A guide to managing remote teams and building a successful remote work culture

The ability to quickly implement effective processes and leverage cloud collaboration software is what will separate the winners from the losers.

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Part 1: The case for adopting a remote working policy

Growth of an interconnected, global economy

With new advances in communication technology, remote work has become an accepted practice in many businesses, both around the world and in the U.S. But remote work is not just a trend – it’s changing how the global workspace operates. 

The new digital age

The idea of remote work has been around for a while, but only recently has technology allowed these possibilities to be considered. Thanks to cloud software and other programs, employees can successfully complete projects without being in the same office or even the same country. For example, helpful technology such as video conferencing allows out-of-office workers to see and speak to each other in real time. These new and easy-to-access programs make collaboration easier and more effective than before. 

Changing family dynamics

The recent change in family dynamics is another reason we're seeing a growing remote workforce. The norm has shifted from one parent working to two working parents, with a rise in single-parent households. Working at home allows families to maintain their income while raising children. With increased control over their schedules, talented employees don’t need to give up certain jobs to adjust to their family’s schedules. According to a survey by OWL Labs, 91% of respondents stated that the biggest reason they decided to work remotely was for a better work-life balance.

Travel as a priority

Travel has now emerged as one of the top priorities among younger generations. Thanks to the rise of technology, traveling from city to city is more accessible and affordable than ever. Many individuals in the Millennial and Generation Z generations are living, working, and studying all across the U.S. and in all parts of the world. This means that employers who want to retain their best talent are making changes to corporate policies. Because of these changes in how we work, remote has become an accepted practice in many businesses, both in the U.S. and globally.

Evolution of video conferencing and communication tools

Although many employers have embraced the remote work movement, others feel unprepared. With some help from video conferencing and communication tools, companies can help make workers more efficient than ever. Video conferencing is changing the way business is done by enabling effortless communication across large distances and time zones. 

Video conferencing – where we were

We’ve come a long way when it comes to video communications. Years ago, a video conference required full-time IT professionals and dedicated hardware. Remember buffering? Buffering caused participants to freeze up on the screen or deliver out of sync audio. And since the cost of video was high, it was only used by large enterprises and professionals at the C-Suite level. When the first video conferencing software platforms were developed, we got a glimpse into what this technology can really do.

Video conferencing – where we are now

Video conferencing now allows two or more people to communicate in real-time without being in the same location. Not only do participants get to see one another during the call, but they can also share data and information, such as documents or a presentation. Some platforms also allow users to record the content of the call for later viewing. This means team members who were not present at the time of the conference can review the feed at their own convenience.

Video conferencing

Video saves on travel and other expenses

It costs time and money to travel and meet people. With video conferencing, managers can organise and hold meetings within the hour. The only expenses are the cost of the software. Participants only need access to the technology at the chosen time. Once meetings are free from travel restrictions, they can also be organised more often. Remote teams can meet every day or several times a day if needed. Workers in different locations can brainstorm ideas and work through problems together with ease.

Hire and train more efficiently with video

As companies grow, video conferencing makes recruiting and hiring much more effective. Applicants can interview with managers and potential colleagues to give everyone an idea of whether the candidate is a good fit for the team. Once hired, HR professionals can use these tools to onboard new employees and give information about company policies and procedures. 

HR departments may also use video conferencing to improve online training. As the global marketplace becomes more competitive, employees must be well informed to do their jobs efficiently. Video conferencing gives organisations the opportunity to provide education to employees regardless of where they are located.

Easy access to communication tools

It’s not just video conferencing that makes remote work less complicated than before. Integrated messaging apps are made to streamline projects and increase team productivity. Some platforms allow teams to schedule meetings, screen-share, and instant message at the same time. Project managers especially benefit since these tools keep everyone connected and focused on the tasks at hand. With all of these options available, and the ability to access the internet from nearly anywhere, it’s no wonder that more people are turning to remote work.

Evolution of virtual collaboration tools

Change is happening at a faster rate than ever before, and businesses are gradually making the shift towards a collaborative workplace. Unlike previous ways of communicating, collaboration tools don’t require workers to be in the same office or city. Collaboration software is now being developed for all platforms and devices, including smartphones, to meet business needs. Teams can hustle more with less stress. 

Collaboration tools – where we were

The idea of virtual collaboration was less likely to work back when the technology was too expensive or difficult to implement. In a traditional office, workers were limited to paper-based documents and email attachments. Communication between coworkers and customers were only conducted via face-to-face, telephone, or email. Even though email is a handy tool, many emails are received by employees who are only loosely associated with a project. This means that emails gathering in an inbox can quickly become white noise. 

Collaboration tools – where we are now 

Today, companies have access to a suite of tools so employees can share and collaborate in real-time. Instead of emailing or sending documents back and forth, collaboration software tools come with simplified work systems, so people can exchange data from anywhere. When a manager needs a quick response, instant messaging is often much faster than email. In fact, employees using IM as part of their internal communications often solve problems faster and speed up processes.

Document collaboration tools

Companies looking to improve workflows usually start with document collaboration tools. In the past, businesses had to deal with paper trails and bulky file cabinets that took up space in the office. Instead, workers can view and make changes to documents online and in real-time. Although we will dive into the details of document collaboration later on, employees can utilise these platforms because they don’t require hard copies or paper. Remote works can also access the documents 24/7 on their laptops or smartphones – wherever they have an internet connection. 

Visual collaboration tools

Humans are visual learners, so it’s not surprising to find out that visual collaboration tools are gaining major traction among remote companies. Before, certain visuals could only be presented in person. Digital screen sharing now allows users to project visual aids such as photos or video clips from anywhere in the world. When certain tasks require fast feedback, remote workers won’t be left behind. Visual collaboration can help speed up the process. This can help businesses be more productive and add value to their bottom line. 

Growth of work from home companies

Remote work wasn’t always possible before. It has only just emerged as a feasible option for growing and established companies. But in just a short time, more and more executives are seeing the advantages. Big technology companies, including Amazon, have all proven that it's possible to sustain success with a remote setup.

Even Amazon is on board

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Amazon employs nearly 750,000 people worldwide and continues to grow each year. Amazon is currently one of the highest-valued retailers in America. This giant is one of many big enterprises that have chosen to embrace remote work for financial and organisational reasons. Openings for remote jobs at Amazon include systems engineers, cloud support associates, and visual designers.

Amazon fulfillment centers in the US

One of the reasons Amazon benefits from a remote workforce is flexibility. Their customer service schedules differ based on location and time of year.  This means that Amazon can add remote workers during busy seasons to maintain enough staff for covering peak hours. Not only that, but Amazon values workers with flexible schedules who can operate at different times. 

Although Amazon is based in Seattle, only a small percentage of employees work in the state of Washington. It has a wide network of warehouses and retail operations spread across the globe. This means it can hire and retain candidates from nearly any location, gaining access to a larger pool of talent and resources. Not only that, but it’s more cost-effective since salary expectations are skyrocketing in certain areas. Remote workers allow Amazon to tap into less inflated markets.

The push for remote employees

Today’s workers simply want more flexibility. It used to be that employees punched in and worked at their desks all day, but ultimately times have changed. Remote work policies are popular among people who want an improved work-life balance and to spend more time with their families. Cutting out the commute can be a huge morale booster and time saver. Employees will also spend less money on gas or public transportation. And for people who don’t want to be burdened by office distractions, having a controlled and separate environment may be the key to better productivity. 

Virtual assistant jobs

Virtual assistants are trained professionals who provide administrative support for businesses. They can carry out a variety of tasks for clients, including working on company projects and campaigns. When building and growing a business is a difficult task, virtual assistants can offer their services from their own premises. These home-based assistants can help with essential tasks such as managing your calendar, booking travel, or performing financial services such as invoicing and reconciliations. 

With all of these conveniences, the virtual assistant job market has grown exponentially in just a short amount of time. This is because there is a cost benefit of hiring a remote assistant versus a full-time staff member. Executives won’t have to provide an office, desk, or computer since they come with their own. And while many employers believe that their workforce would be too distracted at home, virtual assistants have their own tools to get the job done quickly. Since they’re self-employed, their number-one priority is their quality of work.

Increased demand for co-working spaces and digital workplaces

Because of the many diverse ways people collaborate online, there has been an increased demand for spaces to get things done. Co-working spaces, or digital workplaces, offer a wealth of advantages for self-starters. This includes increased productivity and positive networking opportunities. In addition to these benefits, built-in amenities like high-speed internet eliminate overhead costs. 

