Whether it was inevitability or necessity, many companies are transitioning to a remote or distributed workforce. Even more significant, well-known companies are going completely remote, including InVision, Automattic, and Stripe. You don’t need a crystal ball — or, more fittingly, a prediction algorithm — to recognize that we’re standing at the precipice of a brave new world, one in which we eat, sleep, bathe, and work without leaving the comfort of home.
However, it’ll take time for the entire global workforce to be set up to work from home. Before the job market follows communication, entertainment, and commerce into the Digital Age, there’s going to be a transition period. Meanwhile, the rise of the remote workforce will have a considerable impact on company culture, management, and human resources in the corporate world.
The New Corporate Culture
Sure, it’s buzzwordy, but corporate culture has become important, both for the employer and the employee.
When someone gets a job offer from two different companies where the position and salary are primarily the same, the company that has a better culture is chosen every single time. In fact, data shows that most employees, especially millennials, will accept lower pay for a stronger corporate culture. Employers have caught on to this, which is why we’ve been seeing so many companies promoting their corporate cultures as a selling point to give them an edge in competitive job markets. (But over prioritizing company culture can backfire, which has happened to enough tech startups as to practically become a cliché.)
However, what happens when you remove the physical workspace from the equation and have employees work remotely? This is undoubtedly a disconcerting prospect for many executives, partly because corporate culture is one of the main ways to distinguish one company from others, particularly within the same industry. Additionally, a strong corporate culture elevates morale and retention; and employees are more productive when they’re happier.
In the face of a remote workforce, the corporate world needs to pivot. One of the biggest hurdles is figuring out how to foster a sense of community between team members to keep them from feeling too isolated or detached from the rest of the team. Group messaging tools like Slack can be incredibly valuable for this since you can set up designated channels where workers can chat about non-work-related things as they would in the breakroom at the office.
It’s also important to implement strategies to prevent burnout. The risk of burnout is, in some ways, greater for remote workers since they’re spending large periods of time in the same place, working on the same tasks. To combat this, you’ll want to try to add some variety to the workload and offer some ways to break up the workday, whether by socializing with other team members, having regular check-ins via video chat, or any number of fun activities that are remote-friendly.
Management Without Supervision
The biggest question mark when it comes to a remote workforce is due to employees working in an unsupervised environment. In short, how do you know that they’re actually working? Is there a drop in productivity when employees work where they sleep and, if so, how much?
Risk aversion drives most (if not all) corporate decision-making, and there’s inherently some amount of risk to transitioning to a remote workforce. However, managing a remote workforce is easier to do than many people assume. In fact, many of the same tools that you’re probably already using will be as effective for overseeing employees working from home as for employees working at the office.
Companies where the employees work on computers often have monitoring software installed on those systems to make sure they’re not being misused. Or they might turn on what are essentially just parental restrictions to limit their internet access. Obviously, you can’t expect — nor should you expect — your remote employees to put these kinds of programs on their personal devices at home, but there are other options. For instance, there’s screen-sharing, which lets you see exactly what’s on the team member’s screen. Best of all, it can be done with very minimal software and setup.
Another way to manage a distributed team is to have regular check-ins. When the supervisor remains a continuous presence throughout the worker’s day, that worker is probably going to be motivated to make some progress on his or her assignments in-between those check-ins.
Most people don’t hit the ground running, so to speak, on the first day of a new job. Even if it’s a position similar to what they’ve held before, there’s almost always some amount of training that’s required.
Perhaps it’s training for a new application or program. Or maybe they have to learn the company’s own unique way of executing a particular task. It’s even possible that a lengthy list of company policies and guidelines necessitate an extensive orientation. Whatever the case, there’s a period of time, lasting days or weeks or months, during which employees are taught what they need to know to fulfill the requirements of their jobs. But how does this work for a distributed team?
To be clear, having a remote workforce doesn’t mean you can’t train new employees. This is particularly important for companies transitioning to a remote workforce since both existing employees and new hires will need some level of training to get oriented.
As it happens, online training materials are already very common. Most new hires expect to spend some amount of time watching videos and completing training modules online. However, the traditional workforce will often supplement digital training materials with live, in-person coaching, which isn’t an option — at least not to the same degree — when you’re onboarding remotely.
Rather than supplementing digital training materials with live coaching, companies will need to invest in more detailed digital training materials. Additionally, it’s probably a good idea to set up intermittent phone calls or video chats to answer questions as they arise, so they aren’t buried by other information.
ContactPoint 360: Your Solution to a Distributed Workforce
Between 2005 and 2017, the number of people who work remotely in the United States increased by an astounding 157 percent. And this trend shows no signs of slowing.
But the transition to a distributed or remote workforce doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact, ContactPoint 360 can help alleviate many of the growing pains associated with running a remote business. To learn more about how we can help, check out our Work From Home Solutions today.