Over the past few years, our work lives have undergone some big changes, especially with everything happening worldwide. One of the most significant changes has occurred in remote and hybrid work, which has really shaken up the traditional office-based way of doing things.
With all these changes, we want to take a closer look at remote work, including its history, benefits and challenges, and what the future might hold. We also have some tips for employers looking to improve their remote work environment. So, let’s dive in!
Remote Work Tips for Employers
Foster a positive and productive remote work environment, support remote teams, and maximize the benefits of remote work arrangements with these helpful tips!
#1 Establish clear communication channels
Ensure that remote teams have reliable and efficient communication channels and clearly communicate expectations regarding response times, availability, and preferred communication methods.
Utilize tools such as instant messaging platforms, video conferencing software, and project management systems to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration.
Some of my favorites include:
- Slack for instant messaging
- Asana for project management
- Zoom for video conferencing
- Jamboard for virtual collaboration
#2 Empower employees with tools and technology
Equip remote employees with the necessary tools and technology to perform their tasks effectively. This includes providing secure access to company systems, collaboration software, project management tools, and any specialized software or equipment required for their roles. Regularly evaluate and invest in technology upgrades as needed.
Here are some essential technology categories and examples of tools commonly used in remote work environments:
- Communication and Video Conferencing: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Google Meet
- Project Management and Collaboration: Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Monday.com
- File Storage and Sharing: Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Box
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Remote Access: Cisco AnyConnect, OpenVPN, Fortinet, Palo Alto GlobalProtect, Microsoft DirectAccess
- Task, and Time Tracking: Toggl, Harvest, RescueTime, Clockify, Hubstaff
- Document Collaboration and Editing: Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox Paper, Notion, Quip
- Online Whiteboarding, and Brainstorming: Miro, Mural, Lucidspark, Microsoft Whiteboard, Jamboard
- Secure Communication and Encryption: Signal, Wire, ProtonMail, Threema, Wickr
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop: VMware Horizon, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, Microsoft Remote Desktop, Amazon WorkSpaces, Parallels Remote Application Server
- Employee Engagement and Recognition: TINYpulse, Bonusly, 15Five, Kazoo, Achievers
#3 Prioritize virtual team building
Team building is an essential aspect of any successful organization. It can help to foster strong relationships between team members, improve communication and collaboration, and increase overall productivity. To build a strong team, try a few of these ideas!
- Organize virtual team-building activities: Virtual coffee or lunch breaks, online games, or virtual happy hours are great ways to boost morale.
- Break the ice: Start meetings with a 10-minute icebreaker warm-up question.
- Encourage cross-team collaboration: Provide opportunities for employees to get to know each other personally, fostering a sense of connection and belonging.
Promote learning together: Start a book club or watch TED Talks together and discuss them.
#4 Foster a culture of trust and autonomy
Trust is crucial in remote work environments. Empower remote employees with a sense of autonomy and ownership over their work. Avoid micromanagement and focus on outcomes rather than monitoring every step. Encourage open and transparent communication, and provide support when needed.
Some of the best ways to foster trust with your remote team include:
- Focus on Results, Not Process: Instead of obsessing over every step or task, focus on the outcomes and results. Trust your remote employees to manage their work processes and meet the desired goals. Give them the freedom to utilize their skills and judgment to achieve results rather than dictating how they should accomplish every detail.
- Focus on Coaching and Mentorship: Instead of micromanaging, adopt a coaching and mentoring approach. Support remote employees by providing guidance, resources, and feedback that help them develop their skills and grow professionally. Encourage their learning and offer constructive feedback to facilitate their continuous improvement.
Provide Resources and Support: Ensure remote employees have the necessary resources, tools, and training to perform their tasks effectively. Address any gaps in skills or knowledge through training programs or access to learning resources. Supporting employees with the right tools and resources helps build their confidence and reduces the need for micromanagement.
