Working remotely is now a fact of life in the business ecosystem, even as most people begin to embrace a return to their pre-pandemic lives for other activities. For employers, adjusting to this new way of working is an ongoing challenge as we continue to learn and evolve what works and what doesn’t.Â
To drive business objectives, an effective, distributed work environment requires that employers break down barriers that can act as obstacles to fully engaging remote employees.Â
Here are four ways to break down these barriers.
1. Align values and objectives
Studies show that more employees are looking to connect their personal values to their jobs and engage in what they consider purposeful work. In fact, employees who understand the bigger context of their role are more productive, engaged and happier, according to a Gallup studyOpens a new window . Employees aligned with your shared values are more likely to stay with the company.Â
When your workforce is remote, articulating your company’s values and objectives and providing transparency into decisions the organization makes, are both more challenging and more important to secure that alignment and connection.Â
In the office, there are opportunities for impromptu chats with a manager or even the CEO at the coffee station or while you wait for the elevator to foster that alignment. Those opportunities disappear in the remote work environment. Without that connection to the company’s overall vision and objectives, your remote employees can become untethered and unproductive.Â
Alignment comes from the top-down, so company leadership needs to double down on ensuring that company values and objectives are broadcast and repeated at all levels of the organization. Create transparency by sharing information and goals and how these further your organization’s vision. Try leveraging weekly or monthly all-hands meetings to share updates on the company. These regular check-ins are a great way to celebrate successes and lessons learned together and discuss how each is connected to the company’s values.Â
2. Align quarterly and annual goals
Setting clear, articulated goals for remote employees also helps maintain that important connection between your employees and your company. Ensure your employees understand how their goals fit into the company’s overall objectives and vision â€” no one wants to feel like what they are doing is unimportant. The above-mentioned Gallup research shows that productivity rises by 56% when employees understand how their role contributes to the organization’s objectives.Â
Clearly stated goals can act as a North Star and help remote employees â€œkeep their eye on the prize,â€ provide accountability and help employees independently determine the right course of action. Your employees don’t want managers hovering over them to ensure tasks are completed, and doing so in a remote work environment is difficult and unproductive. Instead, consider implementing theâ€œSMARTâ€ goals â€” specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound goals â€” framework to ensure goals are well-planned, clear, and trackable.
Another tried and true goal-setting framework is setting Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), which defines an objective as an aspirational statement tied to a strategy with measurable results. OKRs are particularly helpful for remote workers because they add another level of organizational structure and context for your goals to work within.
3. Automation makes remote work possible
Automating workflows and labor-intensive tasks improves productivity and overall efficiency and enable a better experience for your employees. Automate whatever workflows that you can so remote employees aren’t overburdened with time-consuming manual processes that sap their energy, dampen innovation, and do little to boost morale.
In a remote environment, automated project workflows enable team members to stay current on all activities, as it keeps a record of what was already accomplished and who did what. Automated workflows enable managers to track project progress, allowing for a more streamlined review and approval process and fewer formal check-ins.Â
Another process to consider automating is your digital document management. These platforms standardize the document creation process, enable team collaboration, and provide a centralized location to administer your documents across the entire organization, from creation to distribution to tracking client-side analytics.
4. Empower your remote employees with intuitive tools
Our ability to work remotely is fully dependent on having the right tools â€” a lesson learned the hard way when the pandemic lockdown forced us to figure out ASAP how to work effectively from our different home locations. The lack of a physical office where all your employees are in one place makes communication and collaboration between the various stakeholders more difficult. It can also be more challenging to track team members’ tasks and the projects they are working on.
There are a growing number of tools that help remote employees get their work done and keep track of project updates while creating a sense of connection and collaboration with their teams. For example, collaborative authoring tools allow seamless collaboration on documents with features like version control, real-time editing and the ability to share sensitive information securely.
In the remote environment, managers will also want to extend their customer service/sales tools that feature engagement analytics and access tools that measure productivity to ensure accountability. This is especially critical when traditional external motivators, such as colleagues and office culture, aren’t available.
Breaking down barriers for your remote teams requires both high-level leadership and in-the-trenches tactical processes. By putting in place the above elements, you can implement the cultural changes that allow your team members to feel supported and empowered to accomplish their goals and participate in achieving your company’s business objectives. It’s a win for everyone.
What steps have you taken to create an effective distributed workplace where remote employees are engaged? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .
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