What is a digital workplace?

A co-working space is a physical place such as an office where employees can meet and work independently. Also called a co-working space, these places offer many office-like amenities such as desks, computers, and private meeting rooms. Occupants can also take advantage of a shared kitchen space and break rooms. Most co-working business models are membership-based, so in exchange for a monthly fee, workers can come and go as they please. They are also free to use the amenities as often as they like.

Business professionals are often faced with the choice between working from home and joining a co-working space. Between kids, pets, and household chores, staying productive at home can be a challenging task. Others find that working in a coffee shop or cafe can be just as distracting. People who tend to work better in a professional environment may want to invest in a co-working space. Workers can pop in for the day, rent an hourly conference room, or set up a meeting with a local business partner.

The benefits of co-working spaces

Not all remote employees have access to the office resources needed to complete a job. This is where a co-working space can fill in the gaps. These offices are full of amenities that make work easier with internet access, printers, landlines, and presentation tools. Some memberships go the extra mile by offering mailbox services so remote workers can have a professional address. These offices are a great cost-savings solution for individuals who would otherwise need to purchase these supplies and services separately. 

Co-working space

Today, there are many co-working memberships with multiple locations across a region. This means members can choose where they work based on their schedule. If employees need to meet an important client, a co-working space is usually the best option. These spaces may have booking software that makes reserving a meeting room quick and easy. All a person needs to do is open the co-working app from their smartphone. Depending on where they live and work, this can be a real convenience. 

Co-working as a community 

In a co-working space, members may find themselves in the same room as a software engineer, SEO specialist, or social media manager. Instead of working home alone, remote workers have the unique opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people on a daily basis. Since most co-working spaces have both private offices and an open floor plan, members can choose to work independently or with other like-minded people on a project. With an atmosphere of close collaboration, each co-working space feels more like a close-knit community than an office. 

Events and learning opportunities 

Co-working spaces tend to be hubs for entrepreneurs, startup companies, and creative professionals alike. Beyond offering the resources needed to be successful in their jobs, co-working communities often host events and educational opportunities that aren’t available anywhere else. This includes panel discussions, workshops, seminars, and more. These optional events can help members improve their own skills and solve industry problems while making them more successful in their careers. 

Better access to a global workforce for companies

Instead of having to recruit from a local region, employers now have access to a global market of skilled workers. And they’re all available online. Hiring remotely allows businesses to expand into a much larger talent pool – with no limits on borders. 

Become more globally-focused

In an age where businesses need to compete in the global marketplace, employees are dealing with foreign clients, partners, and suppliers. Executives are also required to be more global in the way they think and work. This changing dynamic means that hiring managers are on the lookout for talented candidates who have an international perspective. Businesses can benefit from hiring remote employees who work abroad, as they bring a whole new set of skills to the table. By hiring internationally, companies can take advantage of their knowledge and experience.

Work across multiple time zones at once

Instead of hiring in-house employees to work in shifts, companies can create a 24/7 workforce. This is especially beneficial for larger enterprises with around-the-clock customer service departments. By having people work across different time zones, clients can get the help they need at any hour of the day. Such availability sets businesses apart in customer service and technical support. Executives can refocus their priorities into other more crucial areas. 

Working across time zones

Global teams are a game-changer when companies are ready to expand. As businesses grow, introducing new products and services, they may find themselves with an increasing number of support requests. When trying to fill spots on a team, there may not be enough local agents available. To help with these new demands, businesses can hire remotely. These employees can fill in spots and continue to offer excellent customer support from across the globe. 

Improve workplace diversity

Diversity in the workplace occurs when employers are open to hiring from all different backgrounds, regardless of race or culture. Having a diverse team can help businesses secure their place in the global marketplace. A group of people with diverse skills and experiences are more likely to look at problems from a fresh perspective and offer creative solutions. This kind of innovation can take businesses to new heights.

Diverse companies also win when it comes to their number of actively engaged employees. This is because building a team of people with different perspectives motivate members to learn from each other and broaden their competencies. Executives can continue to promote ongoing learning by encouraging team members to make their own recommendations for efficiency. Remote workers who learn to solve problems quickly can work through projects in less time. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone. 

Hire natives in other languages

When companies expand their locations to other parts of the world, it’s important to learn the needs of the people in these areas. Having bilingual employees can make this process much simpler. They allow businesses to understand the local market and help with globalisation efforts. Employees can also review copy and spot linguistic errors that may impede a global client from trusting their brand. These workers can be an invaluable resource in more ways than one. 

Expertise is no longer limited by geography 

As we all know, talented people can be found anywhere. Executives can leverage the skills of remote business consultants from all parts of the world to unlock innovation and move their company forward. 

What does a remote consultant do? 

After working in the same industry for years, it’s easy to overlook issues or get caught up in day-to-day operations. A consultant is a neutral third-party who can provide companies with an outside perspective about where they can improve. The right expert can spot any difficulties that may be holding an organisation back and offer resources for moving forward. A great consultant will learn about a company’s main goals and create a clear path to achieve them. 

Business leaders can bring in consultants who specialise in a particular field, such as marketing, IT, accounting, and legal. Since talented industry experts are not always found within city limits, executives often search for the consultants they need on a remote basis. The freedom to select these contractors from anywhere means employers have access to more diversity in terms of ideas, mindsets, and problem-solving skills.

Why businesses hire remote consultants

When looking to onboard a third-party expert, some companies have trouble choosing between remote and on-site consultants. Although having employees on-site comes with its own benefits, high-level consultants may not always be available during the traditional 9 to 5. With the flexibility of video conferencing and other online collaboration tools, remote experts can jump on a call from almost anywhere. Business owners have the ability to connect in just a matter of minutes. 

Consultants can perform virtually any task that a company requires. They may troubleshoot problems, brainstorm new ideas, and help executives make important decisions quickly. As a result, organisations can reduce the amount of time spent in meetings or figuring things out on their own. Since these experts perform these tasks off-site, they’re also not interrupted by the day-to-day distractions of the office. Contractors with the ability to work from anywhere simply get more accomplished. 

Saving resources with remote expertise

Full-time or in-house employees are a considerable investment, especially when businesses factor in the cost of recruitment, benefits, and salary. What happens if that employee doesn’t work out? Companies will have lost these resources only to start all over again. Hiring a dedicated consultant helps organisations save big money in the long run since they can work on an as-needed or contractual basis. If companies already have the right communications software in place, there is no need for additional costs or expenses. 

Although there are upfront costs to hiring a remote consultant, the improved efficiency of the business will make it worth every dollar. Just like virtual assistants, remote consultants earn their living by making companies more productive and profitable. They use their own unique experiences, as well as modern tools and technology, to improve and streamline processes no matter their location. Business leaders can enable this kind of innovation across locations and time zones to achieve their business goals.

Increase competition for talent

Access to talent is a growing concern for many organisations. Whether it’s finding candidates with the right expertise or making sure they stay with the company, the ability to support remote workers makes all the difference.

Widen the talent pool

Recruiters face big challenges when hiring for jobs in small cities. When the population is small, so is the talent pool. Organisations settle for candidates who live within driving distance may be spending large amounts of time and resources on potentially unqualified workers. Instead, remote work allows hiring managers to recruit from anywhere. The freedom to select workers outside of their city means that employers have greater chances to find and retain the talent they need. By tapping into larger areas, companies can embrace the variety of candidates that come their way.

It’s already been established that a diverse workforce can help improve a company’s bottom line. Although hiring international employees is not new, it has grown more prevalent in recent years. When businesses look for talent all over the world, they increase the possibility of finding top employees who bring value to their business. Key applicants with the right leadership, creativity, and communication skills can make a real difference in workplace culture. Building a workplace with many skill sets will help companies improve their reputation and eventually become an employer of choice. 

Boost talent attraction 

Having a team of motivated and skilled employees is the cornerstone of any successful company. But when job seekers have more options than ever before, it is important to provide the right incentives. Talented employees value the ability to work when and where they want, even if it’s across the country. Organisations can attract global recruits with a flexible work from home arrangement. 71% of respondents in a recent survey on remote work agree that the ability to work remotely is the deciding factor in picking one employer over another in their next job. 

It’s natural to want the most talented employees to be in-house, but not everyone is interested in relocation. In some situations, applicants cannot relocate due to the high cost of living or family obligations. Even a good relocation reimbursement program may not be enough to convince them to pull up their roots. Instead of paying to relocate an employee and their family, companies can save on these costs and instead hire them as a remote worker. This is a great opportunity for organisations to show their flexibility when recruiting and retaining top talent.

