A Guide

Guide on Supporting a Remote Workforce

Guide on Supporting Remote Workforce
Table of Contents
    Table of Contents

      Once a far-flung concept, the remote workforce is now on the rise. The total number of people who work at least one day from home out of the week has grown 400% since the year 2010, and an ever-increasing number of job applicants expect the positions that they apply for to have at least some kind of option for remote work.

      Trends show that remote work is here to stay. Forward-thinking companies need to embrace the concept of a distributed workforce and provide the necessary resources for employees to work from home if they want to keep pace with this shift.

      Supporting remote teams isn't as challenging as it once was. While it's true that numerous pitfalls could kill your dream of creating a productive distributed workforce, modern technology has made it easier than ever to support a remote team — with a little planning.

      The following guide will provide insights on why supporting remote work is vital, detail some of the obstacles you might face in establishing your distributed workforce, and offer some solutions for how you can make the transition to remote work a smooth one.

      Why You Should Support Remote Work

      To put it straightforwardly, having a remote workforce benefits you tremendously as an employer. Done correctly, transitioning to a remote workforce brings a host of advantages.

      Attract Top Talent

      Offering remote working options helps attract and retain top talent. The best prospective employees prefer a measure of flexibility in how they work. The work-life balance that telecommuting provides ensures they stay happy, engaged, and committed to their job. Data suggests that more than a third of employees would choose to have more remote hours over a pay raise.

      Deepen Your Talent Pool

      Having the option for a remote team expands your talent pool beyond just your city or state. In transcending geographic boundaries, you can ensure you find the very best employees for your organization, plucked from anywhere in the world. Your team will be diverse as a result, and you will also have the ability to quickly scale your team's size to meet your business needs.

      Improve Productivity

      With the ability to work from anywhere, employees can now use the hours they would have spent getting ready, commuting, and taking care of personal business to get more work done. Saving time on getting to and from work will improve their productivity and help you accomplish business goals.

      The flexibility of remote work can even decrease time taken off by employees to take care of errands and appointments that can only be handled during the week. A remote employee has the flexibility to work wherever they are — whether that's at home or waiting for the mechanic to finish an oil change.

      Reduce Costs

      Having fewer employees in the office can help your business reduce costs. It allows you to save on real estate, more efficiently use the physical space you need, and save on additional operational expenses like cleaning and office supplies.

      Increase Collaboration

      Keeping your workforce online promotes equality and improves teamwork. Without face-to-face interaction, the chances for discrimination to occur are greatly reduced. Virtual communication formats ensure that every team member's voice is heard. Actions speak louder than appearances, and a host of digital solutions increase the options for collaboration between your team members.

      Challenges Facing the Distributed Workforce

      Employees can't just snap the resources and organization required for remote work into existence on their own, though. As an employer, it's up to you to provide the necessary components to facilitate a remote work strategy. It all starts with understanding the hurdles you'll need to clear to achieve success.

      Technical Infrastructure

      The most prominent challenges of remote work are technical. You need to have the right resources to connect your team members and the business tools that will enable them to complete their jobs without occupying the same physical space.

      Suppose you're transitioning to a remote work setup from a traditional work environment. In that case, you'll need to invest in some IT infrastructure changes and set up a system to help address any remote tech support issues that may arise.

      Information Security

      Are your remote workers using secure networks to transmit information, or are they blasting sensitive data all over unsecured public networks where it's particularly vulnerable? Does your team know how to avoid phishing attacks? Who else are they sharing their work computer with?

      Implementing the proper security for a remote work environment isn't difficult, but these are questions you'll need to address to ensure your business information is safe.

      Trust and Accountability

      Beyond the technical difficulties, there's a whole list of remote work challenges that are symptoms of the human element, like the potential for mistrust between workers and managers. While it is true that most managers trust their employees, there's still a significant number who feel that they cannot trust employees to get work done if they can't see them. This mentality can lead to a toxic environment, with tension setting your employees at odds and productivity dropping because of it.

      Distractions and Self-Sufficiency

      Certain employee personalities might not be cut out for the remote work environment. Ideally, your distributed workforce should consist of individuals who are self-directed, self-sufficient, and creative thinkers. They'll need to be able to adapt quickly to new technologies and should also have the ability to set up a home working environment that is free of distractions.

