It looks like flexible work arrangements, including remote work, are here to stay.
Recent Robert Half research shows that 66% of workers are operating out of their homes at least part of the time — and they want to work remotely three days per week, on average, even after the pandemic is officially over. Also, a separate survey by our company found that 74% of organizations are allowing employees to work from home.
Long-term questions about how many remote employees companies will have and how often hybrid staff (some days in-office, some days remote) might work from home remain unanswered. Either way, managers need to be front and center in giving hybrid and remote teams the direction and support they need.
But managing a remote or hybrid team — maintaining a sense of cohesion, keeping morale high, enhancing retention and more — can be a tall order. That’s why managers need innovative ways to bond teams together, no matter where their employees are working from.
Technology enables many jobs to be performed away from a central office location. Internet connectivity, mobile devices and collaborative applications have become more sophisticated. The emergence of robust new tech, including tools powered by artificial intelligence, makes it even easier for remote employees to connect with colleagues and managers seamlessly and productively.
But technology can’t supply the leadership and real unifying force your remote employees need. That depends on you.
1. Put your communication efforts on overdrive
Regular and informative communication is the lifeblood of a workforce. For remote or hybrid teams, a bit of overcommunication works even better. Schedule regular calls with project teams to evaluate progress on their goals. Do the same with the full team.
Make the extra effort to keep remote employees in the loop on company and departmental news. As a leader, you should give your take on any priorities that may be shifting. When done, step out of the way but remain available for questions and comments.
Consider conducting video calls regularly, as seeing colleagues builds camaraderie. Be creative. What about online celebrations, such as a virtual birthday or work anniversary party? Plus, services such as Slack and Google Hangouts can help your employees keep in touch with each other individually and in smaller groups throughout the day.
Robert Half can help you hire highly skilled remote or on-site talent. Learn more about our services.
2. Show empathy
Check in frequently with remote employees to get a sense of their overall well-being and whether they might be feeling isolated. How is the team communicating with them? How are they handling everyday disruptions they encounter at home? What tips can they pass on to others to make working from home easier or more productive?
Share whatever news and tips you have, even if it’s a small update or to say there’s no news to share.
3. Offer them flexibility
Let your team know it’s OK to vary their work hours to the extent possible. Tell them it’s entirely reasonable to leave a quick email that they’ve gone outside for a short walk or to run a quick errand.
4. Shore up resources
Make sure all remote employees can access essentials like production schedules, project timelines, background documents, and the like in a central online location — like SharePoint, Smartsheet, Dropbox, Google Docs or a wiki.
A shared online calendar can help ensure that everyone on your team can easily view the latest schedule details in one place. This will help make managing a remote team a little easier.
5. Don’t allow tech tools to fail
Let’s face it: Remote work can’t happen without technology. Discuss on your regular conference calls how people feel technology is helping or hindering their work. Ask them which tools — and which features of those tools — they use to stay productive and connected.
No matter which tools they use, everyone needs to be on the same page about how these systems work, why they’re being used and who can fix them if troubles arise. For the latter, you may be able to set up a chat feature with an appointed representative in your IT department.
6. Give extra attention to new remote workers
Veteran telecommuters may not need as much support as those new to it. People may feel particularly disjointed or uneasy when they start to work remotely if they haven’t done so before — and those experienced with it might be able to help. After all, the value of collaboration and teamwork in the workplace still applies to remote employees.
See this post to get an onboarding checklist for remote employees.
7. Remember that trust is crucial when managing a remote team
Although frequent communication is paramount, avoid going too far and micromanaging. Employees need to feel confident that you believe they’re working as hard as they would at the company’s office, including keeping similar hours and maintaining productivity as their colleagues working on-site.
If you’re unnecessarily checking in several times a day with remote employees just to see how things are going, those workers may feel like you don’t trust them.
Remote employees can be highly effective, and it helps if they have a manager who has their back. Your support, direction and trust will go a long way toward helping your remote employees deliver their best work and feel connected to their team and the company.