Working remotely is appealing for a lot of reasons: You don’t have to commute, you’re in charge of your daily routine, and you can work for a company you love that just happens to be in a different city. (If you’re a remote worker in Vermont you can even get a cash bonus for being so awesome.) According to research by HR consulting firm Robert Half, 77 percent of employees say they would take a job that allows telecommuting at least some of the time. And since 75 percent of managers say they are open to their employees telecommuting, it’s no surprise that working from home is a commonly-used perk used to attract new hires.
But here’s another interesting stat from the same research: 73 percent of workers would still prefer to work together in groups rather than independently away from the office. That’s a pretty radical contrast to the 12 percent who prefer off-site virtual collaboration and the 5 percent who just want to work autonomously off-site.
Since IT/tech is already the second-most popular field for remote work, keeping remote workers feeling connected and happy is good for business. Here are some stressors remote workers face—and how to make them better.
Remote workers often worry about their, well, remoteness from their team. Companies that have a majority-remote staff often organize periodic retreats and all-staff meetings so that everyone can make in-person connections and feel a sense of camaraderie. If there are only a handful of workers on a mostly in-office team, however, it’s important that both employees and managers make a conscious effort to keep offsite workers in the loop.
Solutions: Daily morning meetings are a great way to touch base and let remote workers know what’s going on in the office and how various projects are progressing. Collaboration software is essential. And if it’s possible, flying in workers for the occasional product launch (or even the office holiday party) will encourage personal connections, too.
Time zone bingo.
You could be adjusting up to three hours in the United States (and way more if a worker is in Hawaii or elsewhere overseas). Is the remote worker OK with 7am meetings in their time zone, or will the in-house team have to rearrange meeting times to include them? Will they be disconnected from the team if they log off at 3pm because it’s 5 where they live?
Solutions: Square away expected hours up front—ideally during the hiring process. This goes for remote managers, too: If a New York manager needs to have morning meetings but their team is in California, the team should be given a say in the matter.
Toxic office culture.
You’ve seen it. The stakeholder who doesn’t invite remote workers to meetings because they don’t seem to be a “real” member of the staff. The inflexible manager who won’t put a remote worker on track for a promotion. Frustrated coworkers who are a little jealous of their remote colleagues because they’ve asked to work from home one day a week and been turned down.
Solutions: One of the great things about smaller businesses is that company culture can be changed much faster than in the enterprise world. And with one-third of employees working from home within the next 10 years, any company that isn’t remote-friendly is going to have some serious hiring and retention problems. If you’re a remote worker experiencing issues, have a frank talk with your manager about it (or another manager if yours is the issue). As a manager, you need to ensure your remote reports are being treated fairly, and your in-house reports are given the flexibility they need, too—it’ll make everyone happier.
Long-distance IT care.
Being remote makes it a lot harder for an IT team to take care of a workers’ hardware needs, especially when it can take days to securely ship new tech or send something back for repair.
Solutions: Do not skimp on laptops, tablets and printers for remote staff—quality, reliable tech will make them more productive (and happier, too). An HP ZBook gives them the performance of a desktop with the mobility of a laptop; pair it with the HP ZBook dock for portable, clutter-free docking. Desktop users will like size of HP’s small-but-mighty mini desktops. A smart home printer like the HP Tango is the perfect size for a home office. Add in a good headset for Skype calls, such as the Omen by HP 800, and they’ll be ready to get to work.