      Not everyone has these characteristics. Part of the challenge of putting together a remote team is finding the right personalities for the job or help the employees excel at remote work.

      Maintaining Employee Morale

      Even those who have the temperament to succeed as part of a remote work environment can run afoul of its hardships sooner or later. Working in a remote team can be challenging and can end up damaging employee morale if not appropriately managed.

      • Loneliness and isolation. Lack of human interaction daily can be mentally and emotionally taxing for many workers. In the best cases, it might result in some lost productivity. Completely unchecked, it can severely impact the psychology of team members who are prone to anxiety and depression.
      • Poor communication. Communication between team members can become strained due to a lack of face-to-face interaction. Without vital body language cues, your employees may misinterpret messages' intent, leading to a breakdown in team cohesion.
      • Lack of transparency. Remote workers may get the impression that they're being excluded from important decisions or aren't considered a valuable part of the team because they work outside the office. Employees who feel excluded are less likely to produce their best work.

      To address these challenges, you'll need to combine new technologies with a shift in your managerial style (and some extra attention paid to employee well-being).

      Technology to Support a Successful Remote Team

      In tackling the technical aspects of supporting remote work, one piece of advice that will almost always apply is to look to the cloud. Cloud phone systems and other remotely accessible business tools offer the combination of scalability, security, and flexibility you'll need to equip your remote team properly.

      • Instead of operating your own data center, which requires periodic maintenance and downtime, cloud services can provide 24/7 access to your employees.
      • Using roles and restrictions, it's easy for you to control access to specific resources using cloud services, improve security, and minimize threats.
      • Cloud services allow you to balance resources and optimize spending.
      • Since they're accessible from any place with an internet connection, your remote workers will have everything they need for just about any work scenario right from their home office.

      Effectively Managing Remote Workers

      Arming your team with the right technology to get the job done isn't all you'll need. You'll also have to adjust your leadership style to ensure that you're setting the right tone for your remote workers. As an overall strategy, you should strive to:

      • Provide your employees with a sense of belonging
      • Clearly define your remote workforce's goals and responsibilities
      • Set and track pertinent success metrics
      • Facilitate internal communication for your distributed team
      • Encourage information and knowledge sharing among team members

      Boosting Remote Worker Morale

      Beyond technical and managerial support, influential leaders of remote teams will consider the unique challenges of working in a distributed workforce and make a plan to address them.

      Develop policies and strategies to support your remote workers by fostering team cohesion, improving communication, and maintaining employee morale.

      • Include remote workers in group meetings held at the office via telepresence
      • Grant remote employees equal time and attention during virtual meetings
      • Stay connected with team members and treat them as individuals
      • Be fair in your treatment of remote workers and on-site workers
      • Build loyalty through frequent communication and transparency
      • Understand the unique challenges facing remote workers
      • Bridge the "us" vs. "them" divide between distributed and office workers
      • Focus on quantifiable achievements rather than total hours worked
      • Maintain flexibility with your communication expectations
      • Ensure everyone has the same equipment

      Finally, when it comes to combating the social isolation common among

      some remote workers, you'll need to dedicate time to virtual social interactions. Remember to check in with your remote workers to discuss non-work topics or leave a bit of time before meetings to allow the team to interact without thinking about work.

      You can try arranging virtual office parties or set up a "virtual water cooler" where casual conversation is permitted, and your team can get some much needed social interaction. Additionally, broach the topic of how your remote team members adapt to the new work environment and do your best to alleviate any stress or anxiety they might be feeling.

      Bringing It All Together

      There are multiple facets to nailing the formula for a productive remote workforce. The way you lead your team has just as much of an impact on your success as having the right tools for the job.

      Cloud-based services, like Dialpad’s Cloud Phone system, equip your team to communicate and collaborate no matter where they are. The policies and strategies you put in place as a leader ensure they continue to do so effectively and cohesively.

      In the end, if you make an earnest effort to support your remote team, you’ll boost the likelihood of their long-term success, and yours.