Being a remote employee can be both rewarding and challenging. You’re often reliant on in-office colleagues to communicate important details, miss out on social functions and watercooler gossip. But, you also enjoy more flexibility in your schedule, uninterrupted time and no commute. There can also be challenges for folks who work in the office but have remote colleagues–instant responses may not be possible, reading body language isn’t possible and it can be difficult to establish personal relationships.
That said, for most companies, the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely far outweigh the negatives, which explains why it is rising in popularity. Currently, 34 million “occasionally” telecommute, and this is expected to increase to 63 million by 2016.
Today, two remote work experts joined the ReadyTalk customer webinar series to talk about how to improve the remote work experience for remote and in-office employees. During Out of the Office: Tips and Best Practices for Working Remotely, Kristin Thomas of FlexJobs and Abby Wall of ReadyTalk shared ways to improve how you work from a distance and tips to help remote colleagues stay connected, engaged and part of the team. You can check out the webinar recording below.
Tips for Working Remotely:
• Communicate: Make sure everyone on your team knows your hours and how to reach you. Establish “rules” around when and how often you connect and what an acceptable response time is.
• Create a home office: Set aside a dedicated space and minimize the distractions so you can work effectively.
• Rely on technology: Technology tools, such as web conferencing, IM and file sharing, can help you stay connected and give you access to information you need.
• Have a back up plan: Sometimes technology fails. How will you work when the power goes out?
• Decide what is most important: Prioritize your work day
• Define success: Whether it’s creating and completing your to do list or an empty inbox, know what your success looks like as well as what’s important to your manager.
• Structure your work day: Set a schedule for when you’re available for phone calls, emails, etc. and time to focus on projects.
• Be bold: It can be easy to sit silently on mute during a conference call but your contributions are important. Be sure to speak up.
• Make the most of time together: Take advantage of opportunities to meet with colleagues in-person and use the time to build stronger relationships.
• Be connected: Leverage technology to make it easy for your colleagues to reach you.
Also check out: 5 traits you need to work at home.
Tips for Working with Remote Colleagues:
• Make it easy to connect: Be sure to include dial-in information in meeting invitations so everyone can join easily (check out ReadyTalk’s Outlook and Google integrations, which add meeting details in one click). This will also help your meetings to start on time.
• Create an agenda: Share the agenda in advance but also share it in real-time using web conferencing. It will keep the meeting moving forward and keep everyone on the same page.
• Include everyone during the meeting: Give remote attendees and opportunity to contribute. Use a web conference to share what you are project in-room. If you draw something on the whiteboard, snap a picture and include it with the post-meeting notes.
• Audio checks: Make sure remote colleagues can hear everyone in the room speaking. If it’s a large in-room presentation, repeat the question back so the folks on the phone hear it before you answer. Also, be sure that in-room participants aren’t sitting right next to the phone while typing, eating or making other distracting noises.
• Check in: Throughout the meeting, you can check in with remote participants using web conferencing features, IM or verbally. These check-ins help everyone stay connected.
Tips for Managing Remote Employees:
• Accountability: Let the work speak for itself.
• Right people: Determine which roles are right for which kind of flexible arrangement.
• Goals: Link flexibility with business goals then set individual goals and outline plans with a plan to review and revise.
• Establish norms: Create communication protocols, determine schedules and set expectations.
• Technology: Ensure employees have access to all the technology tools (web and audio conferencing, IM, file sharing, etc.) needed to be successful.
• Opportunities to contribute: Give time and virtual space at meetings for everyone on the team.
• Create ways to connect: Build trust and group cohesiveness through team-building activities.
For more on working with remote colleagues, check out the recording from the webinar, Out of the Office: Tips and Best Practices for Working Remotely: