3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home for at least half of their working hours. The number of employees working remotely (not including the self-employed population) has grown 10x faster than the rest of the workforce since 2005.
There's a reason remote teams are becoming more popular. When geographic location is no longer a constraint, employers can attract talent from anywhere. Companies no longer need to be headquartered in large metropolitan areas to access top talent, and workers can live anywhere they like.
Access to talent isn't the only benefit of having a remote team. Global Workplace Analytics, a research organization focused on emerging workplace strategies, has found that "if those with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so just half the time (roughly the national average for those who do so regularly) the national savings would total over $700 Billion a year."
The research breaks these savings down into the business impact for individual companies, employees, and the environment:
- A typical business would save $11,000 per person per year.
- The telecommuters would save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year.
- The greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.
Companies are excited about the benefits of a remote workplace, but leadership is often unsure how to manage a remote team. How will the team communicate? How will documents be accessed, shared, and organized? How will projects be managed? How can the company maintain its culture? Here are a few ideas for those who are thinking about going remote with an entire team or even just a few employees.
Management Tips for Remote Teams
Managing a remote team is a bit different than managing an on-site team. When you're not in the same physical location, communication becomes more challenging. But as long as you have a plan in place to address the obstacles, your remote team can be just as successful as an on-site team.
1. Hire Selectively
Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Employees who work from home have to excel at self-management and communication. And because the nature of remote work is more solitary, you'll need to look for people who don't need daily, in-person socialization from their workplace.
While personality and self-management skills are essential, the most important factor to consider when you're hiring for a remote team is trust. You have to be able to trust your employees, and they need to see that you trust them. If you feel the need to scrutinize and question if an employee is being honest with you, you won't be able to work constructively together—and the employee will be frustrated.
2. Set Clear Expectations
For remote employees to do their best work, they need a roadmap. When is she expected to be available? Who should he reach out to with questions? What projects does she own? It's helpful to have weekly status meetings where you review goals for the next month or quarter and decide what should be accomplished in the upcoming week. Clear expectations will eliminate the majority of potential problems.
3. Schedule Regular One-on-Ones
Even employees who don't need socialization at work will want to feel that they're valued members of the team, not just cogs in a machine. One-on-one meetings where you make time for small talk and focus on building the relationship will help keep employees happy and motivated.
4. Include Remote Workers in Team Meetings
If part of your team is on site and only a few work remotely, don't forget to include them in team meetings. Even if they don't technically "need" to be there, inviting them to be a part of the meeting will help them feel like a true part of the team and give them the opportunity to share their input.
Tools for Open Communication and Effective Collaboration
The biggest challenge that remote teams face is how to communicate and collaborate in an efficient and productive way. Because employees can’t simply walk down to the next cube or gathering in the conference room, employees will need tools that facilitate communication and collaboration. Here are the ones we recommend.
Document Sharing and Collaboration
Office 365 makes your Microsoft applications and files available anywhere, from any device, and all your data remains secure. Office 365 also includes tools that make real-time collaboration easy.
Keep Communication Efficient
Microsoft Teams, part of the Office 365 suite, allows employees to ask project-specific questions, have quick discussions, and share information, links, and documents. This tool keeps conversations organized and out of email inboxes.
Video brings people together in a way that the phone doesn't. While it's not exactly the same as in-person conversation, it's the next best thing. Skype for Business gives teams the ability to host one-on-one video calls as well as group video calls. Microsoft Teams offers a video call function as well, so teams that are already using it can jump on calls directly within their Teams app.
Build a Vibrant Company Culture
Slack is currently the world's most popular chat tool for business. Companies can create different channels for different teams, projects, or topics. Microsoft Teams' chat tool is very similar to Slack.
Get Out of the House
Sometimes, your employees just need to get out of the house. Workfrom.co offers a searchable database where workers can find places to work that offer fast WiFi, natural light, and other amenities. The database includes public spaces, like coffee shops, and private spaces, like coworking locations, that employees can join.
Remote teams can be vibrant and productive, contributing just as much value to the company as an on-site team. The key is to be mindful of what makes remote teams successful and ensure that you're focused on providing your employees what they uniquely need as a remote team.
If you have questions about how Office 365 can help your remote team, give us a call at 864-552-1291, and we'll help you evaluate capabilities and options.