Article: Out of sight, out of mind – Plight of the Remote Employee

Employee Relations

Out of sight, out of mind – Plight of the Remote Employee

Here are some of the simple yet vital ways in which companies can ensure that employees working remotely feel very much like a part of the organization despite not being physically present.
Out of sight, out of mind – Plight of the Remote Employee

Working from home seems hassle-free, when you think of the time saved, the money you did not spend on travel or the ever-present workplace politics. But then again what work from home or remote working also does, is keep you from everything that goes on in the office. According to a study, about 40% employees want to work in a remote location, and the concept of working remotely in India has also seen a strong uptick in adoption, due to the numerous benefits it offers. However, while remote working has quite a few benefits, it also has a downside. Employees working remotely often do not feel as involved in an organization as their counterpart sitting in the conference room for a meeting, and companies need to work towards changing that mindset. 

Employees are increasingly looking at corporations who provide work from home as an option and this trend is expected to increase. Seamlessly integrating these remote employees in an organization is a task companies must actively look at, and the responsibility for this often lies with managers and HR Teams to integrate the employee into the system. 

Here are some of the simple yet vital ways in which companies can ensure that employees working remotely, feel very much like a part of the organization despite not being physically present:  

Check-ins & Building Relationships

Managers should check in on their remote employees on a regular basis. Remote employees may lose track of the goings on in the organization as they are not spoken to as often, and quick and frequent conversations will help create a sense of consistency. This will also help the manager monitor the remote worker’s progress. Regular check-ins should be a must for managers with employees who work remotely, and they must continue to do so once or twice a week. Managers should make an effort to speak to their remote employees beyond work-related issues or projects, and the communication should not be limited just to business. 

On-site teams naturally build relationships with co-workers and get to know more about them, which in turn helps one understand and learn more about their inclinations. A good amount of communication that takes place among colleagues in the office usually revolves around content like interesting articles or funny videos, and remote workers are rarely included in these informal conversations. Scheduled video calls with a remote worker do not have to be limited to work-related matters, but must also be used as an opportunity to know them better. This will help them feel recognized in the company, and it is also a way of tapping into the potential that would have otherwise never been discovered.

High-bandwidth Communication using new technology

We have already established that consistent communication is essential but how the communication takes place is also important. Communication through email is considered low bandwidth and face to face is considered high bandwidth. A manager cannot always take a plane to be able to facilitate the latter, but communication only through the former may not always get the desired results. Frequent calls and meetings with remote employees is a good way of keeping them engaged and involved. To further improve communication, managers can use video collaboration tools, which will enable them to better gauge how the remote employees are reacting not only through words, but also through their body language and expressions. Video conferencing allows for face to face interaction without necessarily being in the same physical location. These calls can be about the remote worker’s short-term and long-term goals, and will also help build better relationships. 

Adopting new modes of communication services is vital for managers to be able to keep in touch with their employees. Collaboration tools have made it possible for mangers to go beyond just using phone calls or email to communicate, and deploying the latest tools will not only help keep remote employees updated on what the team is working on, or the progress of a project, but it will also help with quicker turnaround times, and easier completion of tasks. Managers should be ready to try new tools as they are introduced into the market to see what works for their company’s employees.

Transparent Environment 

In a team with remote employees, a culture of transparency is a must. Team members are usually busy with their own work, and addressing issues by way of using mails and memos may seem like the most effective thing to do, but it’s not sufficient. Looking for a way to get team members to open up and share their concerns is what good leaders must do. Remote employees are more likely to not talk about their grievances when compared with their counterparts who are onsite. Managers must provide a safe environment for employees to voice their opinions and disagreements across a variety of channels.

Encourage participation

Understanding the demeanor and the disposition of the various members of the team, and ensuring that this is factored in should be a priority for managers. While some employees may have a lot to contribute, they may be unable to, due to challenges such as not having a platform to voice their ideas, or being unable to contribute in meetings due to limitations of the medium. Managers must ensure that each member has an opportunity to contribute easily, and this can be accomplished with the help of developments in technology.

Make it easy to meet

Investing in collaboration solutions that make it simple for remote workers wherever they may be to participate goes a long way. The right solution will make getting on calls, meetings on video calls, screening sharing, and instant messaging less of a task, ensuring that getting in touch with a remote team member for a quick update is as easy as walking over to a co-worker’s desk. Implementation of such solutions will have a great impact on the morale of the workforce. 

In the modern workplace, as more and more companies expand globally, and teams are spread across geographies, communicating can be difficult. Although, both technology and real-world action are necessary for effective communication, when workers of a company are dispersed across geographies, technology is everything. While companies are concerned about a loss in productivity, offering work-from-home as an option makes working at a company more attractive. Employers can make sure they are not losing out on productivity by using standard key performance indicators for both the management and employees, and this practice will also prove to be an assurance of performance assessment for the remote employee. The well-being of a remote employee should be given more importance than it is given at present, and managers need to step up their efforts to make remote employees feel included. After all, people are the most important assets, and ensuring that they are happy and content, should be a priority. 

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Topics: Employee Relations, Life @ Work

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