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What HR needs to know about remote workers

While the concept is still foreign to some traditional industries, and an increasing number of companies across the world are going remote to promote flexibility, autonomy, and positive work-life balance. More than being a buzzword in the business world, remote companies and distributed teams are cracking the code in areas like employee retention, employee happiness, and overall productivity.

Eleven years ago, a 2007 Occupational Outlook Quarterly report revealed that 9 percent of the workforce at the time was working remotely. Today, remote employees make up 43% of the American workforce and that number continues to grow worldwide every year.

What used to be seen as an employee benefit, is now being recognized as a model that makes sense for both business owners and employees. Now, remote teams recognize the importance of educating and inspiring other business owners on the benefits they’ve experienced since going remote and are making it a priority to educate other companies on how to make it happen within their organizations.

Tech giants like Doist, GitHub, GitLab, Buffer and more are making commitments to further the conversation of remote work by writing about it on their company blogs, transparently sharing their successes since going remote and speaking at conferences to give insight into their processes of building and scaling their teams.

Because of the transparency of these organizations, companies who want to go remote can learn what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when making the transition from traditional office to fully distributed team.

Here are just a few tips that leaders of remote organizations want to emphasize on their hiring process, how they promote culture and the importance of communication and collaboration when working remotely.

Remote teams should practice asynchronous communication.

While remote teams need to maintain more intentional communication strategies within their organizations, constant communication is not the answer to the collaboration gap. Apps like Slack and WhatsApp that promote synchronous communication are training workers to expect instant validation and responses, which is detrimental to their work. Amir Salihefendic, CEO, and Founder of Doist believes wholeheartedly in the mission to make work asynchronous and set the expectation with this team that they shouldn’t expect an immediate response when reaching out to him or each other. Doist strays away from real-time communication, and still can successfully communicate and collaborate across their team of about 80 remote employees operating in over ten different time zones.

Synchronous culture also creates a mindset of instant gratification among teams, creating employees that are less autonomous. The way around this is to delegate responsibility, build good teams of people who are proactive and hire people you can trust to keep the work going when you’re not immediately available to solve a problem.

You can measure employee performance in a lot of different ways

When workers are held accountable for their time and the work they’re responsible for, they can focus more on the results and less on the politics of it all. This creates a culture that de-emphasizes red tape and traditional corporate processes and fuels employees by rewarding them for getting things done. In a distributed environment, often employees can choose what schedule and working conditions make them most productive and help them focus. As long as expectations are set, and deadlines are met, employees should have the freedom of working where they are most comfortable and following processes that make them feel the most productive.

However, this kind of flexibility also creates a responsibility on the employer to hire the right kind of people who are independent and proactive to ensure that work is getting done without needing to be micromanaged.

“We do performance reviews, and the way we do it is that we set goals with our designers. Some of the goals are set based on things we want to accomplish as a company, but that’s also unfair concerning to compensation,” says Sarah Kuehnle Head of Product at Dribbble. “Because often decisions are made that don’t involve designers. Other things tend to take priority. We place a lot of importance on how our designers want to develop their careers” As a manager, I look at opportunities that allow those designers to take on projects that help them achieve their goals.”

When it comes to performance reviews, every company has their own processes for measuring success. However, most leaders agree that the feedback should come on a rolling basis. Goals should be discussed regularly and regular reflection on productivity and success is crucial in figuring out what techniques are working and how to course correct.

Promoting a company culture in a remote environment isn’t as difficult as it seems.

The phrase “company culture” might create images of bean bags, foosball tables, and in-office beer taps, but real culture is not defined by any physical assets within an office.

“Culture is not one thing,” says Dom Price, of Atlassian, “Every company and remote team is different.”

When building a culture within a remote team, it’s about creating a feeling of unity among the organization more than it is about decor and office perks. Things that can improve culture include promoting transparency and openness within the organization.

“Over the past year, we’ve invested a lot of time to figure out how to make our culture strong and inclusive for our team members,” says Dom.

There’s a big push to promote mental wellbeing in a remote environment.

Decreased feedback and face-to-face engagement with others can cause loneliness and anxiety. Social media automation tool Buffer implemented an initiative to get all of their employees using Joyable, a mental health app on your phone that gives you access to a counselor.

Remote employees feel less like they belong than office employees. So how can leaders fix that?

“We use a buddy system, so that everyone who joins the team has someone they can talk to” We make sure that there’s at least one person who overlaps your timezone that you can check in with when you have questions or just want to talk,” shares Dom.

Hiring remote employees requires looking for more than just technical skills.

What is the leading quality companies look for in remote workers? Even more than technical skills, years of experience or stellar references, remote employers want to hire team members with high levels of emotional intelligence.

“Our biggest ask is for communication and collaboration skills,” says Sarah. “We want people who are passionate about communities and building them. We look for people with high emotional intelligence along with skillset.”

Remote workers need to be able to work autonomously and communicate with the rest of their team on a regular basis, without being promoted. Not to be confused with synchronous communication, remote workers must have the communication skills to work on their own while keeping others in the loop about important project milestones or asking questions that they have along the way.

Remote work isn’t perfect

It may seem like everywhere you look is an article or talk about the benefits of working remotely, but the movement is far from perfect. There are a lot of hurdles that need to be cleared and that only comes with more companies being on board one hundred percent and committed to addressing the benefits as well as the challenges that are associated with managing a fully remote team. As more companies go remote, we’ll start to see the challenges addressed and solutions come to fruition.


You might also like: The Leadership Maker Movement


Article originally published here.

Sarah Aboulhosn remote workersBy Sarah Aboulhosn

Sarah is a content marketing strategist and writer helping businesses use content marketing to grow their online presence and establish themselves as industry thought-leaders. In the past year, she’s ditched the “normal” life and spends her days traveling while growing her business and personal brand remotely from her trusty old Macbook. She’s passionate about the promoting the future of work and helping remote companies spread their message. Learn more about Sarah and her work at www.sarahaboulhosn.com.

 

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