meeting (are the meetings to plan ahead or review recently-completed projects). Also, employees need a contact, a person or system where they can check-in and find answers to their questions and receive feedback.
Lack of feedback is quite possibly the most difficult aspect of remote working scenarios. You do work, finish the work, submit, and nothing happens. This presents a dangerous course if allowed to continue unchecked by managers. Leading to disillusionment, lack of enthusiasm, disengagement, and general feelings of isolation. Managers may address these concerns through a series of methods, first, the manager, depending on the size of the team, could establish regular updates and check-ins with each member of the team on an individual basis. Another method that can be utilized is meeting agendas and work reviews, if recently completed tasks are highlighted at the beginning of group-meetings it keeps everyone on the same page and instills a belief that each employee’s work is adding to the team and furthering the company’s objectives. Humans are social beings, and work should be no exception to human-interaction.
Proactive contacting and outreach is vital, both employees and managers need to reach out and establish routine connections/updates. Managers should also encourage and facilitate colleague to colleague interactions and relationships. If possible, this effort can be bolstered by occasional in-person office meetings, however if the team is geographically scattered this may lead to conflict (this may only be functional for smaller companies or for companies that have just recently transitioned to remote work yet all the members still live within commuting distance to the office).
This setup denotes employee arrangements that permit days spent in and outside the office. This may be a desired plan for many businesses – adapting to modern remote working systems while maintaining face-to-face employee interaction and a healthy amount of in-person company culture. Flexibility is the major benefit of partially remote organizational structures. Placing output and employee engagement ahead of rigid structure. Employees will be able to enjoy the benefits of working from home as well as the human-engagement effects of working around others. This system can occur naturally or intentionally. Offices may prescribe particular days of the week as remote days or allow employees to set their own schedules.
83% of businesses have or are planning to adopt a flexible workspace policy (IWG, 2019). Flexible work policies that are clear and understandable is one of the most important company qualities when it comes to hiring new talent and retaining employees. Consider empowering your staff to set their own schedules and depending on the type of work, set their own locations and hours.
Collaborative and Asynchronous Work
An interesting quality to remote work is the ability to complete tasks asynchronously, one employee may favor waking up early in the morning and completing a majority of their working day by breakfast, as opposed to and in cooperation with those who maintain the semblance of a 9-5 job while at home or splitting the hours at home and in the office. Asynchronous work can be effective so long as the tasks and deadlines are met, as to respect the time of everyone within the company. While collaborative tasks are still a fundamental aspect of working for an organization that is larger than just one’s own self. The nature of collaboration and asynchrony is changing. Pieces of a larger project may be allotted as individual tasks that exist within their own timeframe and requirements, while the overall project maintains a multi-member collaboration from start to finish. However, without the members being in the same room, the equation looks more similar to asynchrony with frequent collaborative check-ins. And this may be a healthy response to remote/partially remote work. Collaboration is maintained/implemented as required to spark new projects and get team members onboard, but the members can then complete their individual inputs on their own time, as to avoid distraction or groupthink. In summary, collaboration as the tool to develop the idea/project, then doling out the work as individual priorities/tasks. Then all of the pieces can be brought back together to finish the whole. And all of this is aided by the ability to stay updated and contact each other instantly via the ubiquity of technology. Separate but never far.
Managers’ roles within organizations large and small are subject to professional developments and workforce trends, remote work is far from being a new phenomenon, however recent world events have pushed remote work to the forefront of managerial functions. Remote work when implemented effectively can increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention. And implementation relies largely on existing employees and their management systems.