#5 Set clear expectations and SMART goals
Clearly define work expectations, deliverables, and goals for remote employees. Establish guidelines on deadlines, quality standards, and performance metrics. Providing clear direction and feedback helps remote employees stay aligned with organizational objectives and maintain a sense of purpose.
Here are a few ways you can improve clarity on expectations and goals:
- Provide Written Guidelines: Create clear and comprehensive documentation outlining remote work expectations, guidelines, and policies. Cover topics such as working hours, availability, communication protocols, task prioritization, deadlines, and quality standards. Distribute this documentation to all remote employees and make it easily accessible for future reference.
- Use Video Conferencing for Important Discussions: Consider scheduling video conferences instead of relying solely on written communication for critical discussions or complex matters. Video conferencing allows for real-time interaction, clearer expression of ideas, and the opportunity for immediate feedback and clarification.
- Set SMART Goals: Clearly define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for remote employees. Ensure that these goals align with the team’s and the organization’s overall objectives. SMART goals provide clarity and help employees understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be assessed.
- Schedule Regular Check-ins: Establish a regular cadence of one-on-one meetings or team meetings to check progress, address questions, and provide feedback. These meetings provide opportunities to reinforce expectations, clarify any misunderstandings, and ensure alignment. Regular check-ins also allow for open dialogue and support the ongoing development of remote employees.
Bonus Tip: Create the perfect remote work schedule in ten simple steps with this helpful guide!
#6 Promote work-life balance
Promoting work-life balance is essential for employee well-being, satisfaction, and productivity and can be a major factor in retaining employees. Support work-life balance for remote employees by encouraging them to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Promote taking breaks, setting regular working hours, and avoiding overworking. Lead by example and encourage managers to respect and support employees’ personal time.
Here are a few additional ideas specific to remote worker well-being:
- Support Resources for Childcare and Elder Care: Provide information and support for caregiving employees. Share resources or connect employees with relevant support networks and services. Offer flexibility and understanding for employees balancing work and caregiving responsibilities.
- Encourage Healthy Boundaries: Encourage employees to set clear boundaries between work and personal life. Encourage them to turn off work-related notifications outside of work hours and resist the temptation to check emails or messages constantly. Support a culture that respects personal time and encourages healthy work-life integration.
- Offer Flexibility in Scheduling: Offer flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours when feasible. Allow employees to adapt their schedules to accommodate personal commitments, family needs, or other obligations. Consider emphasizing output and outcome rather than hours logged.
#7 Invest in training and professional development
Remote employees should have access to the same learning and development opportunities as their in-office counterparts. Provide remote employees with opportunities for skill development and career advancement. Offer virtual training sessions, webinars, or online courses to enhance their professional growth.
To make the most of remote training and development, take note of these strategies:
- Leverage Online Learning Platforms: Utilize online learning platforms that offer a wide range of courses and resources. Platforms like People School, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare allow remote employees to choose relevant courses and learn at their own pace.
- Virtual Workshops and Webinars: Organize virtual workshops, webinars, or guest speaker sessions focused on specific topics or skills. (Hint: Hire Vanessa Van Edwards for a remote workshop!) These live sessions allow for interactive learning, Q&A sessions, and engagement with subject matter experts. Record the sessions for later access by employees in different time zones.
- Foster Virtual Communities of Practice: Create virtual communities of practice around specific areas of expertise or interest. Encourage remote employees to actively participate, share knowledge, and collaborate with colleagues facing similar challenges. Virtual communities facilitate peer learning and the exchange of ideas.
#8 Prioritize regular check-ins and feedback
Schedule regular check-ins with remote employees to provide feedback, address concerns, and offer support. These meetings can be one-on-one or in team settings. Encourage open and honest communication, and provide constructive feedback to help remote employees improve and grow in their roles.
Here are the elements of an effective check-in session:
- Identify Where People Are At: Ask questions that help give you a pulse on how people are doing. These questions may include, “What were your wins this week? What did you struggle with? Where could you have used more support?”
