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According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting Report, remote work is the fastest-growing commute method, with more than half of the top U.S. metro areas reporting that telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice. And employers are embracing this trend, as the number of companies offering flexible workplace options increased 40% since 2010.

As the popularity of telecommuting rises, it’s crucial for employers to engage and empower their employees, no matter where they may be working from that day. At Spanning, we have long embraced the flexibility that a telecommuting schedule offers our employees. We would love to share some of our best practices when it comes to a remote workforce.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Once you have decided to offer remote options to your employees, communication becomes key. Daily chats via messaging apps like Slack or Google Meet, weekly team meetings, and opportunities for new hires to “meet” their teams via video are integral to a successful and highly functioning remote team. The key here is experimentation and willingness to try new (or old!) technologies to keep your teams talking.

With remote teams or employees, it is important to put structured communications into place. Especially when teams have people in multiple time zones. Use regularly scheduled daily standups or weekly check-in sessions. Also, meeting management is super important. It is easy to overwhelm your remote folks with too many ad-hoc meetings, or long running ‘status’ meetings. Make sure that you have an agenda and pre-information ready before a meeting starts, actively manage what decisions are being sought, and follow-up with a written summary of decisions, actions, and open items. This will work wonders for your local people as well.

Even with all the options to stay connected virtually, face-to-face meetings are still vitally important to build trust across your team. Whether it is a yearly “all hands” meeting (at Spanning we have our annual Crawfish Boil as the anchor) or smaller quarterly team meetings, the investment in travel costs will pay off.

The success of a remote culture lives and dies with communication, so establishing a routine and expectations around check-ins will prevent misunderstandings and conflicting priorities.

How not to micromanage

For many managers, seeing their employees every day, learning their habits, how they interact with coworkers and the general routine of an office environment can be the most difficult habit to break once employees begin working from home. Some employers deal with this loss of control by micro-managing their employees, which only decreases productivity for those feeling the need to check in all the time. If an employer has hired trustworthy and hardworking employees, managers should focus more on results and less on frequency of updates.

Remote work = more productive work

According to a 2014 survey by Dell, 50% of employees who spend time working from home believe they are more productive there than in the office. And close proximity to your supervisor and work colleagues does not guarantee productivity – in fact many employees cite in-office distractions such as office gossip as reasons for a drop in productivity. When your employees work remotely, these distractions are eliminated, and many note additional benefits such as increased sleep, the ability to exercise any time during the day, and more time with significant others.

Back-end Organization

I would also be remiss if I didn’t also mention the importance of utilizing SaaS applications for a seamless work stream and the technology to backup all this data generated outside of the four walls of our office.

How has your company navigated flexible and remote schedules?

We would love to hear how you have made a remote career work either for yourself or for your company.