One way or another, it looks like remote work is here to stay, at least to some degree.
Recent Robert Half research shows that 71% of workers polled are still operating out of their homes at least part of the time — and that, on average, they want to work remotely three days per week even after the pandemic is officially over. And a separate survey revealed that 76% of companies are open to recruiting fully remote employees.
Long term questions about how many remote employees companies will have and how often hybrid staff (some days in-office, some remote) might work from home remain unclear. Either way, managers need to be front and center in giving hybrid and remote teams the direction and support they need. But managing a remote team —maintaining a sense of cohesion, keeping morale high and more — can be a tall order.
As such, you need innovative ways to bond your group together. We’re fortunate that technology has given us the means for many jobs to be performed away from a central office location. Internet connectivity, mobile devices and collaborative applications have become more sophisticated. The emergence of robust new tech, including tools powered by artificial intelligence, makes it even easier for remote employees to connect with colleagues and managers seamlessly and productively.
But technology can’t supply the leadership and real unifying force your remote employees need. That depends on you.
Robert Half can help you hire highly skilled remote or on-site talent.
1. Put your communication efforts on overdrive
Regular and informative communication is the lifeblood of a workforce. For remote or hybrid teams, a bit of overcommunication works even better. Schedule regular calls with project teams to evaluate progress on their goals. Do the same with the full team.
Make extra effort to keep remote employees in the loop on company and departmental news. As a leader, you should give your take on any priorities that may be shifting. When done, step out of the way and entertain questions and comments.
Consider conducting video calls rather than just audio ones, as seeing colleagues builds camaraderie. Be creative. What about online celebrations, such as a virtual birthday or work anniversary party? Plus, services such as Slack and Google Hangouts can help your employees keep in touch with each other individually and in smaller groups throughout the day.
2. Show empathy
Check in frequently about people’s well-being and potential sense of isolation. How is the team communicating with them? How are they handling everyday disruptions? What tips can they pass on to others to make working from home easier or more productive? Share whatever news and tips you have, even if it’s a small update or to say there’s no news to share.
3. Offer them flexibility
Let your team know it’s OK to vary work hours — to the extent possible. Tell them it’s entirely reasonable to leave a quick email that they’ve gone outside for a short walk or to run a quick errand.
4. Shore up resources
Make sure essentials like production schedules, project timelines, background documents and the like are stored in a central online location — like SharePoint, Smartsheet, Dropbox, Google Docs or a wiki — that all remote employees can access.
A shared online calendar can help ensure that everyone on your team can easily share and view the latest schedule details in one place, helping make managing a remote team a little easier on you.
5. Don’t allow tech tools to fail
Let’s face it: remote work can’t happen at all without technology. Discuss on your regular conference calls how people feel technology is helping or hindering their work. Ask them which tools — and which features of those tools — they use to stay productive and connected.
No matter which tools they use, everyone needs to be on the same page about how these systems work, why they’re being used and who can fix them if troubles arise. For the latter, you may be able to set up a chat feature with an appointed representative in your IT department.
6. Give extra attention to new remote workers
Veteran telecommuters may not need as much support as those new to it. People may feel particularly disjointed or uneasy when they first start to work remotely if they haven’t really done so before — and those experienced with it might be able to help. After all, the value of collaboration and teamwork in the workplace still applies to remote employees.
7. Remember that trust is crucial when managing a remote team
Although frequent communication is paramount, avoid going too far and micromanaging. Employees need to feel confident that you believe they’re working as hard as they would in a regular office, including keeping similar hours and maintaining productivity even if they aren’t visible. If you’re unnecessarily checking in several times a day with remote employees just to see how things are going, those workers may feel like you don’t trust them.
Remember that remote employees can be as effective as those you have on-site, but only if they have a manager who always has the team’s back. Don’t make the situation sound daunting. After all, employees don’t need special skills to work from home, just support and direction.