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From 2005 to 2019, the number of employees working remotely grew by some 216 percent, more than 11 times that of the rest of the U.S.’s workforce, according to findings from Global Workplace Analytics. At the height of the pandemic, more than two-thirds of U.S.-based employees worked from home. Though the pandemic’s spread has since slowed, over 80 percent of U.S. employees now wish to continue working remotely for at least half of their time after the pandemic officially ends, with nearly 19 percent saying they would like to work from home every day.
For business owners, HR managers and other industry leaders, this shift has presented many challenges. Managing a business’s day-to-day operations — including a team of employees working remotely around the world — is no easy task. In order to maintain control over your business’s operations and foster trust between both employees and leadership, there are several steps managers can take to make a fully remote work environment a boon to their employees and company alike.
Since my company, Ginni Media, was founded in 2018, all of our employees and team members have worked in fully remote settings, even prior to the pandemic. To give some guidance to other leaders and managers navigating this process, I want to offer my top four tips business leaders can use to effectively manage their remote employees, regardless of where they are located.
1. Remember, There Is a Foundation to Freedom
I know that this tip sounds like a contradiction. After all, isn’t the point of freedom to have full flexibility and choice as to what you want to do with your time? I say, absolutely.
Freedom is a coveted luxury, a loaded word, and even sometimes feels like a seemingly impossible thing to achieve. It is a core value at my organization. What I’ve found running a 100% remote company that holds freedom as a value is that freedom needs to be built upon a solid foundation.
That foundation is bound to look and feel different and unique to each individual. However, it generally involves some level of habit, practice, commitment and consistency, which are found when you are clear on your values and you put them first. For example, if you place greater value on habits of self-care, such as daily fitness exercises, diet regimens and nourishment, these habits create a foundation of freedom based upon physical health. Likewise, if you place values on habits that feed your mind, and focus on personal and professional development and interpersonal connection, this creates a foundation for granting you the personal freedom to continue learning and growing.
2. Regular Check-Ins and Team Huddles
When your employees are located in different time zones, it can feel extremely difficult to stay connected with each individual team member. Regardless of this challenge, retaining open lines of communication with your remote employees is crucial in order to maintain their happiness and productivity. After all, what employee wants to log in to work every morning only to feel like they aren’t truly part of the team?
Along with maintaining open communication with your employees, keeping in touch with your remote workforce is vital to your business’s health. It doesn’t have to be done with all the pomp and circumstance of daily or weekly company-wide meetings, either; sometimes, all it takes for your employees to feel connected is a quick message on Slack or via email.
At Ginni Media, my managers, employees and I have regular weekly team meetings and department meetings scheduled throughout each week. I also make time to have one-on-ones with every team member to ensure we all stay connected and that I can continue learning more about what each employee values and why.
3. Build a Community First — the Company Will Follow
As a business leader, a key portion of your responsibility is ensuring that your team feels emotionally and physically safe. Although you can’t always control the latter when your employees are fully remote, you can continue to foster an internal company culture that promotes and prioritizes the emotional safety of its employees.
For example, we have a weekly “wins and oops” meeting. This meeting allows us an opportunity as a company to talk about our professional and personal wins throughout the workweek, as well as any “oops” or blunders that we might have made. The intention here is to encourage our remote employees to make bold, independent choices and — should there be any issues that need to be addressed — to openly speak about any challenges they’re facing in an environment where feedback can be shared and accountability measures put into place.
4. Encourage Casual, Personal Conversations
Because we don’t have the luxury of in-person events like after-work happy hour drinks at a local bar or simply having lunch together, I always encourage my team members to routinely have personal conversations in as casual a manner as possible.
Since these conversations can’t happen in a physical location, we have instead created a Slack channel dedicated to “random” water cooler conversations. This channel is usually inundated with personal holiday pics, stories, questions or even random creations made by some of our more creative employees. It’s a fantastic way to foster casual communication between our employees, and you never know what to expect.
Along with this specific channel, our company has also had themed and dress-up days like “hat day,” “skincare day,” “drinks day” and tons of other casual events to help our employees showcase their more casual sides. These activities are fun ways to bolster collaboration between employees and further solidify the connection they have with each other. It’s important that you also actively participate in these kinds of conversations.
The better your employees understand you as a leader, the more confident they will feel in their work, leading to improved workplace happiness and productivity regardless of where they’re located.