High profile companies Yahoo and BestBuy eliminated the option for workers to telecommute earlier this year. Contrary to most headlines on the subject, this doesn’t mean that having employees work remotely is a bad thing. First, it helps to note the companies these bans are coming from and their current state. Yahoo and BestBuy are two companies in trouble.
Both companies are needing to address serious cultural and productivity problems and to do that, they had to take drastic action. It is very challenging to bring any company back from the brink and both organizations have had to address the fabric of their company culture. However, it is nearly an impossible task to change a culture and resurrect morale when a good part of the workforce isn’t around to take part.
That being said, healthy companies can and should embrace remote workers. To make sure that your company is getting the most from your remote workforce, keep these things in mind:
There is rarely such a thing as over-communication in the workplace, and this is especially true for distributed workforces. Creating an environment of free-flowing information and putting systems in place to ensure constant communication, such as status meetings reports, can help to keep people talking even when they don’t see each other in the hall. Team members tend to emulate behavior of other members, so be sure to set an example of communication for your team in and outside the office.
Ensuring that remote workers are actually working is where most companies run into challenges. Gone are the days of just “putting in your time.” Today’s workers have the tools and flexibility to do their job from almost anywhere, so the measures of their success need to reflect the work they do, not just the time they spend on it. Individual and team goals as well as accountability to those in specified time frames can help keep workers on track and management satisfied that the work is getting done.
Humans most readily form relationships in person. Relationships are what helps teams work together and be successful. To further relationship development with remote team members, try to arrange for as much face time as possible. Be it team dinners or retreats when remote members are in town, or even weekly team video calls, any chance for members to see each other helps to strengthen the team.
The Right Tools
Technology has provided vast possibilities to help virtual teams work together. Be sure to seek out the right tools for your team and their work. From collaborative project management systems like Basecamp to communication tools like Skype and Google Hangouts, great means exist to let workers feel connected and in touch, even if they are miles or continents apart.