The number of remote workers is rising by the year. With the advancement of modern technology and an increasing understanding of how flexibility can improve performance and morale, this is a trend that is likely to surge in popularity.
In 2014, Fast Company estimated that half of people will be working remotely by 2020 and Forbes has stated that remote working is, in fact, “the future of work." The business benefits of remote work are clear: companies can hire for talent and cultural fit, rather than for location. On top of this, it has been shown that remote workers tend to be happier and more engaged, in large part due to the fact that they are more able to obtain a healthy work-life balance, while removing the stress and lost time involved with commuting.
However, despite the fact that telecommuting is a rapidly growing trend, there are certain issues we need to face up to and address. One of the most obvious is that of company culture. Organizations that choose to have employees in-house are better able to naturally create an engaging company culture and employee experience. But how does this work with remote employees? How can we make virtual employees feel part of a vibrant, caring business? And how can we adapt our performance-management systems to ensure that individuals feel valued and respected?
Below are just a few ways that companies can create a stellar company culture for remote workers.
Be sure to emphasize communication at all times
Direct, regular, honest communication is critical to the success of any business. Employees need frequent one-on-ones with their managers to be at their most productive, which is why many companies have been abandoning ineffective annual appraisals and shifting towards a system of continuous performance management. Such companies have witnessed benefits such as reduced turnover, improved morale, and increased engagement levels as a result.
Simply because remote employees don’t have a physical presence, this doesn’t mean their need for regular communication is any less important than an employee who works in-house. In fact, they will likely need more communication to develop trusting relationships and build a promising company culture. Despite all the advantages of remote work for employee and manager alike, one notable drawback is that it can be a cause of isolation and loneliness. To counteract this, be sure to hold regular one-on-ones with remote employees on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Managers should conduct these discussions over a medium such as Skype, where employees can see and hear their managers. Team-collaboration software, such as Slack, is doing wonders to keep remote teams in touch.
Create clearly defined SMART objectives
Remote employees need to know exactly what is expected of them at all times. To create an environment where your telecommuting employees feel confident, reassured, and capable, be sure to focus on the development of clear SMART objectives. Such objectives will help employees understand not only what they are meant to be doing, but how they are expected to be doing it.
Employees and managers should work together to create SMART objectives. Over the years, it has become clear that employees are more passionate about their objectives, and the objectives are more likely to be achieved, when an employee has more autonomy and control over their goals. For this reason, goal setting should be a collaborative effort, with the employee in the driver’s seat. The manager should be on hand to ensure the objectives help drive company goals forward. This process will help to create a motivated and engaged company culture.
Organize periodic in-person meetups
If you manage a remote company, or if a number of your employees work remotely, it’s important to arrange periodic in-person meetups. It’s possible to develop great working relationships online, but human beings are social creatures and we enjoy physically interacting with other people. This is a surefire way to help develop bonds between employees. Managers should use it as an opportunity for a fun team-building activity, such as a scavenger hunt or a geocaching adventure.
Keep it balanced
When managing a remote team, the focus should be on fun, as well as on productivity. This helps create a healthy environment, while significantly boosting productivity in the process. It has also been shown that “watercooler chats” can help to build an outstanding company culture, while bringing employees out of their shells and improving collaboration.
A number of remote teams find ways to have fun, despite the distances involved. Team collaboration software, such as Prysm, can be used for entertainment, as well as for work. For example, employees can use these platforms to connect with their colleagues and create groups, such as book clubs and TV- and film-appreciation groups. Using this approach, it is likely that you will notice your employees start to develop genuine, trusting relationships.
Deliver frequent employee recognition
Employee recognition is always important, but it can fall by the wayside with a remote company. This would be a mistake. According to one source, 22% of senior decision-makers don't think that employee recognition has a big influence on employee retention, while 70% of employees say their motivation and morale would massively improve with increased recognition.
During your frequent one-on-ones, take the time to congratulate your remote employees on their accomplishments, but also remember to reward and recognize effort. If an employee is desperately trying to improve, make it clear that you notice their efforts and encourage them further. This will demonstrate to your remote employees that their company is invested in them and their future. In no time, you will develop an incredible remote company culture that will attract talent and retain top performers for years to come.
Enable remote employees to become more effective team members
Prysm can help remote employees feel as though they're in the office with their teammates. They can participate in meetings, view and use a digital whiteboard, conduct presentations, and access multiple types of content, from anywhere on any device. Prysm's digital workplace platform helps companies extract more value from their global teams, while enabling digital transformation and boosting company agility. Ready to learn more? Read this playbook for distributed teams or use our self-service tool to schedule a demo.About the author: Stuart Hearn is the founder and CEO of Clear Review — a performance management software system. Stuart Hearn has over 20 years of experience in HR and has previously worked as international HR director for Sony Music Publishing. He is passionate about keeping up to date with performance management trends and sharing his knowledge.