With the help of technology, coffee shops, home offices, or any place with a reliable internet connection can be the new workplace for many remote workers. The flexibility of remote work appeals to many professionals: According to a study by Gallup, 67% of American employees in white collar jobs were fully remote by the fall of 2021.
Companies across the world are embracing remote work, with the pandemic showing that many employees are able to maintain, if not increase, their productivity working at home. In a remote work environment, employers can benefit from extending their recruitment processes abroad. This enables companies to hire the right person for the job, regardless of where they live.
All that being said, operationalizing a distributed workforce impacts business operations beyond just creating new Zoom accounts for employees. To leverage the benefits of remote work—flexibility, productivity, cost savings, and work/life balance—companies need to develop a strategy to support distributed teams beyond rolling out new technology.
This article outlines best practices and factors for companies to consider to support distributed team members.
A distributed team is only as strong as its team members. It’s important to hire the right people for every job so that your company can grow fast and excel. HR teams should focus on identifying and recruiting individuals who are motivated to work independently and are able to impact team productivity in the long run.
Remote teams often work independently, with employees enjoying increased autonomy. As a result, it’s important to be able to trust your employees to get their work completed in a timely manner. Remote employees need to be accountable, communicative, and reliable.
Hiring individuals with previous experience working remotely can help reduce transition time and ensure they are prepared to contribute in a remote work setting.
Moving to distributed teams works best when companies adjust how they train, empower, and support employees. Companies need to accommodate multiple work environments and time zones, which can require a change in how your company operates.
For example, remote teams need to have strong communication practices. Documentation and work visibility is important for teams that work asynchronously. Your company should choose digital tools based on supporting your employees’ needs.
Consider minimizing the number of tools employees need to use to reduce distractions from having too many methods of communication. Companies should also seek to standardize the tools that teams use to create integrated solutions. Centralized solutions will allow your company to leverage data and run reports to inform important decisions and maintain accountability.
Adopting an agile work environment can also help you meet the evolving needs and trends of a remote workforce. Agile work processes support cross-functional collaboration and automations. These improvements allow teams to transform processes, create better outcomes, and exceed company objectives.
Remote employees should have many opportunities for connection and engagement. This can include celebrating important milestones and successes together. Recognition for work fosters company culture by making employees feel appreciated by their peers and managers.
Many virtual teams will also plan in-person meet ups and virtual company events to promote relationship-building and encourage cross-department interactions. These offer opportunities for colleagues to engage with each other outside of work and can boost morale. The camaraderie and sense of connection promote collaboration in the workplace and increase employee engagement.
Personalized perks and benefits can also boost employee engagement by promoting a healthy work-life balance. When employees feel supported and cared for, they are more productive and loyal to their company. Regular one-on-ones ensure that employers have a pulse on the most pressing issues their team members are facing,and can proactively provide resources and help.
Strong communication practices are at the heart of employee engagement. On distributed teams—especially those that span multiple time zones—it can be easy to default to asynchronous methods of communication. Companies should aim to find a balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication to support different needs and employee working styles. While it is best to avoid having a meeting when an email would suffice, don’t forget to identify opportunities for employees to have face-to-face time throughout the week. This can take the form of one-on-ones, all-team meetings, virtual lunch and learns, and brainstorming sessions to name a few examples.
Having an open line of communication across departments and levels will promote a flat hierarchy that encourages all employees to identify ways to improve the company and take ownership of their work.
It’s also important to hold employees accountable by setting clear goals for everyone. With goal setting, you offer employees the opportunity to feel like they are making important contributions to the company. Goals should be clearly defined in a remote work environment so that important details aren’t missed and multiple team members can keep track of progress.
Create SMART goals for projects so that everyone can easily track their progress. On distributed teams it’s important to create a sense of accountability, since most work will be completed asynchronously and check-ins are less frequent than in an office. Especially for projects that span across departments, visibility is necessary to keep the projects on track and moving forward. When teams can all track the progress of a project, it’s easier to collaborate and teams will see increased engagement.
Successful companies promote a culture of empowerment that encourages employees to identify and solve problems. When employees are given the resources and trust to make autonomous decisions, their performance improves and they will have a greater sense of commitment. Companies benefit from the creative solutions that come out of an engaged workforce, and employees benefit from greater job satisfaction and a sense of connection to team success.
Since the onset of the pandemic, forward-thinking companies have been revolutionizing workplaces in many ways. In the past, a traditional office space could meet the needs of many teams. However, today’s workplace requires more flexible approaches—such as hybrid options, hoteling, shared offices, and re-engineered workspaces with a laser focus on collaboration.
Many leading companies have even reconsidered whether or not they require a traditional workplace, with some opting to reduce overhead by eliminating physical workspaces in favor of a remote-first model.
While many employees claim to have experienced positive benefits of remote work, others have sought a return-to-office plan that allows for maximum flexibility. It’s increasingly clear that offices should be reimagined for the new era of work—with changes focused on collaboration, teamwork, and connectivity.
However, more significant than the re-engineering of a physical office space is the need for a paradigm shift in the approach leaders take to the workplace. Successful traits of in-office leaders differ from the skillsets of one required to run a remote, distributed team.
Leaders wishing to be successful in the new era of work must commit themselves to empowering their teams and contributing to equatable and productive workplaces, removing barriers to success and reducing friction among multi-dimensional teams across multiple workplaces.
The bottom line is that today’s leaders must place emphasis on cultural values, and provide strong leadership and creativity. Leaders who are able to reimagine the workplace will find success, regardless of a company's chosen operational path. With invested leadership, a clear focus on and definition of workplace success, and a willingness to implement new strategies, companies can thrive and bring their successful teams into the new world of work.
Companies that seek to foster a positive and purpose-driven workforce must look beyond their workplace configurations when strategizing for the future of work. For many, a way to accomplish this is through an emphasis on transparency and accountability—both from leadership and from team members.
Help employees understand how their work helps the company achieve its quarterly and annual goals, giving them a sense of ownership in the company’s successes. Roles, responsibilities, and expectations should be clearly defined. When employees have visibility into the progress and outcomes of the projects they work on, they are more likely to be an active participant.
When issues arise, it is important to be proactive about addressing concerns. Employees will feel heard when their manager is transparent about how the company will resolve conflicts, leading to greater job satisfaction and retention.
Relying on multiple devices and networks puts companies at increased security risk. Companies should implement and enforce thorough security standards that include keeping systems updated and encrypted, and team members should be aware of security best practices.
For companies that handle secure information, there should also be systems and standards in place to securely share information. IT departments must consider risk management and regulatory compliance to keep information secure and protected. The tools and platforms that you choose to use should abide by the security standards you set for your company, putting you in control of how information is shared internally and externally.
Building and managing distributed teams may take more effort in the beginning, but it is an investment that pays off. Employers can increase employee productivity and engagement by going above and beyond to create a great remote work experience. Companies that embrace non-traditional solutions position themselves as leaders in the evolving distributed work environment.
Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.