The rapid shift to remote work sent ripples through the business world. As quarantine orders were passed, businesses had to quickly modify their processes to make them compatible with a remote workforce. In total, about 20 percent of U.S. adults were able to work from home, with those in the service industry and essential workers unable to work remotely. Once settling into the stay-at-home orders, large corporations recognized that they may not need expansive office spaces to house their employees to get quality work. Many have announced that they would let all or part of their teams work remotely through the end of the year or even indefinitely. Major employers, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon, all revealed that they would be embracing a work-from-home structure for those employees who are able to complete their jobs remotely.
Benefits of the remote trend
Remote work is nothing new. It’s been a growing trend in the U.S., surging by 173 percent since 2005 before the pandemic struck. However, there have been some misconceptions about the performance of remote workers. It’s been thought that in order to get the best from your employees, they need to be together in a physical space under the watchful eye of a manager. The truth is remote workers are actually more productive, more engaged and save companies money – and the data proves it:
- Companies that offered remote work reported a highly engaged workforce with 41 percent lower absenteeism, 40 percent fewer quality defects and 21 percent higher profitability.
- Engaged remote employees created a 15 percent increase in productivity.
- Employees who work remotely from 60 to 80 percent of the time strongly agreed that their development goals were being met and felt that someone cared about their progress.
- Remote working lowers the environmental impact with a reduced carbon footprint, which is attractive to millennials who have become the largest age group in the workforce.
- 26 percent reported being able to do part of their jobs more efficiently.
- 80 percent reported being able to better manage interruptions from coworkers.
Additionally, having a remote workforce just makes good financial sense. It reduces costs for companies in several aspects. Companies will no longer have to spend big dollars renting and maintaining large workspaces that offer each employee their own individual workstation. A small space for specific meetings or gatherings of only a portion of the workforce at a time may be enough. It reduces the costs of company-provided perks such as break room coffee and snacks. Also, since retention is higher with a work-from-home staff, it reduces the costs associated with attrition and having to replace employees who leave the company.
How to manage a remote team
As remote work structure is poised to take over a large swath of the economy, there is an abrupt need for business owners and executives to learn how to manage a remote team. Solid leadership of a remote team is vital to the success of work-from-home efforts. Poor remote management can actually cause teams to feel undervalued and stressed. It can also negatively impact productivity and may lead to higher turnover. Here are a few leadership tips for managing a remote team:
Trust your people – You hired them and you know what they can do. Let them do it! This isn’t just about avoiding micromanagement; it’s about giving employees responsibilities and facilitating growth.
Over communicate – Make sure your team knows what is going on and what is expected. Set clear guidelines for communication and have systems in place so they know how to find information. For example, you may choose to post company messages on Slack or utilize project management tools such as Asana, Trello or Basecamp to help manage tasks. Make sure everyone is in the loop.
Never assume – Did something go wrong or do you need to get some clarity on why an employee took a specific action? Don’t assume you know what happened and fire off an email with feedback. Reach out to the employee and ask to have a phone or video chat about the project or situation so that you can get more information before responding.
Hire those who will be good at working remotely – While there are plenty of benefits to remote workers, some folks just won’t be onboard. When forming a remote team it is critical to assess a candidate’s remote-working abilities first. Many may think they’re an efficient remote worker, but they might have too many distractions at home or connectivity challenges that make them a poor fit. These potential issues should be vetted prior to pulling the trigger on a new remote employee.
Maintain company culture – This doesn’t mean you have to have a team-building exercise every week. Company culture is so much more than outings. A remote workforce culture is about establishing a virtual environment where the team feels connected, taken care of and that their opinions matter. Ultimately, the crucial ingredient for a successful remote-working recipe is a culture of connection and creating a better team.
A boom in virtual work
We may have been thrust into this situation because of quarantine, but leaders are now seeing the benefits of remote work on a larger scale. As major corporations embrace this new workforce structure, there may be some growing pains. However, if managers of remote teams can learn how to best manage distractions and lead in a remote environment, this style of work could be advantageous for both employees and executives. With increased productivity, sharper focus on tasks, higher employee engagement and lower costs of operations, there’s no reason why work from home can’t become the new normal.
Sharon Koifman is obsessed with remote management. Over nearly two decades of experience running three companies⎯and doing so 100 percent from his computer⎯Sharon has studied and researched not only how to operate remote businesses but how to create an amazing work culture, one where people love to come to work. These days, Sharon runs DistantJob, a very unique recruitment agency geared specifically for finding full-time remote employees who work from all over the world.