Close the skill gaps

The nature of work is now changing due to new and emerging technologies. This means that the skills employers value most are changing as well. For example, the demand for AI-related roles has doubled over the last three years, according to Indeed. As a result, companies struggle to find the quality talent they need to compete in the marketplace. By not limiting their hiring practices to geography, enterprises can recruit and hire people to fill in these gaps as they happen in real-time. 

Rise of the freelancer and the gig economy

Everyone seems to be talking about the rise of the gig economy. The term may seem new, but the concept has been around for ages. Contractors and freelancers are transforming the way people view the traditional workplace. Companies can take advantage of the benefits with the right innovative policies and programs. 

What is the gig economy? 

In a gig economy, independent contractors work on individual jobs, or gigs, instead of having a traditional 9-5 job with a single company. Also called the freelance economy or agile workforce, the gig economy usually begins when contractors and clients connect together through an online platform. Great examples include Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates, and TaskRabbit. These jobs can involve anything from grocery delivery to writing advanced code. 

The business relationship between freelancers and clients are usually defined beforehand. Contractors work for a set amount of hours or on a per-project basis. Once the task is finished, they can continue with another task at the same company, or move on to the next gig. Freelancers may have multiple projects to create a full-time job for themselves or use their position as an opportunity to earn extra cash on the weekends. 

Who are gig workers?

Freelancers, temporary workers, and contractors all play an important role in the gig economy. This is why it can be hard to pin down who participates in this kind of work. Although gig employees are more likely to be young, such as students and fresh graduates, non-traditional workers can include adults who support families. Groups like these desire more flexibility and a better work-life balance, which is why the gig economy can be so appealing. Many retired individuals may also seek contract work to supplement a limited income. 

One of the best parts about the gig economy is that projects can be completed by freelancers from anywhere in the world. This includes professional jobs such as writing, translating, web design and development, programming, and more. Other tasks are designed to help streamline a process, such as data entry. Gig economy workers don’t receive the benefits of full-time employment, including access to health insurance or retirement investments in the U.S. However, contractors may take advantage of certain tax benefits and reimbursements for supplies and travel. 

Benefits for workers 

The benefits of the gig economy are obvious for workers. Freelancers can earn or supplement an income on their own terms. When a contractor isn’t committed to full-time employment, they have greater control over their work schedules and assignments in a way that doesn’t interfere with their personal commitments. Skilled freelancers also have more control over their career by choosing the projects they want to participate in. This enables them to skip the corporate ladder and secure higher-level jobs with more pay as they build experience.

Benefits for companies

The gig economy doesn’t just benefit workers. Organisations can leverage the skills of professionals without the costs of hiring full-time staff. Gig workers can easily take on short-term projects that would otherwise be too time-consuming for a full-time staffer with other obligations. This means that companies can scale their workforce to quickly meet business demands without investing in additional office space or equipment. It becomes possible to meet the goals and demands of the market while still keeping costs low.

Reduction in overhead & cost benefits for the employees

When people talk about the advantages of working remotely, they usually focus on how it helps employees. After all, spending less time commuting and more time at home would be a dream scenario for office workers. Employers can benefit much from these programs too. Organisations can see the savings in operational costs, reduced office resources, and more. 

Reduce office space

There was a time when a big, luxurious office meant your company was doing well. Now, renting a large commercial space may be a waste of valuable funds and resources. Depending on where the company is based, organisations could be spending most of their yearly budget in square footage. Even less expensive cities require companies to shell out thousands of dollars per year. When businesses invest in remote workers, they reduce their need for office space and the overhead that comes with it. 

Remember that renting an office with in-house employees comes with a host of other bills. Employers have to think about electricity and water, office supplies, furniture, coffee and snacks, and repairs. Since employees who work from home usually connect with co-workers and managers through their own devices, the overhead costs drop considerably. The only overhead costs include the software and tools that are used to communicate. 

Reduce employee absences

Most employers offer paid time off (PTO) for workers. Whether it’s personal days or sick leave, this time is set aside for issues such as family emergencies or trips to the doctor. When employees spend time away from their job, this may result in loss of productivity. Instead, the remote workforce model gives people the opportunity to balance life and work more easily. A person could work in the morning, attend a parent teacher conference, then return home to finish their projects. This can be done without requesting the entire afternoon off. With this kind of flexibility, workers won’t need to request PTO as often. 

Reduce employee turnover

It takes a lot of resources to hire and train new employees. Recruitment fees, background checks, and assessments all factor into the cost. Every time a company loses a valued employee, important projects also come to a halt. Human Resources groups are always looking for better ways to recruit and retain talent to reduce employee turnover as much as possible. Remote working opportunities are now being offered as a desirable perk. Not only does this attract high-performing workers, but it also improves employee loyalty and retention. 

Employee retention is not just about having a better work life balance. Sometimes, workers quit their jobs out of convenience. Commuting, for instance, costs employees quite a bit of money each year. People need to factor in the cost of gas, car maintenance, or public transportation. So if a team member decides to move to a new area and they are not willing to commute the extra distance, they are very likely to leave their position. They have little reason to change jobs when they have the freedom to work from anywhere. 

Part 2: Challenges business will face

The changing definition of “work”

Everyone views work differently. Today, work is less about earning a paycheck and more about finding a sense of purpose. People are also considering the impact work has on their communities. Organisations need to consider how positions can bring meaning to a worker’s life and offer policies that benefit them.

How different generations view work

Each generation has a different way of approaching work. Since their parents lived through the Great Depression, Baby Boomers were raised to value hard work. Once they took jobs after college, they stayed there for most of their careers. They’re usually known for employer loyalty and prioritizing jobs over their personal lives. Generation X are the children of Baby Boomers. Unlike their parents, they are less likely to stay in one career path and will consider making a career change if they aren’t happy with their situation. They don’t mind working long hours as long as organisations recognize their contribution. 

Much like Generation X, Millennials don’t mind switching jobs or even careers throughout their lifetime. However, they tend to value flexibility and work-life balance above the other generations. Although work-life balance is not the exclusive priority of Millennials, they have a strong desire to perform on their terms. This sometimes means making their own schedules. Millennials are also likely to seek companies that align with their personal beliefs and goals. Employment under organisations that serve an essential purpose allows them to feel a greater connection with their work.

Shifting 9-5 workplace

Since values change from generation to generation, organisations need to stay up to date on what employees want to stay productive. This helps businesses make the necessary adjustments to retain talent and attract recruits. As Millenials are spearheading change in the workplace, the 9-5 workday may soon reach a tipping point. Between new technology and the growing desire for flexibility, more companies are implementing remote work arrangements instead of sticking to traditional hours.

Remote employees and contractors define the workplace as a home office, co-working space, or coffee shop. Workers at international companies are used to communicating with teams across different time zones. Even employees with an assigned office space have shifted gears by working on the road. All of these factors and more change the definition of a traditional workday. Instead of a 9-5, some people prefer to complete projects in the early morning or in the middle of the night. It is critical for employers to adapt to this changing mindset.

Workplace benefits

Workplace flexibility is just one part of the broader employee experience. It’s up to employers to prioritize the things that matter most to workers. Highly engaged employees are more committed and contribute innovative ideas to move the company forward.

Wellness programs 

Health care costs are a big expense, so organisations are motivated to keep employees healthy. This is where corporate wellness programs come in. These can include anything from providing an on-site gym or yoga class to wearable activity trackers. Although these programs started as perks, they started receiving a lot of attention as a prominent workplace trend. 

Successful wellness programs increase good behaviours such as routine exercise and eating nutritious foods. Group activities like weight loss challenges or walking meetings can also connect employees to each other and the company. As we begin to shift towards a remote workforce, companies will need to find additional ways to motivate and encourage employees through wellness. 

Childcare 

Child care benefits are becoming a significant factor for new parents entering the workforce. Jobs that offer these benefits have shown to lower turnover rates when compared to other companies. Perks such as on-site daycare allows workers to believe that the organisation they work for is supportive of their work-life balance. Other examples include paid maternity leave or flexible spending accounts toward daycare expenses. 

With childcare options, employees are less likely to leave their position or pursue other opportunities. Productivity also increases when parents are not worried about the safety of their children during the workday. When organisations begin to develop their remote community, employers can ensure that their employees have adequate child care to prevent declines in job performance and engagement.