- Look Ahead: Ask questions to help you understand how to support people on upcoming projects. These questions may include, “What are you looking forward to this coming week? What are your obstacles? What does support look like?”
- Encourage Open Dialogue: Ask about their latest thoughts, concerns, or ideas. What are they wondering about? Welcome feedback and guidance on what can help the team be more successful.
- Celebrate Success and Encourage Growth: When an employee achieves a goal, be sure to acknowledge and celebrate it to boost morale. When an employee is struggling, pinpoint what support looks like and provide the necessary training or tools for them to succeed.
- Communicate Progress: Revisit important milestones, goals, issues, and next steps. Be sure to provide clear expectations on priorities.
By following these best practices, you can conduct effective remote check-ins that foster communication, collaboration, and a positive working relationship with your remote employees.
Bonus Tip: Learn to adapt and evolve
The state of remote work will likely continue to change. But by adopting a growth mindset, you can make the most of this growing trend in the workforce. As you move forward:
- Evaluate and adapt remote work policies and practices based on feedback, employee needs, and evolving circumstances.
- Regularly seek input from remote employees to understand their challenges, suggestions, and areas for improvement.
- Remain flexible and agile in responding to changing needs and circumstances.
Keep up the great work! Adapting to remote work can be a challenge, but your dedication and commitment to ensuring your team’s success in this new environment will not go unnoticed. You’ve got this!
What Are the Benefits of Remote Work?
Remote work offers numerous employee benefits, including flexibility, work-life balance, cost savings, and more. Let’s look at the benefits in more detail!
Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Remote work provides employees with greater flexibility in managing their work schedules. Depending on their organization, they can often choose their preferred working hours, allowing them to accommodate personal commitments, family responsibilities, and individual productivity patterns. This flexibility can improve work-life balance, reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Recent studies1https://www.statista.com/statistics/1111309/biggest-benefits-to-working-remotely-worldwide/ from surveys taken in 2022 show that 67% of employees name flexibility as the biggest benefit of remote work.
Remote work eliminates the need for commuting to and from the office. This saves time and reduces stress associated with traffic congestion, long commutes, and crowded public transportation. The elimination of commuting can contribute to increased energy and well-being.
Studies show2https://www.nber.org/papers/w30866 workers save an average of 72 minutes per day by not commuting.
Customized Work Environment
Remote work allows employees to create a personalized and comfortable work environment. They can set up their workspace according to their preferences: a dedicated home office, a cozy corner, or a shared coworking space. Having control over their surroundings can enhance focus, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.
Studies show3https://www.gallup.com/workplace/397751/returning-office-current-preferred-future-state-remote-work.aspx that allowing employees to work in their preferred location boosts engagement and decreases burnout. In fact, this is so significant that 36% of workers4https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/resources/costs-benefits would choose the flexibility of remote work over a pay raise.
Reduced Work-Related Expenses
Working remotely often leads to reduced work-related expenses for employees. They can save money on daily expenses such as buying lunch, professional attire, and work-related social activities. Moreover, remote work can lower childcare or pet care costs since employees can be more flexible in managing their responsibilities.
According to Zippia’s expense breakdown, workers save an average of $4,600 annually by working remotely.
Health and Well-being
Remote work can have positive effects5https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/remote-benefits on employee health and well-being. With time available due to the lack of a commute, employees have more opportunities to prioritize self-care, such as exercising regularly and taking breaks when needed. Remote work also reduces exposure to office illnesses, creating a healthier work environment.
Increased Autonomy and Ownership
Research shows6https://hbr.org/2022/05/balancing-autonomy-and-structure-for-remote-employees that remote work empowers employees with greater autonomy and ownership over their work. They typically have more control over their schedules, workflows, and decision-making processes. This increased autonomy can boost motivation, job satisfaction, and professional growth.
