How can people who rarely see each other in person function as a high-performing team? According to research, employees who work remotely 100% of the time are the least engaged of all remote workers. This directly affects an organization’s retention, productivity, customer experience, and, ultimately, profitability. Below are five mistakes that companies make when managing a remote team and how you can avoid them.
A hard-working employee in a standard office environment doesn’t translate to an effective remote employee. Some extremely intelligent and hard-working individuals do better in an office environment. Remote working is a skill in and of itself. Most people haven’t worked on that skill, and it may take a little more time for them to develop it. Chances are employees who worked remotely before or have run their own business or project will be an excellent remote worker as they will know what to expect, how to make the best decisions, and spend their time wisely.
When an employee is in the same office as their manager, it’s easier for the manager to see and recognize that team member’s successes. When they are in different locations, however, there are few natural moments to see, let alone praise, good work. What’s more, some employees don’t always share their successes since it can be seen as bragging about themselves. Sometimes managers aren’t aware of what is occurring and what employees are most proud of. Most managers we work with don’t want to take up too much of their or the employee’s time, so they keep their “quick connects” focused on what needs to get accomplished. But this isn’t enough to keep an employee engaged and performing. To increase the frequency of these meaningful conversations, both the manager and the employee need to be more intentional about connecting and sharing.
Communication is one of the biggest threats to remote teams. Because of infrequent face-time, communication becomes even more critical to get right. This may mean using more than one communication tool and being clear about when to use each one. Use chat for off-the-cuff updates, phone calls for messier situations that require discussion, video, and screen-sharing to walk each other through a project, and so on. The difficulty in communication happens when your team is scattered across various time zones, making it challenging to have everyone online at the same time. To minimize this, you can have a period of “core work hours” when everyone is expected to be available online.
Imagine working separately from your team and hardly having any face-time with them. You might feel like the work you’re doing isn’t always recognized. There might be some fear that the rest of the team doesn’t think you’re working as hard because you aren’t in the office with them, so you work more. Because of this, it’s easy for remote employees to end up doing more than they should and end up burning out. It’s the employer’s responsibility to look out for the well-being of their employees and encourage them to take breaks. This could mean setting a rule that everyone must take an hour for lunch, away from their desk, or providing reimbursements for gym memberships to encourage them to get active.
Research shows that the optimal amount of time to work each week remotely is three to four days. Human beings need connection. However, fully remote workers do not get that opportunity to connect, which can make them feel isolated and disconnected. Managers are increasingly using technology to create these connections across different locations. Some companies use internally designed social media intranet sites or collaboration platforms like Yammer or Chatter to virtually bring their teams together. At the same time, some managers require every worker to video conference in so everyone feels like they’re part of the same conversation.
No matter how much the workplace changes, one thing remains the same: Every employee has human needs that their company must meet. And the needs of remote workers have tremendous implications for companies today.