With top companies such as InVision and Hotjar powering their growth through a full-remote workforce, remote working is surely on the rise. This article explains.
It now becomes critical for organisations having or even looking to hire remote workers to understand certain factors that remote employees really care about.
The popular reasons associated with people choosing to work remotely are zero commute, additional recreational and family time, greater freedom to travel, more comfortable and personalised working environments.
That’s not to say that remote work doesn’t come with its own challenges. Employees may feel isolated and even lose motivation. 44% of remote workers say that problems in communication affect employee-manager relationships and this has led to a delay or sometimes, failure to complete projects.
So you need to make an informed effort to effectively manage and run a remote workforce. To do this successfully, you need to understand the perspective of your workforce.
Having run a remote tech team for the last 3 years, I feel that there are nuances that remote workers value beyond the usual popular notions mentioned earlier. To understand these aspects in greater detail, I went on to interview 30 remote working individuals. Based on the insights received, I have listed down the 12 most important things that remote workers give a lot of significance to.
Structured orientation process
Every employee needs to spend the first few days on his/ her job trying to understand the company’s mission and vision, the scope of work and reaching a certain comfort level with coworkers – all the ingredients constituting the organisation’s culture.
This becomes even more pressing when it comes to remote workers, as they do not share the workplace with their colleagues, and hence, never get to directly interact with them. Further, they also don’t have the opportunity to observe the conversations between other people in the office.
Therefore, a more explicit process needs to be defined to ensure that a person starts warming herself/ himself to the way of working at the new company.
However, many companies tend to miss out on this. This results in employees lacking any strong connection with the company they are working for. Laying such a poor foundation upfront has natural consequences on other parts of their work.
Define a structured on-boarding process that focuses on getting to know the company and its people, understanding different tools and resources that the company uses on a regular basis. For example, at Doist, a fully-remote company, a new employee is immediately assigned a mentor.
Further, arrangements are also made so that he/ she travels to work with the mentor for a couple of weeks, helping him/her to get acclimatised to the new environment.
Regular video-calls with coworkers and managers
“Not being able to interact with colleagues in a more personal fashion, is often a big reason for feeling disconnected from the team and the organisation,” says one of the remote workers that I interviewed.
A remote team predominantly uses mail, slack channels, and messenger for communication. These channels of communication, to a large extent, are devoid of important aspects such as tone and emotion.
Emails, for example, are meant to be purely functional. Video calls play a very critical role here in adding another dimension to conversations, helping employees feel more connected with one another.
Companies should have a certain number of mandatory video calls on a weekly basis. You could also include informal catchup sessions at regular intervals. This allows your employees to gradually get acquainted with everyone else’s personality beyond the work environment.
Appreciation and recognition
Who doesn’t like to be appreciated when they have done a good job? One of the remote workers shared with me that he once worked on a project for 3 months, spending almost 55 hours a week, only to get a “Nice working with you” from his manager.
He said although he was paid duly for it, he suddenly felt very drained by the lackluster response.
An extra effort to make sure your colleagues feel recognised, perhaps a message on the slack group or on a public forum, will definitely go a long way. Also, make this an organisation-wide way of working. Following are a few methods of appreciation that could be undertaken:
- Broadcast a message of appreciation on the slack channel
- Mention in the online newsletter of the company
- A kudos note from a high – level leader/CEO
This will help stir a sense of responsibility and confidence in them while inspiring them to work harder for the company.
Regular human interaction
Working remotely removes any possibility of impromptu water-cooler conversations and often any scope of casual conversations. One of the remote workers even said that he had worked for three days with very limited human interaction, which too was work-related! Clearly, such cases can be very detrimental to an individual’s mental health.
Companies need to step up and take more responsibility to keep their employees mentally and emotionally healthy. Some initiatives such as incentivising your remote staff to participate in networking events and insisting that they work out of a co-working space for at least a few days a week can be very helpful.