Geographic and Lifestyle Flexibility
Remote work offers the freedom to live and work from anywhere with a stable internet connection. This flexibility can enable employees7https://www.hbs.edu/ris/Publication%20Files/Work%20from%20Anywhere_forthcoming%20SMJ_ee8cc7c5-c90e-4ad9-a1f4-47309d693a5c.pdf to relocate to areas with a lower cost of living, be closer to family or friends, or live in their preferred location. It allows employees to align their work with their desired lifestyle, boosting job satisfaction and increasing engagement.
Work Opportunities for Diverse Situations
Remote work accommodates various life situations and circumstances. It allows individuals with caregiving responsibilities, such as parents or those taking care of elderly family members, to balance work and personal obligations more effectively. Remote work can also benefit those with disabilities or chronic health conditions by providing a more accessible and inclusive work environment.
Studies show8https://www.forbes.com/sites/glebtsipursky/2023/01/27/new-research-shows-remote-work-essential-for-caregivers/?sh=f7be7b04331f that 77% of managers and 76% of caregivers agree that remote work improves workers’ overall quality of life.
Employee benefits summary: These benefits contribute to the growing popularity of remote work arrangements. However, it’s important to note that remote work also presents challenges, such as potential social isolation, the need for self-discipline and time management skills, and effective communication and collaboration—more on the challenges later in this article!
Reasons More Companies Are Offering Remote Jobs
Offering remote work options allows employers to adapt to evolving work trends, optimize resources, attract talent, and create a flexible and agile work environment. By embracing remote work, organizations can reap the benefits of increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and operational efficiency. Here is a list of employer benefits!
Remote work has been associated with increased productivity4https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/resources/costs-benefits. Without the distractions and interruptions often present in a traditional office environment, employees can focus on their tasks and have greater control over their work environment.
In fact, one study9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ indicates 40% of employees feel more productive working remotely. Additionally, remote work eliminates commuting time, allowing employees to dedicate more time to their work.
Note: Some research10https://fortune.com/2023/07/06/remote-workers-less-productive-wfh-research/ indicates that productivity decreases with remote work. However, it should be noted that various factors are involved with productivity, and remote work alone doesn’t account for all productivity. Making remote work a scapegoat for poor leadership, lack of structure, or underpayment, for example, doesn’t provide a complete picture.
Remote work can lead to significant cost savings for both employees and employers. They can reduce expenses associated with office space, utilities, maintenance, and other overhead costs. By embracing remote work, companies can allocate resources more efficiently and focus on investing in areas that directly contribute to business growth.
Studies show4https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/resources/costs-benefits that the average real estate savings with full-time telework is about $10,000 per employee per year.
Access to a Wider Talent Pool
Remote work eliminates geographical barriers when hiring, enabling organizations to tap into a global talent pool. Employers can attract and retain top talent regardless of location, leading to a more diverse and skilled workforce.
Studies show9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ that 59% of workers are more likely to choose a company with remote work options.
Increased Employee Satisfaction and Retention
Remote work is often highly valued by employees, leading to increased job satisfaction. Employees appreciate remote work’s flexibility and autonomy, which can contribute to higher engagement and motivation. Companies that offer remote work options may experience higher employee retention rates and attract top talent.
Studies show9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ turnover reduces by 50% when employees can access remote work options.
Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness
Remote work proved critical during the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses needed to adapt quickly to ensure continuity11https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2022/article/telework-during-the-covid-19-pandemic.htm#:~:text=More%20broadly%2C%2022%20percent%20of,involving%20teleworking%20rarely%20or%20never.&text=Source%3A%20U.S.%20Bureau%20of%20Labor,Survey%20to%20the%20Coronavirus%20Pandemic.. Even if your business is not set up for remote-first work, having options for remote work enables companies to maintain operations during unforeseen events, such as natural disasters or public health emergencies, reducing potential disruptions.
Diversity and Inclusion
Remote work can promote diversity12https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbooksauthors/2023/01/10/remote-work-is-great-for-equity-diversity/?sh=1edc1cc25340 and inclusion in the workplace. It allows individuals from different backgrounds and abilities to participate fully, as physical accessibility barriers are reduced. Remote work also will enable individuals with caregiving responsibilities or disabilities to access employment more easily.
