July 16, 2014
Flexible working has barely been out of the news since the latest government changes. But while allowing employees to work remotely can do wonders for staff retention, motivating them and keeping them in the loop presents a new problem. Although self-starting employees feel that they have more control over their work and fewer distractions, it can also lead to a sense of isolation. It is important for retention that you not just offer a flexible working option to employees, but that all the staff make an effort to continue allowing them to feel like a part of the team. The four best practices that will help you motivate employees that telecommute are: ensuring you build trust between those who telecommute and their colleagues from the start; establish regular communication between remote and in-office staff; manage goals, expectations and outcomes and take steps to establish that remote working is made part of the company culture.
Best Practice # 1: Build trust from the start.
Trust in the workplace environment is simply enthusiasm: a mutual understanding that everyone will do their jobs. It is important that managers trust the employee that is working virtually, but it also works the other way around. Remote employees need to feel that their colleagues will be there when needed.
Ensure that remote staff have the opportunity to create connections with on-site staff by introducing them to their managers and colleagues and providing them with contact lists. End the training with activities or a social event to welcome them as part of the team.
Best Practice # 2: Establish regular communication between remote and in-office staff.
It’s easy to take for granted that you know when a colleague is available – you can see them so they’re probably on-hand for a quick catch-up. When an employee is working remotely, they don’t know when managers are out of the office or when co-workers are in meetings. Ensure that there is a centralised place where employees can see each others’ availability.
Schedule a weekly catch-up with your remote employees. If you have regular status meetings, be sure to involve them in those as well. Digital nomad Ally Basak Russel explains, “Video calls are crucial to be able to read people’s faces and body language during meetings. Without video calls, I feel much more isolated.” Videoconferencing helps remote employees feel like part of the team more so than phone calls, so be sure to invest in a good tool to facilitate them.
Best Practice # 3: Manage goals, expectations and outcomes.
The importance of trust is paramount here. Managers will not be able to impose a task-focused work environment with a dispersed team. Set the goals and targets at the beginning, while ensuring that all employees are aware of the company protocols in place and boundaries of their roles. From there, it is up to the individual to manage themselves and decide how they achieve the desired result.
Your staff will start working differently and management will measure job success through achieving goals rather than completing tasks, leading to a more efficient workplace.
Best Practice # 4: Make a remote working policy part of the company culture.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when starting out their remote working policy is viewing it as an exception to the rule. This can lead to telecommuters feeling excluded and in-office staff feeling that they have been treated unfairly.
Implement tools to make remote working more feasible for anyone who chooses to so – Smartphones, secure laptops, remote access to company servers, collaboration workspaces and so on. When there are social events, be sure to invite remote employees to attend. Reduce your company’s carbon footprint and try going paperless so everyone has access to the same documentation.
Implementing a remote working system may seem daunting, but by starting out on the right foot, your company will be on its way to improved work efficiency and higher staff retention.
Gemma Falconer is a Senior Campaign Specialist for GoToMeeting. She has been part of the Demand Generation team for the past five years, looking after anything from webinars to content creation.