Today’s landscape is starting to feel more and more like The Upside Down. From an enterprise perspective, where we once talked about how to integrate virtual employees with your brick-and-mortar staff, the opposite now proves necessary.
We’ve often joked that the future is now as work teams now often include employees in various work arrangements, with some working from home while others work in the office.
However, truth is often stranger than fiction so even if you hadn’t yet subscribed to the notion that the future was upon us, circumstances have thrust the dubious and hesitant into remote work.
And now, you’re left scrambling to figure out how to quickly lead your in-office staff into evolving into a remote workforce, which can feel daunting at best, impossible at worst.
Just typing – and reading that – proves overwhelming.
After all, how can you create a sense of community and shared culture without cubicles, watercoolers, and breakrooms?
It’s surprisingly more actionable than you might expect. It just takes intentionality and a little ingenuity – like those clients of ours who are leveraging their virtual assistants to show the in-office staff how to work from home. Pretty genius, right?
Here are four ways you can do just that:
Accepting the Curve
Unsurprisingly, when traditional, office-based teams go remote, there can be a learning curve to navigate.
And perhaps one of the most critical integration junctures happens in onboarding a now-virtual employee.
In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, quality onboarding increases the likelihood of retention three years later. Further, increased performance, higher productivity, and elevated employee engagement also cultivate purposeful introductory experiences.
But how does that translate for current employees – already onboarded – who now need to learn to work from home?
It means your in-office-to-remote onboarding process has to be more intentional than including your mission statement in the signature of their emails and giving them branded corporate swag followed by a hollow, ‘Go team!’
Onboarding on a Curve
For virtual employees, leaders must be decisive and proactive in establishing and adhering to a game plan that exponentially increases the odds of success and satisfaction for all involved, including open communication, a shared, collective purpose and a commitment to growth.
So here are four ways successful leaders can transition in-office employees to working from home:
1. The Challenge
Often, virtual employment can leave an understanding of roles and functions clear as mud. Working from home has its positives, but sometimes the very structure of a virtual position inadvertently triggers distance in one’s knowledge bank and creates silos of productivity.
Coordinate times for your virtual team members to talk with one another regularly, both as a team and individually. This builds rapport and fosters an understanding of different roles and moving pieces within the organization. It also helps the entire team be more effective, engaged and intentional in their interactions with one another.
2. The Challenge
Sometimes remote workers begin to sense that out-of-sight is out-of-mind when it comes to professional development opportunities, such as casual in-person mentoring by a senior team member or more structured training, such as industry seminars, annual group meetings or special conferences.
Now is the time to include virtual employees – which could be all your employees – in your annual professional development budgets. When appropriate – and safe – invite them to attend industry events or conferences, particularly if other staff attend similar occasions as well. And don’t forget about other venues for continued learning, such as webinars and virtual events.
3. The Challenge
When people work remotely, they can feel excluded or disconnected – whether intentionally or circumstantially – from daily activity to which they grew accustomed that would build camaraderie.
Share funny stories and work highlights with virtual team members, including watercooler conversations via instant messaging apps or during ice breakers before video meetings – and encourage others to do the same.
This kind of interpersonal sharing can foster an atmosphere of inclusion and intimacy.
4. The Challenge
Virtual employees need to feel entrusted and empowered to do their jobs, just as they would in an office. While virtual employees need not feel like they’re being surveilled, they will, however, appreciate feeling seen and heard.
Embed visual technologies – like videoconferencing and the use of webcams – into your practices. However, avoid creating an atmosphere where remote workers feel put on the spot by designating meetings for which all in attendance are expected to be ‘ready for their close-ups.’
Tricia Sciortino is the CEO of one of the nation’s leading virtual assistant companies, BELAY. As CEO, Tricia strives to lead and inspire her team to provide extraordinary services while finding great talent along the way. As a leader, she’s passionate about helping her team forge their own paths, careers, and professional development, putting each of the company’s valued employees and contractors in the driver seat to cultivate the balance of work and life that best suits them. @triciasciortino