Business, General

How to Maintain a Cohesive Remote Workforce

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When you’re part of a remote workforce and you don’t see your work colleagues every day, you start to grow apart, and relationships become strained. Employees’ lives are moving on and diverging.

In the workplace, employees routinely consult one another over various aspects of their assigned work. When everyone is working from home, those effortless interactions are no longer possible. You have to MAKE them happen, or you don’t have a team anymore, you have a list of employees doing their own things.

You have to put in a lot of effort to make working remotely work. Getting the work done is important, but workforce cohesion is more important for the long-term health of your business. When everyone is working from their home office, the glue of daily face-to-face interaction is missing, so you need to put new systems into place that encourage bonding between employees.

Let everyone See the Big Picture

In the office, everyone has some idea what everyone else is doing. This happens naturally in casual conversations, overhearing others talking, and in more formal briefing or consultation meetings.

When employees are all working alone, in their home offices, each person only sees their own work, their own tasks. After a few weeks, they lose track of where their work fits into the big picture.

As a manager, it is next to impossible to keep track of where everyone is in their assigned tasks when you don’t see them every day. You no longer get casual updates. You don’t get feedback in the form of smiles or frowns when you pass an employee’s desk.

You might have been able to keep the big picture in your head in the office, but when everyone is working remotely, you will need to look for a project management software that will allow you to see how each team member is progressing with the tasks you have assigned them. You don’t need to spend the year’s entire budget because free and low-cost software will work well for many companies.

Most PM software is cloud-based and charges depend on how many ‘seats’ you need. You will need a ‘seat’ for every team member, to allow individuals to see what others are doing.

Communicate, Communicate

Email is a poor communication medium because all you can send is text. Your email can never convey tone of voice or body language that together account for 93% of the meaning in a face-to-face conversation. The same limitations apply to any text-only communication system.

You need video-chat. Use a scheduling app to set up video conversations with each of your team members every day, just as you would in the office. It doesn’t have to be a formal conversation, just a quick ‘How are things going?’ type chat.

Employees need to be able to video chat with colleagues as simply as they would talk to someone at a nearby desk.

Communications should be as normal as you can make them. Set up ‘coffee breaks’, ‘lunchrooms’, and ‘happy hours’. All will help team members to continue to bond with colleagues and work together as a team, helping one another wherever possible.

Consider Individuals

Your employees are all people, not automatons. They have different ways of thinking and different needs.

At the simplest level, people have different extrovert and introvert tendencies. Most people lean one way or the other on the extroversion/introversion spectrum so they think differently and have different needs.

An employee who is the life and soul of the office, always full of witty remarks and the center of any conversation will suffer greatly from the isolation that being part of a remote workforce necessitates. This person NEEDS the social interaction your casual lunch/coffee/happy hour video chats will provide.

The employee who is quiet in the office does not want to be totally alone in their work at home. He or she will welcome one-on-one conversations with managers or colleagues.

Remote working might not last forever, but while it’s here you need to work at maintaining the cohesion of your workforce. Don’t let anyone ever feel they are on their own: Use video chats to feedback to employees multiple times every day.

Summary

Working from home sounds great, but it has its own challenges that we need to overcome to maintain the health of our businesses. From keeping track of what employees are doing, to motivating extroverts and introverts alike, and getting used to using a webcam: It’s just a matter of finding alternatives that work for the work-from-home situation we are in.

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