Studies found13https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/25/business/economy/labor-disabilities.html that employees with disabilities have risen by more than 12% since the start of the pandemic.
Remote work has become highly desirable among job seekers. Offering remote work opportunities enhances an employer’s brand. It can attract top talent14https://www.forbes.com/sites/glebtsipursky/2023/02/19/creating-competitive-advantage-in-returning-to-the-office/?sh=9c1723675897. Companies that embrace remote work as a core part of their culture and values gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining skilled professionals.
Studies show9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ that 59% of workers report being more likely to choose an employer with remote options, and 74% agree that remote work opportunities make them less likely to leave.
How Does Remote Work—Work?
Remote work refers to a work arrangement where employees perform their job tasks and responsibilities from a location outside of a traditional office environment. The specifics of how remote work functions can vary depending on the company, industry, and individual preferences. Here are some common varieties of remote work:
Full-time Remote Work
In this arrangement, employees work remotely permanently and do not have a physical office location to report to. They typically have a dedicated workspace at home or another preferred location and rely on digital tools and communication technologies to collaborate with colleagues, attend virtual meetings, and complete tasks.
Recent studies9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ indicate that 16% of U.S. companies are fully remote.
Hybrid Remote Work
Hybrid remote work combines remote work with periodic in-person office work. Employees can work remotely for a portion of the week or month and come into the office for specific meetings, team collaborations, or activities requiring physical presence. This arrangement allows for a balance between the benefits of remote work and in-person interaction.
Recent studies9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ indicate that 45% of workers prefer hybrid arrangements.
In remote team setups, entire teams or departments are distributed across different locations, often in different time zones or countries. These teams leverage various collaboration tools, project management platforms, and communication channels to coordinate their work and ensure effective collaboration. Remote teams require strong communication skills and the ability to manage projects and tasks virtually.
Recent studies9https://www.zippia.com/advice/remote-work-statistics/ indicate that 85% of managers believe remote teams will become the norm.
Freelancing and Contract Work
Many freelancers and independent contractors work remotely. They offer clients or companies their services on a project or contract basis. Freelancers are often free to choose their work hours and locations, working remotely from their homes, coworking spaces, or other preferred environments.
Recent studies15https://www.zippia.com/advice/freelancing-statistics/ show that 36% of the U.S. workforce does freelance work, which is expected to grow by 14% over the next six years.
Digital nomads embrace a location-independent lifestyle and travel while working remotely. They often work from various destinations, switching between cities or countries for extended periods. Digital nomads rely on reliable internet connections, coworking spaces, and mobile work setups to carry out their responsibilities while enjoying the freedom to explore different places.
Recent studies16https://www.statista.com/statistics/1298313/number-digital-nomads-united-states/ show more than 16 million digital nomads in the U.S. in 2022, and the trend is increasing.
Remote Work with Occasional Travel
Some remote workers enjoy the flexibility to travel for work or personal reasons while maintaining their job responsibilities. Before returning to their remote work setup, they may attend conferences, meet clients, or collaborate with colleagues in person. This variety allows for a mix of remote work and face-to-face interaction as needed.
These are just a few examples of the varieties of remote work. The specific nature of remote work arrangements can differ significantly based on the organization’s policies, the nature of the job, and the preferences of both the employer and the employee.
A Brief History of Remote Work
The history of remote work can be traced back to several key developments, starting with telecommuting in the1970s and advancing with technology and the demand for more remote work opportunities in recent years. The future of remote work will likely evolve as more organizations embrace remote-friendly policies and leverage innovations.
Here’s a brief overview of the evolution of remote work:
The term “telecommuting”17https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5409177 was coined by Jack Nilles in the 1970s. It referred to the idea of working remotely using telecommunication technologies. At that time, telecommuting was primarily experimented with by a few large corporations and government agencies to reduce commuting time and increase productivity.