Vacation policies 

A traditional vacation policy allows employees to accrue paid time off throughout the year. If a worker leaves the company before using vacation days, they’re normally paid for the unused time. Vacation time allows employees to invest in their personal lives while still getting a paycheck. In the U.S., there’s no federal requirement for organisations to offer PTO for full-time or part-time employees, although this varies by state. 

In this current market, employers must offer some form of vacation policy as a recruiting and retention tool. Time and again, research shows that when companies invest in their employees, they tend to thrive. To accommodate the growing remote workforce, progressive companies must now evolve their vacation policies to suit their workers’ needs better. These practices work exceptionally well with the younger generation, who value time off more than previous generations. 

Processes will quickly become outdated 

The transition from in-house employees to remote workers means that some processes will inevitably become outdated. This means that accommodating remote employees may prove to be a challenge. But with some strategic planning and help from top software, organisations can streamline the process. 

Onboarding and training 

The goal of onboarding is to allow new hires to get used to their new environment so they can work effectively in their roles. As more organisations hire remote employees, they face the challenge of creating a new process that accomplishes this goal successfully. Employees in different locations don’t have the advantage of meeting team members or managers in person. A disjointed experience means that workers do not feel connected to the company’s mission or vision. 

Digitizing the onboarding process can make things easier. Simple tools such as electronic signatures allow workers to complete paperwork before their first day. Human Resources can use email or Instant Messaging to send documents like benefit options or the company handbook. Special onboarding software can collect all the information needed and provide the necessary employment details. Each organisation is unique in its practices and requirements, so the initial setup may take some time and effort. 

Sick days 

Many organisations provide employees with a limited number of sick days each year. This means employees can take off for dentist and doctor appointments without penalties. They may also ask for sick days due to illnesses for themselves or their children. When employees work in-house, coming into the office means infecting others, which means they need to stay home. Although remote workers have the ability to push through projects when they’re sick, they still need time off to rest and recuperate. This is why employers will need a new flexible policy in place for remote workers. 

Even though there is no federal law in the U.S. requiring paid sick leave, most full-time workers simply expect some form of paid sick leave as part of their benefits package. It’s an important asset for retaining valuable workers and making the business more attractive for prospective talent. Flexible policies work especially well for companies whose work takes place outside of a traditional office setting. For instance, organisations can empower remote employees by recognizing mental health days as a valid use of sick leave. Mental health days allow workers to take time off specifically to relieve stress and nurture their emotional health. 

Reliable Wi-Fi and VPNs

Your organisation may have employees all across the country. Even if it doesn’t, it’s likely that workers have taken their laptops home or to a local coffee shop to get things done. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage of this mobility to gain access to private networks. There are security measures businesses can take to reduce the risk of a data breach while still allowing for remote workers. Employers can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). 

VPNs are known to establish secure connections between a network and the many devices used by remote employees. The data sent back and forth is protected by security protocols to help keep the information private and secure. Even if a hacker intercepts the data, it is encrypted, so they won’t be able to use it. This is especially useful if someone accesses the network using public Wi-Fi on the road. Employees can use laptops, desktops, and smartphones without worry. 

Remote employees often have access to sensitive data, such as contact information or credit card numbers. It’s the responsibility of the employee to handle this data with the best protection possible. If employees do not understand what a VPN entails, it is critical to make sure they are informed of the benefits and know how to access the network. Companies without a dedicated IT department will need to set up secure VPNs themselves, but it’s not as difficult as some may believe. 

Team bonding may become more difficult 

One of the best things about remote work is the freedom to perform from anywhere. However, being part of a distributed team does come with some personal challenges. Having a process for team building activities can quickly engage colleagues and make introductions more personal. 

Building trust between coworkers 

When employees are separated by thousands of miles, building trust can be a unique challenge. Without human connections, people don’t feel like they’re part of a team. It’s critical to have a workforce that comes together and collaborates, no matter what time zone they’re in. This is why company leaders and managers should put in an effort to create a process that increases team bonding. Organisations can’t always give up the time or resources for retreats, but there are other ways to weave team building into the workweek. 

During virtual meetings, teams usually ask questions, receive updates, and share files back and forth. Since virtual teams often meet quickly and then get back to work, it’s easy to develop silos. Instead, employers should designate time at either the beginning or end of an online meeting for team building. Other managers may want to schedule a separate meeting focused on team building each week. No matter the timing, these activities are meant to bond people together so they can work more cooperatively and accomplish company goals. 

It is a leader’s responsibility to foster a culture of trust and communication in an organisation. Not doing so may cause a decline in productivity and performance. Since remote workers are essential members of a company, they should have equal opportunities for personal development and social interaction. Team building can help break down walls and get people to share a little more about themselves. Luckily, these activities can be performed on the same digital communication tools used for daily work. 

How to replace “water cooler” talk 

No business can thrive without a strong foundation of employee engagement. Workers need to feel comfortable and confident with not only their manager, but also their colleagues. This is why part of a normal office culture revolves around the water cooler, where people can gather around socialize on their own terms. Topics may include a popular television show or movie, current events, or other lighthearted discussions. When working remotely, employees don’t usually have this same level of engagement. 

It’s normal for team dynamics to change with each new company hire. People who are naturally shy or used to working independently may struggle at first. Sometimes, problems arise due to a difference in personalities and interests. If employees only have work-related conversations with each other, these issues can only cause more problems down the line. Water cooler talk is an outlet for individuals to relax and break the ice to foster better connections. This leads to improved collaboration and increased productivity in the workplace. 

To replace the traditional water cooler, management should foster a culture in which employees are encouraged to reach out and chat with each other. Using an instant messaging platform is one of the most effective ways to bring people together and make sure they feel heard. Just like there are dedicated chats for different departments or team projects, there can also be separate chats for small talk. Individuals can share photos, talk about their weekends, and get to know each other better through the platform. 

Feelings of loneliness 

Loneliness is one of the most significant challenges facing new remote workers today. The physical separation causes people to feel like they have fewer friends or confidantes at work. Feelings of isolation may lead to poor physical or emotional health, which is bad for both the employee and the organisation they work for. When people feel isolated, they are less likely to make positive contributions to the team. Strengthening bonds between remote team members and in-house employees can fight these negative impacts and more. 

Loneliness while working from home

Many people don’t realize that a large part of their social circle revolves around their co-workers. This is because they spend most of their day with teammates and colleagues. Sometimes, employees shifting to remote offices for the first time lack the social support they need. It may eventually lead to problems with communication and cooperation. While it’s true that employees should make their own efforts to stay engaged, there are solutions companies can put into place to make sure teams feel motivated and happy. 

When it isn’t possible for remote employees to travel for regular in-person collaboration, companies can use technology to create virtual hangouts. Whether this takes the form of a weekly check-in or video chat, these tools make it easy to make time for relationship building. Some progressive companies are taking even bigger steps to help workers fight feelings of isolation. Their perks include a monthly stipend that covers the cost of a membership at a co-working space. This benefit could make teams more productive while they spend time in a social environment.

Redefining work-life balance 

With the ability to work from any location, remote employees can create a flexible schedule to achieve a better work-life balance. People who work non-traditional hours, however, may feel pressured to spend more time on the job than they otherwise would in the office. According to Buffer, 22% of remote employees struggle with unplugging after work. Without a set schedule or coworkers to take frequent breaks, remote employees may find themselves working too many hours and not having enough free time. 

Creating a healthy separation of work and home

Work-life balance is a popular term used to describe how people spend their time between personal and professional responsibilities. With a good work-life balance, workers know how to allocate their time so they can switch seamlessly between their job, family, friends, hobbies, and social events. Those who don’t know how to manage this balance may find themselves less satisfied with their personal lives and more stressed at work. Employees will need to learn to add structure to their day so they can be productive and make time for every task. 

Work from home

When the living room turns into an office (and vice-versa), the lines between work and personal tasks become blurred. It may be tempting to start household chores during the day or answer emails after dinner, but this can quickly wreak havoc on productivity. Instead of getting more work done, remote employees find that it takes longer to complete projects. For this reason, it is critical to separate work and personal tasks to lead a more balanced life. Employers can help set these boundaries by establishing flexible office hours or schedule frequent check-ins to keep people focused. 

Unplugging

Since working remotely means working outside the office, it can be difficult to know when to disconnect. While most employees spend hours staring at a computer, much of our leisure time is also spent in front of screens. People use smartphones and laptops to read, watch television, or connect with others on social media. Being able to unplug at the end of the day is critical when learning to adopt the remote lifestyle. 

