As the workforce continues to evolve, business leaders must adapt to the wants and needs of employees across the globe. Although working styles vary from country to country, there is one underlying theme that reigns strong no matter where you live: remote work. Why? In our research, we found that 95 percent of employees consider work-life balance to be an important factor when searching for a new job. With the increased level of competition for talent, organizations and leaders need to incorporate workplace flexibility into their strategy to attract and retain talent. The research indicated that some of the most prominent reasons people seek flexible work positions include:
- For better health and wellbeing – 43 percent
- To take care of familial responsibilities – 37 percent
- For healthcare commitments – 14 percent
- To look after pets – 14 percent
Because remote work is becoming less of a future of work trend and more of a reality, employers must be ready to make a shift as well. It is important to understand exactly what remote staff need from leadership in order to feel supported and be successful from their home, on the road, or wherever they call their “office.” However, managing remote employees can be a challenge for leaders who are not used to a distributed team. From my experience working across a globally distributed company, here are the tools and traits leaders need to adapt to help remote staff stay connected and productive when they aren’t working 9-5 in the office.
Paramount to other traits, a manager must embrace flexibility when working with a remote staff. Remote work requires flexible leadership due to unpredictable days when you’re not down the hall from the rest of your team. From time zone troubles to travel conflicts, a successful remote leader will check in on their remote staff to ensure they are on pace with the team and are willing to make adjustments if they aren’t. Identifying ways that the team can work from what is perceived as a common foundation within the operating rhythm of the group from consistency of team meetings to the platform with which ideas are shared and collaboration can take place. This will help ensure engagement and that everyone feels that they have an equal voice.Your management style should match exactly what you’re advocating for: flexible work, flexible leadership!
Connecting with remote staff on a regular, one-on-one basis can help you learn about your employees’ goals and give you time to collaborate and develop a career plan to show that you are invested in their success. A channel of feedback that goes both ways, builds a stronger, faster, and smarter group of remote employees. Prioritizing this type of feedback further creates an open, honest, and frequent channel of communication regardless of role or location. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Consider opening your calendar to be accessible to your remote staff. With this type of unspoken communication, your teams know when and where they can find you. This can be a great way to replicate physical proximity or an “open door” policy for employees that can’t pop into your office for questions or concerns.
When you can’t meet in-person on a daily or weekly cadence, simple tactics like including quick notes that demonstrate your awareness and appreciation of their hard work via chat can be powerful. Another tactic is to encourage your team to turn to video conferencing will help remote staff get to know one another. Seeing each team member face-to-face (even through a screen) can help you and your team learn about each other through body language, tone and mannerisms -- ultimately helping everyone stay connected and gel as a team. For my remote staff, I require all meetings to be video conferences. In doing so, we’ve strengthened our working relationship, and as a result, we are more agile and productive. Encouraging teams to use additional collaboration tools like chat groups and content sharing throughout the day can also help increase productivity, all the while making the team feel connected and included in day-to-day conversations and projects.
During any meeting, be as transparent as possible with your teams. Being straightforward with your remote staff creates a relationship of trust within your team and across your company. Whether it’s an easy conversation like a small change in deadline or a topic more difficult to discuss like a change in structure, these messages should come from you to reduce confusion and feelings of being left out of company announcements. Using video for these types of conversations is also important for communicating your sincerity (or authenticity) on the topic. Over-communicating can help employees feel like they are part of the integrated team while building trust and ultimately increasing productivity.
In digital transformation, technology isn’t the only thing moving at a rapid pace. With 85% of the modern workforce wanting to work remotely, and 47% already doing so, this change in landscape can’t be ignored by leadership. Instead, business leaders should embrace this change to retain top talent and not only support individual workers, but the entire company’s productivity and morale.
To learn more about the future of flexible work, join us on June 5th at our inaugural Flex summit by visiting flexsummit.com.