According to Global Workplace Analysis, the number of non self-employed people working from home has increased by 173% since 2005. As managers get gradually used to the idea of remote working and trusting their staff to work unsupervised, it leaves a whole new set of considerations.
As a sales professional, you’re probably quite used to remote working and having a remote team, field-based reporting is a commonality in sales, but how engaged are your team?
Remote workers are at risk of being forgotten about by ‘on-site’ staff, they can be easily missed from communications and end up finding things out second hand.
One of the major frustrations amongst home workers is a common misconception that if you’re working from home then you MUST be skiving and that if you aren’t pinned to your desk from 9am till 5pm then you haven’t done a day’s work!!
Another assumption that these people mustn’t be ‘team players’ and they like being alone so don’t worry about involving them in internal chit chat or engagement activities.
All completely wrong.
It might seem like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t in terms of practicing remote working, on the one hand you’re benefitting from increased productivity, less commuting time wasting, disruptions at the office, meetings for meetings sake etc but that doesn’t mean you can forget about your home workers. Here are some things that you can do to keep your team engaged from afar.
1) Calendar sharing – this is an obvious one and easy to implement, knowing what people are up to enables you to take an interest in what they are doing and make them feel someone cares.
2) Keep in touch – set up routine times of day when you can speak to your remote workers, it doesn’t have to be formal, just ensure you check in and do what you say you are going to do when you say you will. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting around for someone to call.
3) Don’t forget technology – skype, facetime are at your disposal to make your conversations a little more personable, so use them. Sure they’ve got a great relationship with the postman and the neighbour’s dog walker but remember they aren’t social recluses.
4) Always include them in stuff – even if they can’t get to your next ‘bowling night’ or ‘pub quiz’ ask them anyway. You just never know.
5) Don’t exclude them from strategy – consistent updates on where the business is heading is crucial for continuous improvements in performance. Schedule regular face to face strategy sessions, review meetings, objective reviews & 1-2-1’s with your remote team to ensure they feel part of the team. It will come across in the enthusiasm of their sales pitch.
6) Focus on output not presenteeism – so your remote worker trots off somewhere for an hour during the day… tut tut say all the site workers, but are they delivering the work they need to? Are they working at 7 in the morning so they can do a personal errand during the day, or working at the weekend so they can take their kids out during the summer? Just because they aren’t at their desk, doesn’t mean they’re not productive, so focus on accomplishments not activity.
7) Find out about them – in an everyday office or workplace, you might have up to 10 or 20 conversations a day with your various colleagues about all manner of things, your partner, your children, your hobbies and interests, these go on at the coffee machine or at lunch time, but your remote workers rarely get chance to talk about themselves, people call them because it’s work related, but don’t forget they have lives too, so get to know them and find out what they’re really about.
One of the saddest facts that we are faced with today is the impact of mental health on suicide in men and women. Employers have a duty of care to their remote working employees to consider factors that could contribute to feelings of depression or even suicide.
Thankfully there is an increasingly open dialogue on the subject of mental health and many things you, as an organisation, can do to highlight it to your staff. If any of this resonates with you and your organisation, please do get in touch to discuss your communication strategies and ideas for how you could tackle this.