04/26/18

Keeping Remote Workers from Feeling Too Remote

Research from Gallup suggests that this is a crucial time for American employers. Either they embrace flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities, or they may find it difficult to retain top employees.

“Employees are pushing companies to break down the long-established structures and policies that traditionally have influenced their workdays,” says the research company’s report.

The good news is that working remotely offers perks to the employee and the employer. For starters, workers who spend 60-80% of their time out of the office report feeling the most engaged. This is an interesting evolution that’s been occurring across the country. Only five years ago, Gallup’s research showed the opposite: it was the workers who spent the majority of their time on-site who were most engaged.

While the perks from working away from the office are many, it still presents challenges. After all, face-to-face meetings are sometimes essential. And staying on task can be difficult in an unstructured working environment. Most importantly, research proves that gossiping is 87% more difficult when you don’t have a watercooler to gather around.

As an employer, you should be keenly interested in keeping your remote employers on task and engaged. You can start by making activity tracking automatic, rather than counting on employees to report it themselves. After all, even your best employees will have a difficult time keeping an accurate count of their hours.

So how do you keep tabs on your people without looking like Big Brother? The best solution is to have your employees use one of the new time tracking apps or systems that has come out in the last year or so. Preferably, it should be one that integrates with their other applications and feels natural, rather than draconian. Check out TimeCamp or activate this seldom-used feature in Outlook.

Another important element of the remote-working puzzle is keeping everyone looped in on meetings and feeling involved. Yep, it’s definitely easier said than done. But if you can strive to include the majority (if not all) of your remote employees in meetings via phone or video monitor, it’ll pay dividends. And use these all-hands-on-deck moments to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of your remote workers, as they aren’t in the office as often to hear them in person.

While big meetings are crucial, the smaller interactions are also important. It can be tough with varying work schedules and time zones, but you should strive to set up consistent times for check-ins. Use these meetings as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship, offer coaching, and update them on office developments. The cadence of these meetings will vary from employee to employee, but Inc.com recommends that you “err on the side of check-ins that are too frequent because if they prove unnecessary you can always cut back.”

Your overall challenge and opportunity is to keep your remote workers feeling less remote. Let them enjoy the flexibility that comes from working outside the office, but do whatever it takes to help them feel like they’re still an essential and valued part of the team.

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About the author

Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen is a marketing and technology writer with a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. He has written for healthcare companies, outdoor gear manufacturers, international airports, and dozens of small businesses. Grant is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV and Lendio News. He is also the author of the book “Rhino Trouble.”

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