Having been a remote worker for the past four years, I understand full well the value of positive remote work experience. Some employers offer an open-door policy to reach out for help as a newbie, while others expect you to work alone with minimal guidance.
Gallup's "State of the American Workplace," found that 43 percent of employees reported working remotely in 2016, up from 39 percent in 2012. Furthermore, FlexJob's State of Telecommuting in 2017 report, which noted that nine million people (2.9 percent of the total U.S. labor force), work from home at least half of the time - up from 1.8 million in 2005.
Given the rise of remote work it's vital for employers to recognize the value of company culture and collaboration. A remote workforce should not be a detached or disconnected portion of your company's employee population. Whether yours is a customer service team or an engineering org, here are my recommendations for how to empower your remote workers to succeed and deliver results.
Joint Kickoff Meetings
The project management experience is enhanced with joint kickoff meetings between employees working together on a project discussing responsibilities. Joint kickoff meetings in the remote world are held via virtual tools like BlueJeans, Join.Me, or Zoom Video with a meeting outline sent to employees in advance. It is an efficient way to remind employees a deadline for deliverables and to encourage discussion.
[Related: The Employee Wellness Playbook]
Virtual Stand-up Meetings
What is a virtual daily stand-up meeting? It happens when employees meet for a one-on-one conversation in a virtual setting. If a new hire is struggling during a probationary period, a manager receives the update and connects with the individual to discuss options to transition them successfully onto the team. It is a time to ask key questions and listen. Many telecommuters can feel out of the loop and stressed in their isolation. These meetings serve to connect managers and direct reports.
[Related: Employee Retention Playbook]
Progress Tracking and Monitoring
A manager without a progress tracking strategy to review employee's progress can lose touch with the importance of employee career development.
In my experience, when a manager set up a meeting every month or ever three months to discuss my concerns, areas of improvement and achievements made me feel less isolated. It was encouraging and motivating to know the manager was paying attention to my hard work as well as my professional development.
In-Person Team Activities
A key way to spread positive company culture and make remote workers feel engaged and a part of the larger team is for managers to travel to meet with teams in a centralized location. Managers of remote teams have the responsibility to prioritize in-person meetings, company retreats, team offsites to foster culture and collaboration. "Remote teams have to trust their teammates. Their is simply no way around it," says Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, a company with a 100% remote workforce puts it perfectly. "One of the beauties of a remote team is that because remote work feels more like an experiment everything else feels like it can be more experimental too. So go ahead and experiment!"