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Like it or not, remote working is here to stay. According to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (ONS), when questioned last year, 8 out of 10 workers planned to work from home and in the workplace (‘hybrid work’) in the future.
Lockdown undeniably accelerated the UK’s move to the remote working model but there has been an appetite for flexibility in the workplace since the 1980s. So much so that, today, employers know that if they want to attract skilled, qualified employees, they have to offer remote working options.
Remote working suits some industries better than others, and is especially applicable for jobs that involve computer work, digital marketing and website development, and administration work – many of the sectors that feature in our blog What Jobs Are in Demand in 2023?
That’s why today, 58% of all UK companies are offering some form of remote working to viable staff. This relatively recent shift means that employers are still working out how to make this model benefit everyone, but at the heart of its success is the idea of trust.
With so many staff members working remotely, whether full-time or using the hybrid model, it has become even more important to develop a sense of teamwork and camaraderie between colleagues. When people are not present physically it can be easy to overlook them – so much information or bits of news are passed on when you bump into someone in the office, but if you’re a remote worker, you won’t have this sense of inclusion.
To build trust in relationships takes effort but there are ways to make sure everyone feels included and valued:
The boundaries between work and home-life are becoming increasingly blurred so it’s a good idea to lay out what you expect from remote workers at the outset. This might be a requirement to fulfil hours during set times in the week or you may be happy for remote workers to catch up their hours at the weekend or in the evening. Be honest about what is and isn’t working and don’t be afraid to discuss the boundaries with staff if they are affecting productivity.
It is imperative that you regularly communicate with your remote workforce, just as you would if they were office-based. This can be in the form of company-wide emails and updates, keeping people involved in certain team or project news, or sharing work information. Explore different methods of communication such as video conferencing, instant messaging platforms and project management software so that information flows smoothly and everyone is kept up to speed and in the loop.
When you have a remote workforce, arranging a physical meet-up can be tricky, so switch it to a virtual one instead. During Covid, families and friends came together on Zoom for bingo evenings, pub quizzes and games nights, so it is possible to arrange something online that can be shared by many. Set up company catch-up sessions and encourage staff to get to know each other by creating breakout rooms and asking them to share best remote working practices or other useful anecdotes from their experiences.
Out of sight should not mean out of mind so make sure your remote workers know they are valued. When you work in an office, it’s easy to enjoy snippets of feedback and praise while waiting at the coffee machine or by the water cooler, so it’s important to make an extra effort with your remote workers. Publicly recognise any achievements in group emails or messages: simple gestures of appreciation go a long way in building trust and boosting remote workers’ morale. And schedule regular appraisals so that your remote worker has the opportunity to give their feedback on projects and their work-life balance.
To keep your business moving forward, it is important that all of your workforce keeps up to date with new training and skills acquisition. That applies equally to remote workers. There are plenty of online training opportunities that they can take advantage of and by offering these you will be signalling to your remote workers that you support them and value their long term commitment.
You’ve given your staff the green light to work remotely so trust them to manage their time efficiently. If they have to pick the children up from school or walk the dog in the middle of the day, trust that they will make up the hours at other times. No-one likes to be micromanaged so give your employees the space to work at the times that suit them best. You’ll get so much more out of them if you do, and, besides, you’ll soon know if projects aren’t being delivered on time!
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