Five Tips for a High-Performing and Collaborative Remote Workforce
In 2016, pwc published a report titled “Work-life 3.0: Understanding how we’ll work next”. It served as a blueprint for companies to assess their own work-life culture and to begin to make changes that could increase employee satisfaction and retention. A key point within the report is that employers should strive to create a flexible workplace as those that do wind up with happier workers.
“Today, 38% of employees say they are able to work from home at least one day a week. Those employees have notably higher job satisfaction than those who aren’t allowed the same perk – they’re 48% more likely to rate their job a ‘10’ on the happiness scale, with 10 being the highest.”
While catering to a work-at-home or otherwise remote workforce seems like a no-brainer in 2018, managers of these “alternate” team environments still find themselves struggling to create the same culture they would foster with in-house employees.
Collaboration with far-flung employees is not an easy feat – especially if you don’t have the tools to support the ways in which remote workers communicate best.
Here are Five Tips to Help you Accomplish the Goal of a Happy and Flexible Workforce that is also High Performing:
1. Understand How your Employees like to Communicate and Collaborate
Communication and collaboration is not a one size fits all. Some of your employees might like the instant response of IM while others might be more comfortable with the more contemplative nature of email. To understand the spectrum of your remote workforce, survey your employees and ask them what tools they like to use in which scenarios. How they want to interact for a long-term project, such as whiteboarding and archived chat, might be different from how they want to communicate when trying to find the answer to a customer’s question.
2. Find the Common Denominators
You’re not going to please everyone but you can get to a middle ground. Figure out the tools that satisfy most of your employees’ preferences. If someone doesn’t get the tools they are most comfortable with, set aside money to offer them training in the new tools so they don’t feel left behind. You want everyone on a level playing field when it comes to collaboration.
3. Make Sure the Experience with Collaboration Tools is the Same Across the Board
True collaboration happens when everyone has the same ability to access the tool, same performance from the tool, and same feature set. Cloud-based unified communications platforms such as those from West offer this universal user experience. You don’t want someone in the home office on a desktop to have richer functionality than someone on their mobile phone. That might work with some applications, but collaboration should be equal opportunity.
4. Ensure Everyone has Access to the Same Information
Just as everyone should have the same feature set, they also should be able to pull from the same file share to whiteboard, mark up, and update documents. Being on the road or in a home office should not limit a person’s ability to work with a central file share. You want all documents to be version controlled as well to avoid overwrites and other mishaps.
5. Make Sure you Have Face-to-Face Video Capabilities
Text, IM, email, and other forms of written collaboration only go so far in generating a team spirit. Face-to-face enriches the team vibe by letting users read facial cues and experience one another as if they were in person. Schedule video conferences with the whole group where everyone is featured on the screen as well as one-on-one meetings. You want to get your team used to the idea of being able to call each other up and videoconference for easy questions, small team gatherings, and more involved projects. The more comfortable everyone gets in this realm, the greater likelihood of long-term productivity and innovation.
As you hire new people into your virtual team, ask them about their comfort levels with remote collaboration. This will give you an idea of whether they’d be a good fit and the work you’ll have to do to acclimate them to your culture. Remember, the in-office worker will not always thrive in a remote team environment. Likewise, a remote worker who thinks he will be left on his island also might founder if he is expected to interact regularly with the team. Be aware that your job will be to assess each worker’s strengths and weaknesses and help them become the best collaborators they can be as part of your remote workforce.
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