Ease of travel
Travel is thought of as one of the main reasons for people to choose to work remotely, and I realised it to be very true! But traveling and visiting places while handling a remote job isn’t as easy as one would think it might be.
Platforms such as Remotelife, simplify the lives of remote workers who love to travel. With accommodation, food, backup electricity and 24/7 access to Wi-Fi, remote workers can explore new destinations without worrying about logistics.
Be supportive of your remote staff who sign up for such programs. This results in happier employees – a definite recipe to better productivity and higher retention rates!
Right tools that facilitate remote work
Companies should give serious consideration to the set of tools used by their remote employees. In such a context, it is important that a collection of tools are chosen as a “tool stack” rather than individual tools; i.e. tools are evaluated on how they function together and integrate with each other rather than being considered separately.
Also, new people joining your company are very likely to have worked on different tools. A training process to get them accustomed to the ins and outs of the tools, would help them to be productive quickly.
A few remote workers mentioned some of their favourite personal productivity tools such as Forest, Take A Break, Noisli, among others. For example, Take A Break for e.g., ensures that you take regular breaks to avoid headache and fatigue.
Noisli, on the other hand, generates various ambient sounds to drown out background noise, helping you improve your focus on work, even when you are in a noisy environment.
Skill development and training
Remote workers, like most other employees, want to consistently keep up-skilling themselves. For a company, though, it is difficult to organise training sessions for everyone when they are not co-located. This results in remote workers often feeling that the onus of improving their skills is entirely on themselves.
However, to ensure that they feel valued, you need to take initiatives for their personal skill development. This includes organising training programs, workshops, and certified courses. Investing in your team helps them perform their functions better, while also forging a stronger bond with your company.
Disciplined work routines
All the remote workers I spoke to were extremely specific about the daily routines they followed. They absolutely disliked changing their patterns as they recognise the productivity associated with sticking to a disciplined schedule.
Given the autonomy that remote working offers, it can often be tricky, as the onus to manage time is on you. Keeping defined work times, allows you to specifically allocating time for exercise, family, and other interests.
Without such discipline, things can usually get out of hand as you might be working all day, but might still find very little work being completed.
Forums for employee feedback
One of the remote workers shared that she often felt that she was unsure of the procedure to communicate critical changes she wished in the firm’s processes. This is a common case in remote teams where remote workers tend to feel that their opinions don’t really matter.
To empower them, a streamlined process needs to be set up to share and receive feedback across various functions. This includes regular surveys and questionnaires, while also having one-on-one sessions periodically. This helps you get a pulse on the general morale of the team while also being able to spot challenges early.
Off-site team meetings
When the entire team finally gets together, it adds an entirely different dimension to the interactions, that wasn’t available until that point. Employees now get to see their managers & coworkers in a different light and can connect with them at a better level.
Further, by sharing the same physical space, they can pick up on non-verbal cues that would have been missed over the phone or via emails and video chat.
Also, team building activities could be organised and this provides the employees with a platform to brainstorm and ideate together. This helps build stronger emotional connects and the day can be a memorable occasion where important skills are discovered, and bonds are made.
Invest in building your team’s culture
While the motivation of each individual, remote working or otherwise, may vary, her/ his basic expectations from an organisation remain similar.
The question of how to tackle the expectations from a regular workplace has been figured out by most companies. However, companies working remotely or planning to hire remote employees need to take this up as a priority as remote work is still in its nascent stages.
The above list can be a starting point for organisations trying to build a healthy environment for their remote working employees.
While the motivation of each individual may vary, remote working or otherwise, her/ his basic expectations from an organisation remain similar. Companies worldwide have figured ways to tackle and address such expectations of employees working out of a regular workspace.
However, companies with a remote workforce or those planning to hire remote employees need to invest in this process, as remote work is still in its nascent stages. The above list can be a good starting point for organisations trying to build a healthy environment for their remote working employees.
About the Author
Karthik Sridharan is the Co-founder & CEO at Flexiple, an exclusive network of the best freelance developers & designers. A big believer of remote working, he is building Remote.tools for the remote community.