The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of businesses to adapt to managing their teams remotely. Since the national lockdown was placed on us in March this year, many of us have had a taste of what it’s like to work within the walls of our own homes as opposed to an office environment. Whilst this may have been a new situation for many of us to adapt to, this is the norm for many workers across the globe, regardless of a pandemic that confines us in our houses for months. And, thanks to the digitally-dominated world that we live in, remote working is very much doable and desirable for a lot of employees. With the flexibility to work around your personal life and from the comfort of your own home, not to mention the money you can save from avoiding a lengthy commute to the office each day, it’s no surprise that remote working is on the rise. And it’s popular! Many businesses have decided that they will continue to allow remote working, even for a few days in the week, as part of their company policy.
So, why do businesses specifically scout for full time remote workers? What are the benefits of having remote employees? Well, hiring a remote worker means you’re not constricted by distance – you can hire someone in another country and have a team covering another time zone. It’s thought that working from home allows for a better work-life balance, due to the flexibility remote working offers, so you may find that remote employees are more productive, motivated and generally more happy.
However, as with everything, there are cons that come with the pros. Whilst working from home has its benefits, it can also be potentially quite isolating for some. It’s much easier to form a relationship with your colleagues when you are in the same physical space, particularly when you see one another every day for the vast majority of the week. But how do you go about forming relationships with your remote employees and making them feel just as involved as the employees that come into the office? We’ve listed 5 ways you can easily achieve this below.
1. Introduce them to the entire team
If you’ve just hired a new employee, it’s likely that you’ll spend a few moments taking them round the office and introducing them to everyone in the team, right? So, there should be no difference when you hire a remote worker. Albeit slightly more difficult when they are hired virtually rather than physically, we’ve come up with an easy (and actually quite fun!) way to do this. An “Introductory Fact File.” You can have a member of the marketing team, for example, to be responsible for making these introduction packs every time a new worker, whether they are remote or not, joins the team. These should include a photo of the new team member, and a few facts about the individual prompted by questions. For instance, you could ask them what they like to do in their spare time, or what their favourite TV show is at the moment. This fact file can then be circulated to the team either via email or an online communication tool. This will encourage the start of a conversation, which will be the warmest of welcomes for your new employee, rather than a string of “Welcome” messages that rarely lead to a full on conversation.
Similarly, it is a good idea to provide the new employee with the same fact file about each team member already present at the business. This is a great way to make a remote worker feel involved, as they will get an insight into who the faces are behind the company and it will encourage them to start a conversation with an employee that they feel they may have something in common with.
2. Make communication easy and frequent
Adopting an online chat tool or collaborative technology that allows for video and audio calls as well as instant messaging is essential. Humans are designed to be sociable, and sometimes messaging just doesn’t cut it. Video calls are great for making you feel connected with one another when it is not possible to be in the same physical space. Conducting regular video meetings that take place say once a week will help to encourage that engagement. It can be easy to slack on this and push back a video meeting to the next week when you are faced with a huge to-do list of never-ending tasks, but actively making time for this will help to keep the team motivated, productive and feel truly valued within the workforce.
Additionally, you can create a designated space on your online workspace for conversation completely unrelated to work, to allow employees to bond over hobbies and interests. Doing so will mean that regular work-related information and conversation will remain undisrupted, and employees will have a separate space to connect.
3. Give them all the information they need
As with any employee that joins a new company, having access to all relevant documents, information packs and such is vital to ensure the on-boarding process is smooth. Having a designated team member or two assigned to training your new employee may be beneficial, as they can be responsible for conducting tutorials on using specific software and explaining various processes. The designated team member/s can also check in on the new remote worker everyday to ensure that they’re getting on okay. This means that they will always have a point of contact, eliminating the fear of being left alone to get on with it. The more knowledge the new employee gains about the business and its processes, the more confident they will become, and confidence will allow them to join in on relevant conversations and provide feedback here and there. This leads to better communication all round.
4. Check in with your employees
This goes for remote workers and office-based workers. Regularly checking in with your team to see how they’re doing, in regards to work and how they are in their personal life too, is so important. Working remotely can sometimes feel lonely, which can take its toll on your mental health. Checking in doesn’t always have to involve having a long, deep chat with each team member – some people aren’t always up for that! – it can simply be done via a survey. These can be sent round to the team, with general questions about work life and home life. This may be easier for some to reveal how they’re truly doing, rather than talking directly to someone about it. This should be a regular thing, so employees feel cared for and never forgotten about.
5. Make time for in-person meetups
Despite the ease that technology offers us to communicate virtually at any time of any day, nothing beats bonding in person. Whether this happens annually or a couple times in the year, it’s a good idea to consider travelling out to meet your remote workers. This may not be possible in our current climate, but it’s definitely one to think about for the future. You can organise a team retreat, including games, food and general team-bonding activities. The event will be something your remote team can look forward to each time, further improving motivation.