About one-quarter of U.S. employees currently participate in the remote workforce, according to Global Workforce Analytics research. And that number is growing rapidly. By 2020, the mobile workforce is projected to comprise roughly three-quarters of our country’s employees, according to an IDC forecast. This means remote work programs won’t just be part of enterprise-level companies, but present in the SMB community as well.
The drivers are certainly there for both small business employers and employees to be more flexible about where work gets done. For starters, job responsibilities are increasingly more digital, even at smaller companies, making remote work more feasible than ever. Studies have also found that providing the option to work remotely results in happier, more efficient employees. In fact, offering the flexibility to work remotely can help attract and retain top talent. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of American Workplace report, more than a third (37%) of employees said they would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time.
But while there are many benefits to working away from the office, it’s also easy for remote employees to feel forgotten and isolated, and communication can quickly fall to the wayside when everyone works independently. As more small business owners embrace remote work options, it’s imperative they put a few critical processes and tools in place to help managers and employees stay connected no matter where they may be.
3 Ways to Stay Connected While Working Remotely
1. Establish Regular Check-Ins
When working remotely, employees and managers should establish regular check-ins. Whether it’s daily, weekly or bi-weekly, these meetings allow both to check-in on the status of various projects, discuss to-dos, and figure out how they can better support one another. Conducting these check-ins over video conferencing platforms like InterCall’s Unified Meeting 5 replicates the feeling of face-to-face meetings and allows remote employees to see, hear and interact with their colleagues on a more personal level. Unlike email and traditional audio calls, video can also prevent emotions and other nonverbal cues from being lost in translation.
2. Encourage Millennial Habits
Most remote employees enjoy the feeling of not being chained to their desk and often take advantage of their ability to work outside the traditional home office. In fact, our own research found about one fifth of millennial remote workers regularly work from coffee shops and another 16 percent regularly post up in co-working spaces. Business owners can maintain communication while supporting their employees’ desire for mobility with tools like InterCall’s MobileMeet app, which allows users to manage their conference calls and online meetings anytime from anywhere in the world on their mobile device.
3. Enable Real-time Collaboration
Since remote employees can’t be physically present in meetings and brainstorm sessions, it’s critical that they have tools to easily collaborate and interact with their team in real-time. Tools like InterCall’s Unified Meeting 5 allow meeting participants to share presentations, screens, applications or their entire desktop. This not only keeps all eyes focused on the topic at hand, but it also allows for truly collaborative, productive meetings. Team chat apps like Cisco Spark and Microsoft Teams also allow co-workers to quickly ask and answer one-off questions, share files and start ad-hoc meetings.
While many remote workers worry they fall victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome, it’s up to business owners to ensure employees don’t feel disconnected. By establishing a few protocols and providing the proper collaboration tools, owners will stay connected with their workforce, keep everyone on the same page and create a sense of community.
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