The number of remote workers worldwide is expected to reach more than 1 billion this year as more and more professionals are either exploring the idea of flexible work or have already adopted this lifestyle. Companies like Aetna are touting their gains in this area, while Bank of America is reconsidering keeping their robust program going. And last year, several academics (including MIT’s Sloan School and Stanford) conducted studies focusing the potential downside to being ‘out-of-sight, out –of-mind.’ Among managers’ chief concerns were maintaining employee productivity and ensuring trust between managers and their direct reports.
But who should be responsible for improving trust in flexible work relationships? According to a recent survey from Regus, 81% of respondents believe businesses should be more trusting of employees Additionally, 88% of U.S. respondents believe managers need to be more accepting of flexible work arrangements. Additional insights from the survey include:
· Over 50% of managers who create flexible work environments are rewarded/recognized for their innovation.
· Younger workers have made flexible working “more mainstream” (77% nationally)
· Managers are more apt (79 percent nationally) to see an employee arriving early and staying late as “hardworking” while the individual employee does not (54%nationally)
Here are 5 tips to manage a remote workforce:
1. Establish Goals: Write down plans and create a vision for your new workplace initiative that incorporates objectives and benefits to the individual, the team and the organization. Implement a results-based management program that will allow managers to easily set and measure goals and objectives for their virtual workforce.
2. Maintain Regular Communication: Keep on top of projects by checking in regularly and understanding the nature of the work employees are engaged in. Lead by example; schedule meetings in person and using video-conferencing to create as much face-to-face interaction as possible.
3. Have On-demand Space Available: Offer those employees working remotely or from home access to professional workplaces when they need it. Workers need to be assured they can tap into professional services and support when required. The ability to collaborate and network is key personal and corporate growth.
4. Promote Corporate Culture: Encourage corporate camaraderie by creating opportunities for your employees to formally and informally socialize, as well as form networks with other professionals. These connections can reinforce your corporate culture and identity. Include remote workers in corporate events such as holiday parties and corporate outings.
5. Encourage Feedback: Empathize with employees and listen to their concerns regarding working remotely to help secure their buy-in. Employee input could help improve the execution of the virtual working program.
A distributed workforce does not have to be a chaotic workforce. Integrating remote workers, building and sustaining a strong team and corporate identity and keeping all employees connected are not only vital for building trust, but equally as important it will foster loyalty and respect within an organization.