Maintaining Culture and Efficiency With Remote Workers.

This is a guest post by Rae Steinbach Thank you, Rae, for writing this for me. 

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While the traditional office might not be a thing of the past, the relationship many employees have to these shared work environments is changing. According to a report from IWG, 70% of employees are working remotely at least one day a week, and 53% are doing at least half their work at a location other than the office.

Some companies have embraced the shift toward remote work and have smoothly transitioned to more flexible arrangements. For managers that have a more traditional outlook, the trend of increased work away from the office is troubling. The primary concern for many of these managers is the worry that they will not be able to effectively manage employees if they are not in the office with them.

This concern is understandable, but there are significant benefits that can come with allowing employees to work away from the office. Many employees today prefer the flexibility that comes with being able to do work elsewhere. They may have family obligations or are indulging in the digital nomad lifestyle. Allowing for remote work can be an incentive that helps businesses attract top talent when hiring. In fact, 74% of employees said they would leave their current job for one that allows for more remote work.

Culture and Remote Work

Creating and maintaining a culture can be difficult when employees do not regularly share the same physical space. However, you need to remember that culture is not bound to a location; it is a set of values, beliefs, and ideals that your company keeps alive with various practices. Some of these can be performed remotely, like all-hands meetings via video calls. Sharing a common work environment might be an advantage for culture, but it is not a necessity. Company leaders just need to take steps to keep the culture in place for employees that work away from the office.

If you have offices, they should still play a role in the working life of employees. One way to do this is to set a minimum number of days per month that have to be spent in the office. You can also do things to make the office a more attractive work environment. If workstations are comfortable and have all of the tools an employee could need, like green plants and standing desks, your people might prefer to spend more time there.

Team events are another good way to make sure employees get some in-person time with each other. Face-to-face meetings are beneficial for building team cohesion, so try to get your employees together as a group. Hold training seminars to get everyone together; if the company is reaching an important milestone, celebrate as a team. These events can be great for building connections and maintaining a vibrant work culture.

Remote Worker Productivity

Some leaders might worry about a drop in productivity if they let their employees work outside the office. For the most part, the keys to avoiding this are to make sure employees understand your expectations and to instill accountability as an important part of the company culture.

For example, the management by objectives process encourages managers and employees to set goals together, and share progress regularly. This then allows leaders to have a more accurate idea of how remote workers are performing and reaching key objectives.

Working remotely comes with its own set of skills, so create trainings that ensure communication and performance remain as fluid as if everyone was working in house. For some employees, skills like time management will come naturally, but this is not true for everyone. If you want your employees to have success as remote workers, check-in regularly to see if these need to be changed or refreshed.

Managers can also leverage technologies that can simplify remote work. Modern communication technology offers a range of platforms that can make it easier to stay in contact with remote workers, and there are project management applications that can be used to ensure collaborative work stays on track.

Finally, hold regular in-person (or video) meetings to give everyone a chance to check in. The frequency and format of these meetings will depend on the specific culture and work-cadence at your company, but assemble everyone as often as is practical to go over the progress they are making on key projects. These meetings are also a fantastic opportunity for employees to give updates and appreciations to each other, and for managers to provide important news about the company.

Remote work shouldn’t be viewed as a compromise by management. When done well, it can be a way to increaseproductivity and allow people the space needed to access more creativity. As a leader, you just need to take the right steps to build a culture where people want to perform and produce for the good of all.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content for the HR industry. Her specialization is in performance management and leveraging team talent for the future of work. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.