The workplace is evolving at a rapid clip, and it's now a necessity to accept individual working style – whether that be preferred hours, communication technology, or work location. In fact, today over half of the U.S. population works remotely at least once a week. To ignore this trend is a corporate death sentence.
Our Global State of Remote Work report found that 68% of employees work remotely in some capacity. Remote work is a growing phenomenon, and it's important for businesses to be aware of just how common it has become. Consider, too, the fact that remote work is not just beneficial to employees; there are plenty of benefits to companies. Remote work can support your hiring. Fully distributed companies take 33% less time to hire a new employee. If you're able to recruit outside of a commutable distance from your organization, your talent pool is going to expand immensely.
We also found that those who work remotely at least once a month are 24% more likely to feel happy and productive in their roles than those who don't or can't work remotely. The outcome of that happiness is higher retention. Companies that support remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than companies that don't. That's a substantial leg up for companies offering remote work.
Currently, 56% of companies offer remote work in some form. I find it particularly interesting that 40% of companies are hybrid, offering both remote and in-office options. I think this is the future of work. Location has become irrelevant, and we should allow people to work from anywhere so they can be most successful.
This comes with one substantial caveat: Hybrid teams are by far the most challenging to manage and make successful, due to the inequalities that come into play when people are in all different places. So, even if we have accepted remote work, we as businesses still need to be enabled to support it. We cannot create a world in which remote workers are not equally enabled as those who are in the office.
Here are my key tips to stop fighting it and make remote work and hybrid teams as successful as possible in your organization.
In order to make remote work successful in your organization, it needs to be completely normal. The days are gone in which remote work was seen as a perk. It's now an expectation. You need to emphasize that this is something anyone can do, at any time for any reason.
This is a very easy way to help make remote work normal within your organization. It isn't something just for junior employees, it goes all the way to the executive level. If you are a CEO, make sure that you're practicing what you preach and modeling the behavior that you want to foster in your employees.
Once you start having folks that are sometimes in the office, sometimes not, many of the traditional ways of measuring an employee's success become useless. Counting butts in seats simply won't work as a remote or hybrid manager! Instead, make sure that you have set clear expectations of the results and impact that every employee should have on the business. Make sure you measure employees based on their progress towards those goals, not on visible effort.
When you start evaluating employees based on results, you'll begin to create an ecosystem of trust, and that's what leads remote workers being happier in their jobs. When employees feel trusted, they can do their best work. You have to lean back and trust your staff. If your instinct is to control, remote work is going to fail in your organization.
If you manage a team that is partially or fully remote, you're not going to be able to rely on chance run-in's in the hallway to drive communication. Everyone, whether in-office or remote, needs to be proactive about communication and making those moments. With a little bit of work and structure, you can actually create those casual, communication-sparking moments digitally.
Don't fire anyone on Slack. That's – hopefully – an obvious example that demonstrates what I mean about matching your method to the conversation. It holds true for all sorts of nuances around communication. If you're doing a deep dive to teach an employee how to use a new piece of technology, you'll probably want a clear, real-time communication method like a video conference with a screen share. Video is the best way to get emotional context, so for sensitive conversations where it's imperative to get the tone of the conversation right, be sure to use video.
This tip is especially helpful for organizations where employees span multiple time zones. The main point of asynchronous communication is providing clear information so that someone can do their job when you can't check in anymore. You're setting someone up to be successful without you. Engineering teams have used this technique very successfully to build intricate products without being online all at the same time.
It's important to invest in strong relationships across your team, especially when your team may not see each other in person all that often. You can do this across the whole organization, it doesn't just have to be at the leadership level. At Owl Labs, we've been known to bring a camera with us to the bar when we meet an important milestone so that remote employees can be a part of our celebration and our social hangout.
If you do have the ability to provide employees with swag, make sure that everyone gets it. It's so easy to forget, but leaders need to make the effort to be conscientious so you don't have your remote employees thinking, "What about me?" This can be as easy as shipping a t-shirt via snail mail.
While I'm a huge proponent for remote work, at the end of the day there is nothing better than being together in person. It's just the truth. That is the way you can have the most natural, authentic connection. Embrace this as often as you possibly can. It can get expensive to bring your whole team together, so be thoughtful about how you're using the time. I promise that you'll hold onto those special moments for a long time, so it's worth investing in.
Lookin for more? Download our free leadership guide for managing remote employees next.