Managing remote employees working from home

Team WFH? Here are some remote work best practices to help you all do your best work.

A stay-at-home employee working from their laptop

Reaching out to remote employee teams

Companies around the world are moving towards an office model that includes teams of remote employees. The benefits of remote workers are clear. You can hire key talent regardless of their location or time zone. Plus, if your remote employees work on a freelance basis, both of you enjoy flexibility. But what about your full-time employees working from home? How can they still feel connected when there’s no shared kitchen for chats over coffee? It’s easier than you think.

It’s not unusual to be a digital nomad, or to have several as members of your team. It would be strange not to in this digital age. Even if you have a traditional office location to work from, many businesses are expected to offer flexible working. In fact, over half of all Gen Z and millennial workers say this is a crucial factor they look for in job roles.

Here’s how to create a true sense of team and company culture, even if your company is spread over half a dozen locations or you work a remote job.

Employee engagement

Whether your team members are working from the local coffee shop, a co-working space or their spare bedroom, communication is key to keeping you all connected.

Tools like SlackDropbox Paper and Zoom are all there to help you and your employees stay in touch. Even if you are all in different time zones, the beauty of asynchronous communication means this is no longer a barrier to productivity. Whether you’re leaving messages to be picked up later or fitting in a video call, make sure communication is emphasised from day to day. A team is people working together, after all, and no one can work collaboratively if they’re not kept in the loop. Practice your best communication skills; be open and approachable even if your main channel of communication is digital.

Make sure you are all easy to reach during your work hours, and prepare to be flexible; don’t ban your Pacific time zone workers from contacting your team in New York just because it’s outside of office hours. That said, don’t lose sight of the importance of work-life balance. If you are moving towards remote working, then you must agree as a team on a mutually agreeable way to overcome barriers like time differences.

Universal company culture

Just because half your team is at their desks in your office and the other half is dotted around the country, it doesn’t mean their overall work experience should differ. At the heart of an office is culture and communication, and today, all of that can be digital. If you value being open, honest and laid-back, with flat-hierarchies and minimal micro-management around the office, the same goes for your remote workforce. If you wouldn’t expect it of your in-office team, don’t expect it of your remote teams.

So, for example, if Friday afternoons mean clocking out a few hours early for group drinks, don’t expect your remote workers to start on that report at 4:30 pm to be ready by the end of the day. Similarly, if you’re happy to let in-office employees leave for lunch whenever they like, any time of day, don’t start scrutinising why a remote worker’s online status has turned to ‘away’ at 11 am. In short, don’t treat your remote teams as ‘other’ – a team is a team, whatever shape and size it takes.

It’s natural to feel like not being in the same room enables the old adage ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play’. But at the end of the day, as long as they are motivated, informed and connected, there’s no reason for anyone to feel like work is something they are able or willing to neglect. And you certainly shouldn’t be offering a work-life balance to one half of your team and not the other.

Give your remote teams the support they need

It’s not always easy to get into the groove of a company when you’re not actually physically in their company. If you are moving towards the idea of hiring individuals who will be on a permanent work-from-home basis, you are obligated to equip your new hires just as thoroughly as you do your in-office team. That means giving them all the same information your office employees have, including knowing who to turn to for salary concerns, HR and holiday requests. All workers should also know that they can reach out to their managers to talk about any issues they have, work-related or otherwise. You also shouldn’t expect people to work on their own laptops or home office PCs or purchase their own software. If you want a team member to do their best work, you need to give them the best tools. Speaking of…

Find the best tools

In the office, you can settle for shouting across the desk, catching up in the break-out area or writing on the whiteboard. Not if your team is remote. The correct digital tools are what make for the most efficient and successful digital nomads, so get equipped.

Dropbox makes collaboration easy, no matter where you and your team are. From file sharing to editing, Dropbox creates an online office for your remote workforce. Give and get real-time feedback; share images, video and documents securely; and watch them be updated with annotations and edits in real time. Dropbox ensures no team member is left behind, no matter how far behind their time zone is.

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