It’s not your father’s workplace anymore. Thanks to the digital age and the millennial generation, work environments are changing. The traditional environments of reporting to work at a set time each day, remaining there eight hours (or more), and completing tasks during that workday, on-site, are the environments of our parents and grandparents. And performance evaluations always included comments on “work ethic,” and that included the hours spent on the job among other things, of course.
Enter the digital age and the millennials. Millennials are often referred to as the “C” generation – “C” standing for “connected.” These are young people who have grown up with devices in their hands and who are fully committed to digitization and all that it offers. And as far as work is concerned, their concepts of how and where work gets done are in direct contrast to those of traditional organizations. They understand that they can work from anywhere, and they want to be judged by the quality and quantity of what they produce rather than time spent at the office.
Is It Working?
Companies are responding to these new demands by altering their concepts too. Many are embracing this newer workplace and looking for talent where they can find it – anywhere on the planet, actually. This phenomenon is growing so much, in fact, that some studies report that, by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be working remotely, at least part of the time.
And there is data to support that this new concept of work is a good idea:
- It has increased productivity. Two-thirds of managers who supervise remote workers state they are more productive when they work remotely
- A survey of ConnectSolutions reported that 30% of remote workers state they can accomplish more in less time when they work at home or off-site on their own.
- 82% of remote workers report being less stressed than they were on-site.
- Companies that have embraced remote work experience lower overhead costs
- Remote is good for the environment – fewer commutes and lowered energy costs are always a good thing
- A study conducted by Upwork, a freelancing job board website, reported that in filling their “skills gaps,” companies are looking for remote, virtual workers across the globe.
But remote workplace environments come with new challenges too. While the productivity of workers who work from home or other remote sites seems to be high, there is still the need to develop the right culture of collaboration, comradery, and a feeling of being a part of an organization’s mission and goals. This culture can be a bit difficult to establish and maintain, but the right technology and organizational structure can make it happen.
Here’s a checklist of sorts that will confirm you have a great remote workplace culture in place:
1. The technology and tools are in place for lots of communication
When remote workers can communicate regularly with their colleagues and supervisors, good things happen:
- From a work standpoint, everyone understands where everyone else is in their progress toward task completion.
- From a supervisory standpoint, managers can support and encourage their team members, provide resources that may be lacking, and help to resolve issues.
- Creative problem-solving can occur just as it would during an in-office meeting
- Social relationships that are a key part of employee comfort levels can be established by non-work-related conversations. Think about how millennials currently communicate with their friends and relatives – they call, they text, and they use video communication tools, and they are comfortable communicating that way. Video conferencing tools allows remote workers to see one another, to have animated conversations, and to get to know one another personally.
There are just a host of tools that can be used to make all of this happen, and the smart manager has them all in place, uses them to connect with each and every employee, to bring employees together, and to ensure that they all get to know one another at a personal level.
2. There are regularly scheduled “check-in” times
These should occur without fail. Many managers employ group meetings via video conferencing at a set time of day, every day. Others schedule them a bit less often. But the point is this: they are scheduled, everyone is expected to be in attendance, and they are used to report progress, to bounce ideas around, and to just be social.
3. Coaching occurs as necessary
Especially for first-time remote workers, there can be issues surrounding such things as work/life balance, fear of admitting they are struggling, etc. A wise and well-trained manager knows how to make that employee feel comfortable discussing these issues without any fear of reprisal or criticism. The skilled and empathetic leader establishes this comfort level with his remote workers and coaches them through issues without judgement.
4. There are opportunities for physical get-togethers when possible:
Holding events a couple of times a year (e.g., retreats) can go a long way in establishing stronger relationships among remote workers and between remote workers and their managers. Or, including remote workers in a national conference which they all attend can prove to be beneficial for more than just upgrading skills and knowledge.
5. Feedback is a two-way street
Just as good managers provide feedback to their employees on a regular basis, including those formal performance evaluations, there must be vehicles in place for remote workers to provide their feedback in a fully non-threatening atmosphere. When feedback is openly and regularly solicited, remote workers feel valued. When they feel valued, their loyalty and trust is solidified.
As Neightan White, founder and CEO of the writing service, Supreme Dissertations, states:
“The backbone of our success is our researchers and writers. Without them, we have no company. And they all work remotely. Keeping such a diverse group of individuals satisfied is critical, and to do that we need to know how we are doing in meeting their needs. We have worked hard to have a fully transparent feedback loop, so that we can improve everything about their work life from our end. The end result has been that they feel their opinions matter, and we have been able to make changes that have improved the quality of our management.”
6. Company mission, goals and news are regularly communicated.
All employees want to feel that they are part of the larger picture, whether in-house or remote. Keeping remote workers informed of company milestones, news, events, etc. on a regular basis gives them a sense of belonging and lets them see how their work fits into company goals.
Another part of this is recognition for a job well done. Such recognition should be “public” and company-wide, even when 100% of employees are remote. Writing companies such as Trust My Paper, for example, make a habit of publishing a regular newsletter for their writers, publicizing company milestones, as well as recognizing individual workers for their accomplishments (usually along with some monetary or other significant rewards).
Remote Work is a Given
As we march forward through the 21st century, there is no doubt that the concept of what a workplace is will continue to evolve. One thing is for certain – remote work is a growing reality. And it does not have to mean that productivity or culture are sacrificed. If the right culture is established, organizations will be able to attract, hire, and retain high-powered workers who prefer to perform remotely. There does not need to be any sense of isolation or lack of connection, if these six things are in place.