It seems like having remote employees on board is all the rage these days. There are countless reasons to contemplate adding remote workers to your team. Maybe your best employee is moving away because his spouse’s company relocated, and you think he can do the job from home. Perhaps you scouted out the perfect candidate, but she isn’t willing to leave her hometown. It could be as simple as not wanting to have to rent out more office space for your growing business.
We’ve compiled a list of the skills successful remote workers have mastered, and ways supervisors can best manage the virtual worker scenario to create business harmony for all involved.
Virtual Workers Must:
Keep Their Teammates in the Loop
No one wants to be left out. Remote workers need to feel as if they’re part of the team because they are. Not physically being in the office should never yield lesser treatment. Although remote workers aren’t able to catch on-the-fly updates, work-management platforms allow employees to see progress in real-time portals. The best virtual employees take it upon themselves to periodically ask what’s going on in the home office, and continually update their office counterparts on what’s happening on the other side.
ProTip: Managers should assign a podcast or book for their workers on a topic relevant to the industry. The entire team can gather via video conference to discuss its merits.
Manage Time Zones
The majority of those working remotely deal with more than one time zone. Oftentimes, the time change is relatively minor, but international companies can have pretty brutal time differences. Remote workers and their office counterparts learn to collaborate to come up with an overlapping strategy, so there are at least a few shared working hours for teamwork, discussions, planning and strategy talks.
ProTip: All employers with workers in more than one timezone should require all their staff to set Google Calendar to view the applicable zones.
Make Video Chats (Almost) as Good as IRL
There are so many ways to broaden this medium to make it feel like you are all in the same workspace. When an esteemed speaker is coming to the office to present something, remote workers can always tune in to the action by joining a video chat. Virtual employees learn to team build over video by sharing live music, taking meditation breaks together and getting creative with screen sharing.
ProTip: All video conferences can’t be focused on work. One option is for teams to take the Myers Briggs Personality test and get on a video conference to review the entire team’s results. Managers can use this to learn to work with their team in a more effective fashion.
Remote workers don’t worry that they’ve said too much, they fear they weren’t specific enough! Working in an information vacuum can be tormenting, and seasoned virtual employees learn how to dictate what they need, specify what they want and clarify that others understand the communications correctly. Not receiving or asking for feedback harms workplace productivity, so those in virtual roles learn to give and ask for performance assessments on their own accord.
ProTip: Managers need to schedule weekly video conferences with each remote worker. The time and day of the one-on-one should be consistent and both parties must resist the urge to cancel them, even if they think there’s nothing new to discuss.
Thoroughly Utilize Work Tools
Video chat software, shared email and spreadsheets, security and password management, team surveys, e-newsletters, instant messaging apps, task and project management platforms and shared calendars are resources that most remote workers can’t live without—and really, we can learn a thing or two from them. I don’t know teams of any shape or size that wouldn’t increase their output and efficiency by incorporating more of these tools into their daily operations.
ProTip: Pipefy allows teams to create as many Pipes (processes) as they wish to while allowing users to keep track of all personal and professional tasks. Team leaders can monitor the steps of their team’s projects and exchange ideas and notes as needed.
Never Assume the Worst
Body language is something humans have relied on from the beginning of time to gauge reactions, read moods and judge for sincerity. When you aren’t in the same physical space as someone you are communicating with, a lot of things can be misinterpreted. Remote workers master the art of “never assuming the worst.” Regardless of your work habitat, this is a mentality humanity itself can profit from.
ProTip: Misreading someone’s communication is often the result of a personal issue. If you aren’t in the best of moods, you’re more likely to be on the defense. Evaluate your own disposition before jumping to conclusions.
Use Intentional Language
When you can’t rely on body language and facial cues, you learn to be more intentional about how you are communicating messages. Remote workers say what they mean, mean what they say and don’t say it mean. It helps to add emojis, GIFs and memes into your chats every once in a while. Having sessions of chitchat unrelated to work also provides some substance to your interactions. After all, if you went into the office every day, wouldn’t you have random discussions involving weekend plans, the latest episode of Ozark or the score of last night’s big game? Thriving remote workers are more than just a floating head on a weekly Zoom call; they’re real people with real personalities and lives outside of cyberspace.
ProTip: For virtual workers to integrate into the team culture, they should be in the same space as their coworkers at least once a year. Arrangements for a full team reunion should be planned accordingly.