By Jamie Parker, owner of Red Rag Marketing
For many businesses, the pandemic was a forced entry into a ‘working from home’ culture, with little or no previous experience. For others, it confirmed how effective it is to take this approach to work, having already implemented it for some time.
The long-term effects of COVID-19 on working culture remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that it has sparked some debate. One survey finds that over half of businesses that instigated remote working over lockdown would consider recruiting somebody who works remotely at all times. It’s one thing to allow current staff to work from home, but to recruit somebody who’s only option is to work remotely shows serious innovation among the business community.
Recruiting top talent
Employing a remote workforce removes one common barrier to recruitment: location. Being able to recruit regardless of where the candidate is based does wonders to widen the talent pool.
As the owner of a Facebook advertising agency with employees across the globe, I am part of a workforce that executes remote working on a significant level. From the UK, to China, to the US; the countries we are based in are far-flung to say the least. But it’s thanks to this approach that we are able to tap into marketplaces worldwide and access a huge stream of information, using the best talent available to us.
How to manage a remote workforce effectively
While it’s difficult moving away from the working practices of traditional office-based life, any employer embracing remote working needs to approach it with a different mindset. Here are my tips to make it a success:-
- Put extra trust in your employees
Going from department to department and doing spot checks might work in an office environment. But anyone managing a remote workforce needs to put a level of trust in their employees that they perhaps haven’t done before. By default, it should be assumed that employees are pulling their weight.
A global workforce means trusting that each team member is the expert in how the market works in their own country or territory. Businesses don’t escape cultural norms, so it’s inevitable that some ways of working will differ among the team. Nobody should encourage anyone in the team to come around to their way of doing business; it’s about accepting cultural differences amongst colleagues.
- Establish clearly defined roles
Knowing from the outset what is expected of you encourages good performance, and that’s only more relevant for remote employees. Simply being left to your own devices with little information on company goals and personal objectives won’t work; particularly when you’re unable to learn from being with colleagues day in day out.
Employees should be given specific projects that determine their long-term work. It’s key for them to know expected outcomes and intended timings so that they are well-equipped in their roles.
- Carry out regular updates
Being thousands of miles from each other, it’s even more crucial to arrange frequent catch-ups with the team. Corridor conversations and spontaneous brainstorming sessions simply can’t happen when all staff work remotely. There are ways of making up for this though.
It’s key to set aside certain times to interact as a team virtually. But don’t just carry out formal meetings with an agenda that covers projects that are ongoing. Simply sharing thoughts and recent learnings amongst the team will keep the creative juices flowing. Some of the greatest innovation in business began with colleagues simply bouncing ideas around in the office. Get that going in a virtual capacity.
- Check on employees’ wellbeing
It’s easier to spot signs of disengagement, apathy and bad health in an office environment. Over the likes of Teams and Zoom, it’s much harder to understand an employee’s wellbeing. That’s why team catch-ups alone aren’t the only crucial interactions with remote workforces.
Arrange regular one-to-one sessions with team members. Don’t be afraid to be blunt and ask them how productive they currently are, how integrated they feel as part of the team and how optimistic they are about meeting objectives. An open and supportive environment should exist regardless of whether staff are office-based or not.
Flexibility should be reciprocal
Allowing flexible working might not sit well for the traditional, office-based, 9-5 type of business. But with a remote workforce, it’s only natural. Personally, I’m happy with my staff working whatever hours they choose, provided that they get the job done well.
And that flexibility works both ways. With employees based around the world, our team meetings are at different times for different people and there’s no choice but for some colleagues to dial in outside work hours – as early as 5am and as late as 9pm. It’s unlikely that any employer would see any willingness to do this if they didn’t offer a flexible workplace culture.
Time to go remote
Whatever the size of business, employers are missing a trick if they don’t consider some level of remote working. It benefits the business on a talent, productivity and employee engagement level, and keeps the team satisfied too. With some careful execution, a remote workforce could be the strongest team you’ve ever had.