The widespread adoption of personal computers, the internet, and other communication technologies in the 1990s paved the way for remote work to become more viable. These tools allowed employees to connect to their office networks from home or other remote locations, enabling work to be performed outside the traditional office environment.
The Gig Economy Grows
The rise of freelancing platforms and online marketplaces in the early 2000s allowed individuals to work remotely on a project basis. This facilitated the growth of the gig economy18https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/industrial-and-organizational-psychology/article/abs/rise-of-the, with professionals offering their services remotely to clients across different geographic locations.
Remote-First Companies Emerge
In recent years, there has been a significant shift in work culture with the emergence of remote-first or fully distributed companies. These organizations prioritize remote work, building their operations and infrastructure around remote teams.
COVID-19 Accelerates Demand
The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2020, forced many businesses and organizations worldwide to adopt remote work19https://www.nber.org/papers/w27344 as a safety measure. This global experiment demonstrated the viability of remote work on a large scale and accelerated its acceptance in various industries.
Remote Work Becomes Mainstream
The pandemic forced many organizations to adopt remote work policies to ensure business continuity and prioritize employee safety. As a result, remote work has become more widely accepted and normalized across industries20https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/07/business/dealbook/remote-work-downturn.html. Many companies have experienced the benefits of remote work firsthand and are likely to continue offering flexible work arrangements even after the pandemic.
Remote Work FAQs
Generally speaking, jobs that involve a lot of computer work, such as programming, graphic design, and content creation, are well-suited for remote work. Other jobs, such as customer service and sales, can also be done remotely as long as there is access to the necessary technology and communication tools. Ultimately, the suitability of a job for remote work depends on the specific tasks involved and the resources available for remote work.
According to recent studies, 27% of workers work remotely as of 2023, and this trend is likely to increase.
The technology industry has the most remote workers. With the advancement of technology, it has become easier for employees to work from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an internet connection. This has led to a rise in remote work opportunities, especially in the tech sector.
Remote work has numerous benefits. It allows for greater flexibility in location and work schedule, leading to a better work-life balance. It can also lead to increased productivity, as employees are not distracted by the typical office environment and can work in a comfortable space.
Additionally, remote work can save employees time and money on commuting and other associated costs. It also allows for a wider pool of job opportunities, as location is no longer a limiting factor in employment. Overall, remote work can be highly desirable for both employees and employers.
Some of the cons of remote work include employees feeling isolated, struggling to separate work and personal life, and potential challenges with communication and collaboration with team members. Without the structure of an office environment, it can sometimes be hard to stay motivated and productive.
Additionally, remote workers may miss out on some social benefits of working in an office, such as impromptu conversations with colleagues or team-building activities.
The future of remote work is looking quite promising. With advancements in technology and the widespread adoption of virtual communication tools, it’s becoming easier than ever for employees to work from home or other remote locations. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years as more and more companies recognize the benefits of allowing their employees to work from anywhere.
Some experts predict that remote work will continue to become the norm rather than the exception and that it will become increasingly common for companies to have a fully distributed workforce. This could have a major impact on how we work and live and could open up new opportunities for people to live and work in different parts of the world. Overall, it seems clear that remote work’s future is bright and will continue to transform how we work and do business.
Remote Work Takeaways
- Remote work has firmly established itself as a transformative force in the modern professional landscape.
- Remote work offers flexibility, improved work-life balance, reduced commuting stress, cost savings, and personalized work environments for employees.
- Employers benefit from access to a global talent pool, increased productivity, reduced costs, and improved employee satisfaction and retention.
- Effective communication, clear expectations, trust, autonomy, technology, team building, work-life balance, and professional development are essential for successful remote work environments.
- Embracing adaptability and being open to change is crucial in navigating the evolving state of remote work.
- Remote work opens up possibilities for reimagining work, creating inclusive environments, and achieving work-life integration.
- Remote work offers a future where individuals have greater control over their careers and organizations thrive in a global marketplace.
For a comprehensive list of tips to enhance your remote work programs, check out our Definitive Remote Work Guide!
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