Our world at work is changing, and more people are working remotely than ever before. AgCareers.com has been no exception in embracing this trend, and we’ve grown to include more offsite employees in recent years. If I reflect on my own personal experiences, I would say managing remote team members is probably one of the hardest aspects of my role. This has nothing to do with the people who are offsite. It has everything to do with the level of intentionality required to successfully create a winning environment…and the journey is never really over in that regard.
We have to strive to keep learning from experiences, and continuously manage expectations from both perspectives. It’s very important to consider individual personalities and work styles. I’ve asked for feedback from remote team members here at AgCareers.com in order to compile three quick tips to keep in mind when you have a remote team.
Tip #1 – Keep your offsite employees “in the loop” and encourage them to connect on a personal level with coworkers.
No one likes to feel disconnected. It’s the little things, like a heads up that a teammate is out sick, as well as the bigger news of an engagement or birth that can fail to reach those who aren’t in the office daily. We can and should be intentional about ensuring our offsite employees feel “in the loop”. It’s harder to really celebrate wins, and feel like you’re actually in the trenches together, when you can’t gather in the hallway and share joys and pains day to day.
Skype messaging and video can help people feel like their teammates are a click away, but there will still be feelings of isolation from time to time. Encourage remote offsite employees to reach out regularly to stay connected with their co-workers. It’s important they engage in non-work related dialogue as well, to build the solid internal relationships they need to succeed.
Tip #2 – Look for ways to create quality face-to-face time with yourself and other team members.
Don’t miss an opportunity to grab some “in-person” time, even if it’s brief. You or other team members might be traveling somewhere close to where a remote employee is located. You might be bringing a new employee in for training. Or maybe there’s an industry event that’s conducive to coordinating an opportunity for remote team members to meet up with others. Help to facilitate inclusion and involvement. Outside of those opportunities, set up routine calls with your remote employee (you can use Skype video to get more of a face to face, conversational feel), and only cancel when your schedule absolutely does not allow the time to connect with them. Remind remote employees that you are available for them.
Tip #3 – Manage expectations, and that includes your own as well.
Many employees that work remotely, often feel like they have to be available and accountable every second of the day. They sense that if they go to the bathroom or grab a cup of coffee and aren’t immediately responding to an instant message or phone call, their manager or teammates will assume they’re doing their laundry or slacking off in some way. Now, those who may feel this way are typically high achievers with strong motivational drives. In other words, the kind of self-motivated personality that is a solid fit for working remotely!
It’s likely they are working after hours and may have trouble “turning off” work to draw the line with family time, so watch for burnout. Make sure you don’t have unrealistic expectations for response time during working hours. Be open and up front with expectations, as remote employees don’t have the benefit of observing the “unspoken rules” of the office and culture. Some things that are natural to you, and feel “obvious” around the office, may need to be specifically outlined for offsite employees.
These are just a few of the bigger things that can tend to derail progress toward an ideal working environment if they aren’t considered. It comes down to really caring about your team members and spending time getting to know them, regardless of whether they’re in the office or not.
Read more about the importance of creating flexibility in the workplace in this blog by Bonnie Johnson. Need to expand your company’s reach? Post a remote position on AgCareers.com.