Many employees feel stressed about unplugging because they feel an obligation to respond to after-hours messages right away. When personal desktops and smartphones receive work notifications after hours, employees are tempted to click on the email or instant message. Managers and leaders can take this pressure off by establishing clear and reasonable expectations for responding to emails and other communications. 

Remember that unplugging doesn’t just happen after hours. Employees need to take breaks throughout the workday, too. When workers get to disengage from work with a short break, they can give themselves time to boost energy levels by preventing fatigue. Taking the occasional break can also improve a person’s health and productivity. These opportunities allow people to eat, rest their eyes, and attend to personal matters before returning to the desk with a fresh perspective. 

Distractions 

To a degree, working outside the office can help people take control of their work environment. With no talkative coworkers or long commutes, employees can complete projects faster and more efficiently. Of course, this does come with some drawbacks. Interruptions from family members, childcare needs, and housework all cause individuals to procrastinate and postpone the work they need to do. These distractions can put certain tasks in jeopardy

Let’s take a look at a specific example. Richard, Happeo's SEM Manager, works remotely out of Barcelona, Spain. To have a better work-life balance, he has to set clear boundaries between his career and personal life. Having a dedicated space to work and creating a detailed calendar with breaks adds structure to his day and prevents unwanted distractions. Limiting social media and web surfing also helps with staying on task. 

Some people have the most amount of focus early in the morning, while others reach their peak of productivity in the afternoon or night. Since one of the benefits of remote work is having a flexible schedule, employees can choose to perform during their most distraction-free hours of the day. Others prefer to block out distractions by finding a cafe or co-working space to complete daily tasks. This change of scenery may physically remove people from interruptions that usually derail their time.

Working across time zones 

As companies embrace remote work, one of the biggest challenges they might face is working across different time zones. Responses may come in later than expected, or language barriers can prevent colleagues from collaborating well together. That’s why team leaders and managers must plan ahead and take steps to alleviate these problems before they begin. 

What happens when the team members from Australia, London, and San Francisco need to talk? 

When teams are located globally, project managers work with people in different countries and cities, all of which have their own time zones, work calendars, and national holidays. It can become a challenge to keep track of the time in all of these other locations. For example, if someone is asleep or won’t be online for hours, the project will need to wait until that team member logs in to answer questions or address someone's needs. 

So what happens when teams across Australia, London, and San Francisco need to talk? Luckily, there are tools that can maintain and take care of scheduling issues. Some software platforms are designed to identify the best times for different people to collaborate. Organisations can ensure that everyone has access to the program and can make adjustments as personal schedules change. Once the platform discovers the best times for teams to meet, managers can pencil in all-team meetings, so everyone stays on the same page. 

Cross-cultural sensitivity 

As organisations open the global talent pool, people may encounter language and cultural barriers. Unfortunately, these barriers often lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings. Even employees who speak the same language may still notice cultural differences. This includes local slang and phrases specific to some areas of the world. An effective leader should take steps to engage their team and clearly articulate company processes and goals to overcome this difficulty. 

As part of a team-building exercise, remote employees can share insights about their cultures and geographic regions. This practice helps reduce misunderstandings and strengthens bonds among team members. If some colleagues find themselves relating better to one group over another, organisations should reach out and make a conscious effort to invest in virtual team building. 

Businesses with on-site employees should also include remote team members in all communications and company meetings. The best way to establish a strong remote culture between international and in-house employees is to develop excellent professional and social relationships. Companies with inclusive environments benefit from workplace diversity by welcoming different perspectives and ways of problem-solving. Each remote employee should feel comfortable sharing their unique viewpoints. Having a sense of belonging empowers individuals to contribute and engage with others. 

Communication gaps 

Communication is essential for success, and yet it is one of the greatest hardships with distributed teams. When there are cultural differences, being able to read facial expressions or body language can help express an idea. But when employees are thousands of miles apart, this is not always feasible. Again, many online tools can help, but what are the best mediums for remote team communication? And do different conversations require different means of communication? 

Sometimes, there are too many ways to communicate with remote workers. Email, instant message, phone, and video are all used in a remote setting, but workers across different cultures do not always know which is best for their situation. If the right channel is not chosen, it is possible for their message to be unseen, misunderstood, or put on the backburner. Leadership teams should define situations that require a specific method of communication to avoid these kinds of issues before they occur. 

Sometimes text or instant messaging can be limiting. Video meeting tools are great for long discussions or brainstorming, but can be time-consuming. Instead of sending messages back and forth in an email, it may be easier to hop on a call with a colleague. Whatever the preferred method of communication, employees will need to have some ground rules in place to keep conversations flowing smoothly. Additionally, people across different countries should have a healthy respect for time zones. This means avoiding meetings very early in the morning or too late at night.

Employer concerns 

It makes sense that employers would have some concerns about having distributed teams for the first time. Managers may worry about employees working and communicating less or mixing personal responsibilities with work. In reality, new data is showing how organisations and their employees can thrive in a remote work structure. 

Reduced employee engagement 

Remote work is almost always associated with reduced employee engagement. Although engagement can vary when it comes to in-house workers, remote teams are physically disconnected from others at the same company. A lack of engagement with peers and colleagues can lead to feelings of isolation, resulting in a decrease in productivity and performance. Being part of the team that has a supportive environment helps remote workers know that they are valued and have a positive impact on company growth.

To make employees feel more valued, organisations should implement processes that allow for more recognition and feedback. Regular check-ins through instant messaging or video are effective ways to acknowledge employees, but the biggest impact can be seen from honoring achievements and contributions. Whether an employee met a certain goal or celebrated a work anniversary, this recognition allows people to participate in company culture and become an official part of the team.

Another way to engage remote employees is through company surveys. Do employees feel that their efforts are appreciated and recognized? Are they satisfied with their roles and responsibilities? Do managers and supervisors communicate expectations clearly? The purpose of a survey is to encourage employees to speak up and provide new insight into company processes and policies. When remote workers feel part of the conversation, they can also offer solutions that ultimately benefit the organization.

Team leaders should keep in mind that surveys are useful, but only when employed on a regular basis. Businesses may use anonymous responses to assess how engaged employees are to their role and the company as a whole. However, managers should also realize that anonymity does not necessarily guarantee transparency. Employees may still feel apprehensive about their responses.

Reduced productivity 

When it comes to remote work, the most common concern among managers is that employees will simply work less. However, recent data doesn’t support that argument. A two-year study by Stanford University saw an impressive increase in productivity among people who worked from home. By the end of the study, many participants preferred working at home rather than at the office. In another survey of 5,500 professionals, 66% agreed that their productivity greatly improves when they are out of the office. 76% of the same group believes that there are fewer distractions at home. 

Of course, remote teams cannot be productive if the right expectations are not set. When beginning a new job or project, employees should be provided with everything they need in order to succeed. The more information that is provided, the easier it will is to keep everyone on task. Employees should know what is expected of them, what goals need to be met, and how to get it done within a reasonable timeframe. They should also know who to get in touch with if they have questions or concerns. 

Online project management software can easily coordinate projects for teams, allowing them to increase their productivity. Software helps leaders and organisations view the progress of each team member in real-time. Employees can collaborate, share information, and access important documents anytime they need them. This allows everyone to make sure projects are delivered on time. When deadlines aren’t met, managers can set up a meeting to see what might be going wrong and make adjustments as needed. 

Is the work being done? 

Employers fear that working from home can mean more distractions and fewer ways to communicate with employees, both of which lead to less productivity. As we have already seen, this is not always the case. Organizations need to overcome this mindset and explore new ways to manage and collaborate with teams to make sure the work is being done. This includes setting them up for success by offering efficient project management software and communications tools to complete their goals. 

It’s actually easier to measure the output of remote workers rather than in-house office staff. The reason is that remote work is focused on outcomes and not necessarily the hours spent on a project. Employers can use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure productivity and performance. With KPIs, employees can complete daily tasks with these goals in mind. For example, an employee working in the Sales department should measure how many leads they bring in each month or the number of sales generated, not how many hours they spent on the phone. KPIs are important to remote workers since they keep company goals at the front of their minds at all times.

Employee concerns 

Working remotely can be a dream for employees who want to skip the long morning commutes, but it does have its own set of challenges. Even when employees have the freedom to choose their own schedules, it also gives people the opportunity to work all the time. Burnout is just one of the problems employees face if the right routines and policies are not set in place. Learn about other common employee concerns here. 

