In today’s workforce, the number of remote workers continues to grow. According to the New York Times, 43% of Americans spend at least some of their time working remotely. Remote workers tend to be more productive and can save your company money—upwards of $10,000 per year per employee.
Unfortunately, employing virtual employees can also be a mess of mismanagement and lackluster performance. To mitigate the risk factors associated with remote workers, employers must establish systems that effectively connect a widely distributed workforce and allow for powerful collaboration.
Below are guiding principles that employers should use in order to optimize their virtual workspace.
Simplify, simplify, simplify
Managing multiple communications technologies is clunky and outdated. To streamline processes and systems, your team should invest in unified communications to allow for faster decisions and transactions between team members. Unified communications combine everything employees need in order to communicate, both internally and externally, into one cloud-based system.
Unified communications systems typically combine:
• Video and web conferencing
• Desk and mobile phones
• Instant messaging
Using a single environment to manage multiple devices and modes of communication helps simplify daily activities and enables your team to be more centralized and efficient in their output. Plus, it takes away confusion and reduces the risk of your message getting lost in translation. Our unified cloud capabilities allow companies to skip the hardware and servers altogether, using the cloud to bring together employees near and far.
No matter what systems you decide to use, always go back to that one question: How can I make this process less complicated?
Set expectations early and often
Many companies do not have formal policies in place for teleworkers, leaving many gray areas. In an office setting, expectations can be inferred through interactions between other employees—but this is simply not the case with remote workers.
Make the effort to set general guidelines for remote employees, such as office hours, email deadlines, communication standards, and more. This way, no one will waste their time trying to interpret messages or standards through email or instant messages.
We highly recommend doing this in written form to give everyone a straightforward resource they can refer to in case there are any questions. This can include a document of standards such as communication guidelines or short- and long-term goals for each employee. By sharing a written document, there will be no room for question when it comes to expectations.
Host weekly—or daily—team meetings
Just because you can’t meet in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet. Just like on-site teams, you should regularly schedule virtual meetings with off-site employees to allow for semi face-to-face communications.
There are many benefits to video conferencing. Not only will the visual aid help your virtual employees feel like part of the team, but it will also give you the opportunity to speak more organically and openly. The MiVoice Video Phone system has a variety of advanced features, including the seamless sharing of files and the ability to collaborate through its web browser functions, that make a virtual meeting feel more like face-to-face reality.
During your check-ins, ask both personal and work-related questions. Some of our recommended questions include:
• “How can I help you?”
• “What are your priorities this week?”
• “How is life outside of work?”
• “Do I give you enough or too much feedback and guidance?”
These types of open-ended questions help open the door to where you may need to improve upon while making it clear that you’re not there to micromanage their work.
Build trust with remote workers
Studies have shown that companies that function with higher levels of trust have more opportunities for personal growth, empathy, and collaboration. Employees also report lower levels of stress, greater productivity, and more satisfaction in their lives.
Trust starts with open lines of communication, meaning honest conversations about expectations and workflow. But it also means actively working to get to know your virtual employees and giving them the space needed to effectively do their work without micromanagement.
Bosses who micromanage their remote workers foster a sense of unease in the virtual workplace. But under-management of employees is equally as problematic. Each employee will require a specific level and type of management style and it’s up to each manager to figure out that sweet spot in terms of trust for every virtual employee.
Maintain a positive virtual social environment
It is crucial that your off-site workers feel like they are part of a larger team. While it can seem nearly impossible to include them on things such as lunch outings or corporate events, there are other creative ways to make virtual workers feel included.
Something as simple as sending a birthday or holiday card reminds them that you’re thinking of them. Some companies also deploy what they call “Coffee meetings,” where they pay for their virtual worker to get a coffee at their favorite coffee shop. Whatever you decide, make it personal to your brand and its mission.
And remember: this virtual working relationship is probably new for both sides of the aisle, so be humble and vulnerable to feedback from your remote workers. If something isn’t working, be willing to examine the issue to find solutions that better fit your team members. Collaboration looks different within every team, and with virtual workers, it’s imperative that you take the time to figure out what it looks like for you.