Today, remote workers represent a significant amount of the workforce. As companies increasingly realize the various benefits and advantages of hiring remote workers, they are steadily looking for ways to integrate virtual employees onto existing teams. Although the benefits of hiring remote workers far outweigh the challenges, the fact remains that incorporating and managing remote workers onto existing teams can be challenging, without the right approach.
Top 3 Challenges of Managing a Remote Team
Contrary to popular belief, remote workers, especially those who work from home, tend to overwork. As there are no clear boundaries between work and home life, it can be challenging for remote workers to know when to switch off. Moreover, virtual employees often feel like they need to prove that they are always working, so they end up not taking enough breaks, working early in the morning or late at night, etc.
This is also the number one reason why home workers end up working from a coworking space or coffeeshop. Even though they are interacting with people online throughout the work day, remote employees often start to feel isolated and lonely from lack of in-person social interactions.
- Communication Issues
Though there are a plethora of apps and software out there that foster collaboration and communication, the truth is that nothing beats in-person conversations. Chatting and email are great tools, however they leave a lot of space open for interpretation–like the tone of voice. Small misunderstandings because someone seems curt and short can snowball into serious drama. This issue is further exacerbated when part of your team works in an office and the other part works remotely, as they feel they are missing out on more communications and office talk.
(Pro tip: embrace emojis and encourage remote teams to use them; they’re a great tool to help people figure out the tone of a message and make online communication more personal).
All of the above translate into engagement issues, and this is where existing and emerging technologies can go a long way into making sure your virtual teams are engaged, happy, and productive. It also takes guesswork out of how to integrate virtual employees onto existing teams.
How to Integrate Virtual Employees onto Existing Teams
In order for remote workers to perform at their best, they need to be successfully integrated into your company, your culture, and their respective teams. The good news is it can be done. The even greater news is that once that happens, you’ll have a group of empowered employees that can do and achieve anything.
Below you will find 5 key things you need to keep in mind and do in order to integrate virtual employees onto existing teams and foster a culture of engagement and open communication.
- Manage expectations
From the moment you post a job listing and moving forward from there, you need to set clear expectations. What will the role entails, what are the responsibilities, what are the goals, how much time the job will require, what your company policies are on vacation or taking breaks, meetings, etc. Do you have a set schedule you expect remote employee to work or can they choose their own hours? What about time limits to respond to emails or chats?
- Embrace technology, including video
Technology has made it possible for people to work remotely. It can also help ensure that the remote-work experience is an effective and positive one. Apps like Skype, Slack, Trello, Asana, Zoom, and many others have made it easier than ever for teams to stay in touch and collaborate effectively.
A word on video: not only will video make meetings more personal, it also helps in making sure that people are fully present and paying attention during the meeting. It also makes socializing easier and more fun. Encourage remote employees to send virtual birthday wishes with GIFs or short video, etc.
- Consider time-zones
When searching for and hiring remote based employees, take into consideration the time zone they’re in. Though it’s great to have a global team, it’s greater to have a team that has overlapping hours (at least 2-4 hours a day). The goal of this is to make sure that the entire team can communicate, has time to meet online, and address time-sensitive issues.
- Documentation – An FAQ for your virtual employees
Documentation is key for the success of remote teams. Make sure you have documents that can be used as guides for how to do certain tasks, how to communicate with teams, etc. Basically an FAQ for your virtual employees, as they can’t pop by your work area to ask a question. This is also an important element to have clear processes in place.
If there’s something that needs to be done (like asking for vacations or PTO) make sure you have a place where team members can easily find and access that information. Documentation can be in the form of infographics, flow charts, process maps, or blueprints.
- Have one-on-one meetings
Take some time to host regular one-on-one meetings with remote employees. Use this time to catch up with and check-in on them. Ask them how they’re doing, how they feel about the work they’re doing, if there’s anything that they need help with, improve on, etc. These can be short meetings, where the main goal is to make sure your virtual employees feel appreciated and part of your company.
Remote work is becoming increasingly popular among professionals and companies alike. However, in order for remote work policies to be fruitful, it requires a team and company effort. The key element to successful remote work is to have open communication channels; great communication leads to higher engagement levels, clear expectations, and an overall happier workforce.
Though at first managing a remote team might seem like a daunting task, it gets easier over time. One last word of advice: consider hosting yearly retreats to get your entire team together! It will help virtual employees bond better with one another and it will help nurture a stronger sense of belonging.
Care to dig deeper into this conversation of how to integrate remote workers onto existing teams?
Check out these resources:
- Recruitment Software Helps Remote Employees
- Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce
- Remote Work: The Invisible Workforce
- How to Effectively Management Remote Projects
Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. By Guest Post Blogger Ceci Amador.
Ceci is the Senior Associate Editor of Allwork.Space, Content Specialist at AllianceVirtualOffices.com — is based from wherever her laptop is. She enjoys traveling and visiting new flexible workspaces. If you’d like Ceci to check out your workspace, feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org (and send a plane ticket).
About TIGERS Success Series Inc.
We specialize in assessing your group performance dynamics and training your managers and team leaders in group leadership skills that build workforce cooperation and high performance project team outcomes. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile and Micro-Training technology that compliments your assessment results is a quick way to transform low performing teams into exceptional ones. Schedule a consultation to learn more. You don’t have to be a huge company to reap remarkable results.