Six (Proven!) Secrets For Managing a Remote Workforce
IBM recently made headlines for dismantling its policy that allowed remote work. But we believe remote work is here to stay. It allows us to hire and work with some of the smartest people around the world, whether they sit in an office or not. Some of the best workers are increasingly demanding flexible schedules. Employees who work from home are more productive and less likely to quit, according to a study by Stanford University Professor Nicholas Bloom.
So why do so many companies fail when they try to enable employees to work remotely? Typically, they force remote workers to adapt to a culture and processes that were built for in-office work. If you want remote workers to succeed, you have to rethink your communication and collaboration culture from the ground up and make sure all employees – including those in the office – work in similar ways.
Here are six strategies that work for us.
1. Get everyone to use the same tools
It’s essential to get everyone on your team – remote and office-based workers – set up with the necessary technological infrastructure, including software for remote meetings and videos. This sounds simple, but it’s often where the process breaks down. If your remote employees are on Skype but no one in the office is, then the tools are essentially useless.
For many companies, the challenge that comes with communicating with a partially remote workforce can be a blessing. That’s because it forces leadership teams to develop formal mechanisms for communicating with the team on a regular basis.
We believe the CEO should have a formal opportunity to communicate with the entire firm once a week, whether it’s a weekly email or an all-hands meeting. And every manager should do the same for their team.
One of our most important communication strategies is called the Weekly Huddle. It’s my favorite hour of the week. Every Tuesday, the entire team gets together for a Skype chat. New hires introduce themselves, the leadership team provides updates and team leads provide shoutouts to high-performing team members.
In many ways, Skype chats actually enable a more intimate conversation compared to in-person, all-company meetings. Everyone can participate, whether they are asking questions or using hendance emojis to cheer on their teammates. By contrast, if we held an in-person meeting with 65 people, many people would just sit silently.
3. Walk the floor u2013 even if it’s a virtual floor
It’s always important for company leaders to “walk the floor,” and that doesn’t change just because some people work from home. Managers should make sure to check in informally with all workers, whether they are in the office or not. That may require them to set time aside each day for informal Skype chats.
I try to pick five or six random team members each week and chat with them on Skype. I also use our all-company Skype channel. I check in regularly to let team members know I’m around and available if they have questions. And I make sure to say, “hi” at 6 p.m. every day, when one of our largest teams starts its shift.
4. Use video
It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly powerful. When possible, use video for calls. Making a personal connection is easier when you see people face-to-face. We’ve started doing this with clients as well, and we’ve found it to be very effective. A single client often includes multiple contacts, and we don’t always have a chance to meet everyone in person. Video calls enable us to strengthen our client relationships.
5. Share the big picture
It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from the company, so we make an extra effort to keep the team posted on our plans for growth and their role in it. We also take every opportunity to say, “thanks.” When a client praises the team or the team meets its target, we always make sure to acknowledge it and tell our team members how much we appreciate their work.
6. Meet in person
As much as we tout the possibilities of remote work, we know meeting in person is still the best way to build a personal relationship. We organize a summit every year to bring together all of our staff. We also periodically organize regional meetups. Once that in-person connection has been made, it’s much easier for team members to continue to build personal relationships in a virtual setting.
A version of this post originally appeared on Forbes.com.