When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned remote working back in 2013, it was met with disappointment by supporters of flexible working. Mayer had apparently become frustrated with the emptiness of the Yahoo carpark, while she had also been having conversations with several employees who felt hamstrung by employee absenteeism.
Mayer’s ban, which she stood by in an interview at the Global Forum conference in San Francisco, was not so much an indictment of remote working as a concept, but rather Yahoo’s seemingly poorly managed set-up.
So how do you ensure that, like Yahoo’s did, your remote working policy doesn’t get abused or result in a productivity drop?
Don’t forget to build a rapport
A key element of management, in particularly getting the most out of your employees, is building a rapport with every member of your team.
It can be difficult to do so with remote workers though. After all, they’re not in the office to share in the casual small talk and team building activities that can be so valuable. This is why you need to go that extra mile as a manager to make sure your remote staff feel fully engaged with your team and the wider organisation.
When communicating with your remote employees it can be easy to simply talk business and nothing else, but make time for small talk when you have it. Building a good working relationship requires getting to know each other on a personal level too, and is key to developing the trust between the two of you that is so important for remote working to work.
You should also seek to have longer one-to-ones with remote employees to give you more chance to catch up on everything you need to.
Use video chat as much as possible
Maintaining good communication with your remote workers is essential to ensure they feel like a proper part of the team. You will also find it easier to deal with issues when they first arise. How? Because so much of human communication is nonverbal.
It can be tough trying to work out what people are really thinking when you don’t have those visual cues to work from, and by identifying a problem early on you can deal with it before it becomes bigger than it needs to be
Utilise the right technology
When people are collaborating on documents, one of the biggest challenges that can arise when not every member of the team is office-based is avoiding file conflicts. If Steve in Edinburgh is working on a document, and then Rob in the London office opens it, any changes Rob makes will be lost when Steve resaves the document to the server.
By using Microsoft Office 365 you can eliminate this problem entirely.
Office 365 is cloud based and fully collaborative, which means that multiple team members can work on a document simultaneously.
A further benefit of Office 365 is that it is always automatically updated by Microsoft, which ensures that you don’t experience compatibility issues arising from one user on Microsoft Office 2007, another on Office 2010 and another on Open Office.
The Office 365 Business Essentials package also includes Skype for Business, allowing for HD video conferencing with your remote employees.
Watch out for schedule inconvenience
If you have remote team members working in different time zones, it can be tricky finding a time of day to hold a video conference that suits everyone. For example, don’t schedule a meeting for 9am London time when you have a remote worker based in New York who you also want to join in - it’ll be 4am for them!
As a manager, you could also arrange one on one meetings with remote workers outside of normal working hours for you to make sure they don’t feel as though their schedule isn’t as important as yours.
Utilise a group messaging service
As we’ve already touched on, communication is vital if remote working is going to work for your organisation. We don’t just mean between you (as their manager) and the employee, but also between the whole team, and interdepartmentally. Group messaging software ensures every person within an organisation is able to get in touch with whoever they need easily, and at all times
The aforementioned Skype for Business can offer this service, but there are other platforms that can also do the job.
Remember to set them objectives
Don’t forget that your remote workers are just as important as part of the team as your office-based employees. With this in mind, make sure that you take the time to set them performance objectives and development goals like anyone else.
There may be some people in your organisation that aren’t sure remote working is a positive thing. After all, how can you really be sure remote staff are making the most of their time?
Counter these arguments by closely measuring the output from your remote workers to ensure you have a strong business case for continuing to offer flexible working.
To find out more about remote working, and how Microsoft Office 365 can help it work for your organisation, get in touch with the team here at Mirus on 0845 094 2760 or contact us online.