Career mobility

Career mobility, also called job mobility, is what happens when an employee moves to a different position. Mobility can be upward or downward, so sometimes employees receive a promotion or career advancement while others decide to change their occupation altogether. There are many reasons people take advantage of career mobility, ranging from better salary and benefits to moving to a new city. 

Just a few generations ago, it was common for people to stay with the same employer for their entire career. Now workers have more options than ever. If organizations want to retain top talent, it’s better to offer career mobility options and promote from within rather than choosing an outside hire. If employees don’t see a clear path to advancement, they may become frustrated and look elsewhere for work. 

Working from home has many perks, but it’s easy to be forgotten. While in-house employees are seen on a daily basis, sitting at their desks and interacting with others, remote teams just aren’t as visible in the workplace. This means that getting a promotion can be more challenging, even if they work just as hard as other teams. 

Workers can solve career mobility by being proactive in their communications, even if their job doesn’t require them to speak to management that often. Individuals can achieve this by setting up regular phone calls or video chats where they can check in or provide helpful feedback. By demonstrating commitment and dedication to the job and doing quality work, remote workers have a chance to move up in their careers. 

Overworking 

Employees who successfully make the transition from in-person to remote may find that they are more efficient at home than they were in the office. But that transition isn’t always easy. Remote workers may feel pressured to overwork in order to appear more productive. With fewer boundaries between work and personal life, some workers feel as though they’re on call all the time. People who work nonstop are more prone to burnout. 

Burnout is the result of physical and emotional exhaustion, when employees reach a point of no longer being able to meet the demands of the job. It can affect any person at any age, but high-performers are more likely to experience burnout than other employees. Being aware of these potential issues, as well as taking on measures to prevent overworking, is key. Some signs of worker overworking include the inability to concentrate or difficulty sleeping at night. Others feel easily upset, angered, or isolated on the job. 

Remote workers should remember that overcommitting, or taking on too much, affects their quality of work. To avoid burnout, employees should establish daily habits and form boundaries to separate work from their personal lives. Taking frequent breaks and having a hard stop at the end of the day is a good place to start. Discuss expectations about availability with managers and agree on reasonable hours and project timelines. 

Loneliness 

We’ve already talked about how new technology allows remote employees to communicate with anyone from anywhere. But loneliness is a complicated concept that can’t be solved with a tool or application. A study from Cigna found that half of Americans regularly feel left out, which is double the number from years ago. Given that people are social by nature, workers should pay attention to these feelings and act when they feel too lonely on the job. 

People create their own communities in a number of ways, even if they’re not naturally the social type. Schedule face-to-face meetings, participate in social chats at work, and check-in with other colleagues every once in a while. Having a deeper connection with co-workers allows people to experience the same level of social interactions that they would in an office. 

Don’t stop at water-cooler talk. Stepping away from the computer and meeting with friends, engaging in hobbies, or being social outside of work is an important part of being healthy enough to do the job well. Taking social breaks gives people something to look forward to and prevents them from feeling disconnected while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Part 3: What can businesses do to adapt

While many organisations around the world already have robust remote work policies and systems in place, other companies feel left behind. The challenges of building a remote workforce include building brand new processes and procedures from scratch. Going remote after spending years in a physical office may completely reshape how business is run, but the effort is worth it. Here’s what companies can do to build a stronger foundation for remote workers.

Building new processes

Delegate a “remote work” representative

A designated remote work representative is the best way to acclimate new remote employees to their roles. This person would set up clear expectations about the job itself, including the full job description and the responsibilities that are expected of them. A remote work representative ensures teams have access to the communications tools and cloud platforms needed to get the job done. This also means informing employees about the business, their mission and values, and the product or service being offered. 

Whether teams are working in the office or outside of it, remote work representatives should set up quick introductions with different departments, so remote employees know exactly where to go for help. This may include Marketing, Sales, IT, Accounting, and of course, HR. No matter how comprehensive the onboarding process is, distributed teams may still have questions in the future. Remote employees want to know that they can contact the right person with any concerns. 

Upgrade security protocols 

When dispersed employees work in different cities, they rely heavily on technology for nearly everything. Since remote workers use home networks and personal devices to do their jobs, they may lack strong antivirus software, firewalls, and automatic backup tools. Organisations need to prevent malware from finding its way onto unsecured wifi networks and devices and collecting confidential information. IT teams need to find a way to regularly install updates, run antivirus scans, and block malicious activity on all company devices. 

To avoid unnecessary security breaches and the associated costs, businesses should create standard security protocols with employees. These policies can include a list of pre-approved applications and guidelines on how to keep home devices secure. As technologies continue to grow and change, these policies need to stay current as well. If there is an incident where a device has been compromised, employees should have a procedure in place for reporting it. 

Time tracking software

Although there is some debate about the use of time tracking software in an office setting, these programs have huge benefits for both companies and remote workers alike. Knowing the number of hours spent working productively means that remote teams are held accountable for their goals. Because of this, they are more likely to produce greater results on a regular basis. Independent workers also have a peace of mind knowing their work is being tracked and documented, so they don’t feel overworked.

Managing how people spend their time is not an easy task for any company. Automatic time tracking software may eliminate some of these difficulties. Organisations mainly use these applications to reveal where their resources are being spent so clients can be billed in an accurate and efficient manner.

To be clear, time tracking software is not a way to control how much time employees spend sitting at their desks. It is always better to hire the right people who are trusted to do their job, instead of having a workforce that needs to be controlled. Remote teams who feel trusted and respected are always more productive.

Increase distance learning and training budgets 

Online learning is the best way to train employees on new policies or technologies in the workplace. Training programs also allow remote workers to refine their skills and make improvements on the job regardless of their location. Whether companies choose live streams, pre-recorded videos, a series of documents, or a combination of these efforts, the benefits are the same. Remote workers feel more prepared for their roles and experience higher job satisfaction. Make sure employees all have access to the learning materials for future use so they can stay updated with the latest industry information. Leaders and coaches should also be available to remote staff for questions and concerns. 

Rethink your internal communication strategy

Some companies are hybrids of in-office and remote employees, while others have transitioned to an all-remote team to complete projects. No matter how a company is structured, there needs to be a strategy for internal communications. Businesses that focus on secure and reliable communications will see improvements in employee engagement and advocacy. 

Creating new communication guidelines 

Research has proved that effective internal communications can make a company more profitable. To be successful, business leaders should create and follow internal communication guidelines. These guidelines basically explain how employees talk to each other, to their teams, and how corporate updates the general workforce. Different modes of communication include instant messaging, email, phone calls, and video conferencing. Protocols can dictate which of these methods will be used in different situations. 

Remote work becomes more efficient when managers also set expectations for the frequency and timing of communications. For example, a team may use video conferences for daily check-ins and instant messaging for more urgent matters. Employees should also know the best time to reach managers during the workday and who to call if they are unavailable. Setting up these expectations right from the beginning can make teams more efficient and effective in sharing information with others. 

Is email sufficient? 

Email is one of the most common ways to communicate in the digital workplace. It can be used to contact managers and colleagues as well as outside vendors seamlessly. Thanks to email, colleagues can send messages to people in different time zones without making time adjustments to their schedules. Since email is a one-way form of communication, it’s mainly used when the sender does not expect an answer right away. 

Even though email is not meant for collaboration on projects, many people use it that way. Long email threads can become confusing, especially if the information is outdated or if a team member was accidentally left out of the chain. With email, there is also no way of knowing if someone has opened and read the message. This is why email should not be replaced with a project management tool to stay on top of tasks. 

Fast communication tools

Unlike email, instant messaging allows workers to chat with each other instantaneously. Instant messaging doesn’t require teams to have a personal inbox, and users will be able to see the message pop up on their screen as soon as they receive it. Remote workers use instant messaging because it’s less disruptive than phone calls and video chats. Employees can communicate with each other while working on their current tasks.

Many organisations use instant messaging tools like Slack to reduce the number of emails received each day. Others may lean on shared note-keeping applications to give updates, which also provide instant messaging features. Be careful, however, about over-communication that may lead to distractions at work. Having a policy in place about sending too many messages can prevent teams from getting sidetracked. To decide which technology to use, companies should conduct an audit of their current tools and identify opportunities for improvement.

Video conferencing 

Instead of holding a conversation through email and instant messaging, people can request a short video conversation to talk through issues in real-time. With the flexibility of video, attendees can join from almost anywhere and from any device. Remote teams are also more engaged in the discussion and less likely to get distracted by emails or outside influences. Even better, video conferencing gives attendees the ability to read body language and facial expressions, both of which are essential for successful communication. 

Video allows teams to troubleshoot issues, brainstorm new ideas, and make decisions together. However, it’s just not practical to schedule a video conference every time someone has a question or a new idea. Just like in-person meetings, it’s easy to waste valuable working hours with conference calls, which means managers and team leaders need to limit meetings to a certain timeframe. If there are other ways of sharing information or addressing a concern, they should be used instead.

Rethink employee engagement

Even though everyone may not be in the same physical office space, organisations still want to promote engagement and a sense of teamwork among employees. Keeping remote workers engaged reminds them that they're part of a company that is invested in them. So how can companies make sure employees are both content and productive in their roles? 

Surveys and feedback 

Remote employees can feel out of place with the rest of the team. Since they work off location, they may not be as involved or have equal say in the decisions that affect them. So what’s the best way to know if remote workers find your company to be fulfilling and motivating? Employee surveys are a great way to tap into company culture and learn what people really think. One study revealed that employees are 4.6 times more likely to perform well if they feel their voices are heard at work. 

An online survey platform gives remote workers a chance to voice their opinions and weigh in on important matters. When they feel to express their concerns, remote employees have the peace of mind knowing they haven’t been forgotten. Businesses can also empower workers when they make changes according to the feedback received. To get the most honest answers possible, managers should allow employees to speak freely. If the responses are anonymous, the owner of the survey is responsible for full anonymity.

Keeping employees motivated

Having the right tools in place for a remote team is essential, but companies also need a plan for keeping everyone motivated. Without socializing in an office setting, it's easy for the hours to pass by without taking a break. Managers should look into scheduling short informal chats with teams for friendly non-work conversations. Informal communications are important to building trust within an organization when it cannot happen organically in an office.

Employee engagement tools

Short video chats help people develop friendships at work and make them feel like part of the team. As a result, remote workers are more likely to enjoy their job and feel invested in the company. People can enjoy lunch or coffee breaks together, discuss a recent sporting event, or simply get to know each other better by asking questions. Managers can create a shared calendar for social events so people can plan ahead if they wish to join. 

Gamification 

Gamification is a popular new trend that has been used to boost morale and employee engagement for a long time. But what is gamification, and how does it work? Gamification is the use of game elements, such as points and scores, to help people reach certain goals. When applied to the workplace, gamification allows workers to play and compete against each other and become more motivated in their work. 

Before gamification, businesses were using motivational strategies such as employee-of-the-month awards. Today, employers use gamification in many different ways. It can be used to onboard new employees, encourage team building, or to meet certain sales or marketing goals. Regardless of how it’s used, managers and human resources departments should measure the gamification strategy and get employee feedback to make sure the game is working as it should. 

UI/UX 

User experience design (UX) and user interface design (UI) are two important elements that relate to the design and interface of a platform. The overall goal of UX and UI design is to ensure the application is accessible, easy to navigate, and intuitive, so users have access to everything they need. When choosing certain software and applications for remote teams, organisations need to take into account UX and UI elements to make sure employees use the product to its fullest. 

Platforms with bad user experiences often have high turnover rates because employees end up confused or frustrated about the systems they have to use every day. Companies that pay attention to UX and UI show that they are invested in their employees and want to give them the tools they need to succeed. And when remote workers don’t feel bogged down by the software, they can spend more time producing quality work.

Leveraging team management solutions 

It’s not easy for teams to juggle multiple projects at the same time. When companies only use email to keep track of tasks, they’re wasting valuable time and resources. With project management solutions and other online tools, managers can communicate and collaborate with colleagues, organise notes, and delegate tasks to the right people. 

Project management software 

In a project management program, employees are assigned individual tasks as part of a larger project the entire team is working to complete. Good software allows project managers to add start and end dates so employees manage their time and stay informed about upcoming deadlines. Since remote workers can also share updates within the program, this software eliminates the need for status update meetings. 

Some project management programs allow businesses to share and collaborate with clients as well. When clients are given their own login information with usernames and passwords, they have access to certain project files and can provide feedback as needed. This review process may speed up project deadlines and help companies feel more connected with their customers. 

File sharing and doc management 

In the past, businesses organised documents by printing out hard copies and saving them in file cabinets. Since distributed teams don’t have access to on-site resources, we now use online file sharing programs to manage documents and paperwork. These programs allow office workers to store, share, and edit documents as needed. They also offer different permission levels for sharing, so managers can make sure that certain documents don’t fall into the wrong hands. 

Usually when managers want to share a document with their team, they send it through an email attachment. However, some servers have their own size limits on what can be attached and sent through an email. A file sharing program, on the other hand, has no size limitations. Teams can upload and share documents, folders, images, and videos easily. Files can also be shared from a desktop, laptop, or mobile device. 

Knowledge management 

Knowledge management is the process of gathering and storing information that businesses use in day to day operations. This system helps companies organise and share documentation with the people who need it. Teams can have access to company policies or HR material, for example. Companies that are going global can also offer a knowledge management system in more than just one language so remote teams can better understand the material. 

When new employees start, they need a way to learn a lot of information quickly. If none of that information is documented or kept online, not everyone will have the same onboarding experience. This means there will be some gaps in their knowledge. Instead, a knowledge management system allows remote teams to have this information on hand so they don’t have to ask around for help. 

The power of G Suite apps  

G Suite is a service developed by Google for businesses and enterprises. Every subscription comes with a set of applications to improve communication and collaboration within companies. Since G Suite is cloud-based, there is no waiting for installations or system updates. Remote employees can get started from any web browser or device. G Suite can also integrate with other popular applications for more efficient workflows. 

Calendar for scheduling and time zone management

Google Calendar allows users to share and view calendars, making it easy to schedule meetings as needed. G Suite for business also gives people the opportunity to create multiple calendars, all of which can be shared among a group of employees or specific team members. This means that managers can stay on the same page as their teams.

G Suite Calendar

Scheduling with different time zones is a major challenge for companies. It requires additional planning and communication to determine the best meeting times that work for everyone. Luckily, Google Calendar has settings that show users multiple time zones at once. The application can make recommendations based on each person’s availability. 

Hangouts for video conferencing and screen sharing

Google Hangouts is a video and conferencing call application. To start a meeting, managers simply need to share a link with their team. There are no plugins or downloads required, and Google Hangouts can accommodate multiple people at once. People can share Hangouts links from Gmail or through their Google Calendar, which makes planning even easier. For meetings that require full-screen presentations, Google Hangouts also has a screen sharing feature so colleagues can share documents or PowerPoint slides without having to upload separate files.

Google Hangouts

Data studio for automating reporting

Many teams spend countless hours putting together reports for managers and stakeholders. Google Data Studio gives organisations everything they need to turn data from Google Analytics and other sources into easy-to-understand reports. Data Studio has a simple layout and design interface so employees can build personalized reports efficiently. On top of that, team members are able to edit and collaborate reports in real-time. 

Google Data Studio

Data Studio can gather data from the desired sources automatically on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis as requested. Scheduled email delivery also allows remote employees to send automated emails with a simple PDF download of the report and a link to the report on the platform. With these features, employees can save valuable time and resources manually sending out reports.

Drive for cloud and file storage

When organisations own a large number of files, they can be difficult to manage without a dedicated storage system. Companies can now store documents, spreadsheets, and other files in one convenient location on Google Drive. Files are shared using a web browser or mobile app through direct links or email invitation. Businesses also have the option to limit viewing and editing permissions, so company data remains secure. Google Drive is an excellent storage option because users can search for what they need by file type, keyword, or user.

Google Drive

Docs for file collaboration 

Google Docs is a word processing application so teams can collaborate from multiple devices. The program includes features such as voice typing, the ability to insert pictures and charts, and spell-checking. When employees work from remote areas, Google Docs lets them collaborate together on the same document simultaneously and keeps track of every change instantly. If workers want to return to a previous version of the document, Google also saves the revision history. Once the document is completed, users can download the content in nearly any format, including Microsoft Word files or PDFs. 

Sheets for spreadsheet collaboration 

Just like Google Docs, Google Sheets provides many of the same advantages. Team members can add and share information on Google Sheets while the program saves any changes that are made. In addition to these features, Sheets allows users to hide and freeze rows or columns. Hiding information is useful when the file is shared with different parties, while freezing rows keeps certain data within your line of sight. Google Sheets formulas can also speed up data analysis with custom formulas, just like a traditional Excel Sheet. 

Jamboard for brainstorming 

Jamboard is a touch display that resembles a whiteboard, which is normally used for meetings and presentations. Google added Jamboard to G Suite so employees can use the application for brainstorming sessions. This includes sketching out ideas, writing notes, adding images, or pulling information from the web. Since Jamboard lives in Google Drive, employees can share or edit what they created at any time. When conference calls and online meetings have their limitations, Jamboard creates an interactive experience for participants, no matter where they are. 

Keep for taking notes 

Google Keep is a note-taking app that offers more than just basic checklists. This application lets users quickly take notes that can be accessed and shared from anywhere. Remote workers can type or sketch out notes, which can then be dragged and dropped into Google Docs for safekeeping. For recording ideas on the go, users can record voice memos through the Google Keep application. This is accomplished with the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen. Once the speech is recorded, the screen will display the text of the message with an audio file.

Google Keep

Slides for making presentations 

Unlike traditional PowerPoint software, Google Slides gives users the ability to edit and collaborate on slides as a team in real-time. It can also work across different operating systems and platforms without any issues. The Google Slides toolbar offers easy shortcuts, so workers may make use of different themes and transitions. With these features, the presentations can be more appealing. Best of all, there are plenty of free templates online, so employees don’t have to create new layouts from scratch.

Google Slides

Redefine the employer/employee relationship 

Employers and employees have a stronger working relationship when their roles are clearly defined. A remote work policy can describe all the necessary information that employees need to be successful while working outside of a designated office space. Organisations should define the qualifications and skills required to fill a role, the responsibilities involved, and how to measure performance on projects. 

Defining roles 

Even though remote employees have the freedom to work when and where they want, they still need some direction from management. Team leaders will need to set up clear expectations to help remote workers be successful in their roles. This includes communicating a basic job description and an outline of their responsibilities. They also need to include any skills and equipment needed to fulfill the role. 

Since remote teams are not confined to the 9 – 5 workday, it’s tempting to micromanage to ensure the work is getting done. However, this is proven to be one of the least effective ways to keep employees on task. Instead, organisations should focus on whether people are meeting certain performance goals. Setting goals with specific metrics and KPIs helps managers envision success and achieve it. 

One-on-one meetings are a great way to have an in-depth discussion about goal-setting with remote employees. These one-on-ones with a team leader or manager allow workers to talk about their current projects and whether certain deliverables can be met. Employees can also discuss any roadblocks that might be getting in the way of completing their tasks on time. Not only that, but one-on-ones help remote workers feel more supported at work. 

Employers who have dedicated, high-performing employees want to keep them on board for as long as possible. In an increasingly competitive market for talent, more companies are offering performance-based compensation to remote workers. For example, offering bonuses for hitting certain milestones is an effective way to boost productivity among teams. These incentive programs are a powerful way to attract new talent and engage current employees who continue to meet or exceed their goals. 

Recruiting freelancers 

Finding the right employee for remote positions can be challenging for recruiters and HR staff. Not only do candidates have to fulfill certain requirements for education and technical abilities, but they must also ensure they have the ability to work effectively outside of a traditional office environment. Hiring freelancers for project-based work is a faster way to fill the talent gap over a full-time employee who needs onboarding and training. 

Freelancers are independent workers who perform specific tasks for clients. These workers can be found in nearly any industry, offering niche skills such as graphic design, accounting, bookkeeping, or project management. Freelance workers usually provide their own software and equipment to perform tasks. There are many reasons companies hire freelancers for project-based work. Since they already have experience working remotely, companies have no problem getting started with them right away. 

Freelance employees come with a different set of rules than full-time employees. Since they are self-employed, they do not receive the same standard salary or employee benefits from the companies that they work with. Instead, their work and payment are project-based. This structure offers companies the ability to bring in talent when needed, or when a specific set of skills are required. Once their tasks are completed, they can move on to another client or take on a new project from the same company. 

When businesses have a hard-to-fill position and struggle to find the right candidate, freelancers are the perfect solution. They can start by working part-time on projects until the full-time role has been met. If they are a good fit, they may join the company permanently by filling the role themselves. With freelancers, managers can fill in the talent gaps for as long as they need without burdening the rest of their team or the company. 

Measuring performance 

Employee performance shows well how an individual fulfills their job duties and carries out their required tasks. Team leaders often want to measure employee performance at different intervals to see whether productivity has changed and if there’s room for improvement. When an employee performs well or above-average, they become a real asset to that company. Those who perform poorly on a consistent basis may require additional training or further clarity about their role. 

So, how do businesses measure the performance of remote workers? In the past, managers judged performance based on the number of hours employees spent at their desks. Today, organisations need to provide measurable goals with realistic timelines to make sure teams are staying effective. These goals may change based on a number of factors, including the industry involved as well as the company itself. For example, a customer service team might measure performance based on client satisfaction ratings. 

Clear and effective communication is the best way to improve employee performance. Although negative feedback can be uncomfortable for the person receiving it, it’s important to create an environment of transparency and trust within an organisation. Giving team members concrete feedback and a plan of action moving forward can make a real difference in the process. At the same time, remote employees should be encouraged to communicate their needs as well. 

An intranet solution to bring it all into one digital workplace

In an organisation with many distributed teams in different time zones, it’s essential to have a tool that keeps everyone connected. An intranet is a secure online portal that contains all the information needed to keep everyone on the same page. The problem is that many businesses don’t take the time to integrate this tool into their processes or company culture. Learn how a comprehensive intranet solution can improve employee collaboration and engagement at work. 

What is an intranet solution? 

An intranet is an online portal where employees can share or access critical information within a company. Since intranets are private, they cannot be accessed by the general public through the internet. Intranets provide a space for employees to work together and collaborate on projects, even when they’re not in the same physical location. They are an effective way for teams to store files, read company updates, and connect people together. 

Information takes on many forms, including onboarding documents, meeting notes, and company analytics. An intranet solution is a centralized location where all of this data can be stored. Companies often use intranets to store employee directories, provide access to updated HR policies, or share new information about products and services. When employees have access to what they need to get the job done, they can work efficiently and feel more confident in their roles. 

Paperless data storage 

Although many businesses still rely on paper and ink, the transition to a paperless system is becoming more common. Access to wireless internet and cloud-based networks have both made this possible. One of the major advantages of having an intranet system is that people can securely view and edit documents from anywhere, even in a remote environment. Users can gather signatures electronically, use online forms, and take advantage of document management features to organise everything in one place. 

Data security 

Before, people used to access and share essential company information in non-secure ways. For example, it’s not uncommon for employees to email documents to themselves or store data on personal USB flash drives. Moving to an intranet system means that organisations have more control over who can view certain data and how it is distributed. Once data is uploaded, network administrators can apply special user permissions, so only authorized personnel can handle sensitive information. 

Search functions

Imagine trying to find information online without the help of a search engine like Google. When companies first build out their intranet, it may be easy to access the right file or document. As the platform grows, users will need a little help. This is where the search function comes in. Managers and employees can use the comprehensive search function to find the files they need within seconds. People can search by the exact file name or by general keyword to bring up results. 

Mobile access

As workplaces become more spread-out, companies need to keep teams aligned by giving everyone access to the same information and resources. A mobile intranet allows teams to stay connected, even when they’re away from their desktop computer. These apps are designed to be responsive no matter the device, so users can view and share documents, submit information, and communicate on the go. Mobile apps also feature push notifications that come in handy for reading important messages or announcements. 

Happeo mobile application notification

Save time and resources 

When data is scattered across many locations, employees waste a significant amount of time trying to get things done efficiently. For example, let’s say an employee needs access to a specific document. They may spend hours searching for the document themselves or disrupting coworkers to ask where it is. With an intranet solution, there is one place where all resources are easily accessed. Because the process is more streamlined, organisations can save time and resources by keeping files organised in the right place. 

Happeo – the ultimate intranet solution 

With all of these benefits and more, companies need to find the right intranet solution to organise and improve their systems. Happeo offers a comprehensive intranet platform that simplifies processes and saves companies time and resources. Happeo is proud to be named one of the most promising startups by the European Union in 2017. We happily serve hundreds of thousands of users on a daily basis. Learn more by connecting with a member of the Happeo team today.

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