If we put you in a good team at a bad company, you’ll tend to hang around, but if we put you in a bad team at a good company, you won’t be there for long. The team is the sun, the moon, and the stars of your experience at work.”
Nine Lies About Work
by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
Remote work has gone mainstream. By 2025, an estimated 70 percent of the workforce will work remotely for at least five days each month. And employees are embracing it: 86 percent of those who have the option of working from anywhere choose to do so. But while the option of remote work is a clear winner for individual employees, it’s not easy to build a sense of team community and culture with a distributed workforce.
Some common community challenges with a distributed workforce include the increased complexity of managing remote workers, lack of participation from offsite workers in meetings, and miscommunications that would not have happened if everyone was in the same office. This in mind, it’s important for organizations with a remote workforce to build a strong sense of community among everyone on the team—no matter where they are.
Here are three best practices for building a strong team with a distributed workforce:
1. Choose managers who will engage and involve remote workers.
More than 55 percent of hiring managers expect more of their team to work remotely by 2028 rather than less. Are your team leaders embracing this trend, or resisting it? The first step to build strong community among distributed workers is choosing managers who understand the reality of remote work’s appeal—and how to engage employees who choose it. If your managers are skeptical of remote workers or view distributed workforces as a fad, they might not be prepared to lead future teams to do their best work.
So, what does effective management of remote workers look like? The answer is a lot like effective management of onsite teams, only not in the same room. Choose leaders with a proven track record of building highly engaged, high-performing teams, and be sure they have a plan to engage and motivate remote workers. It’s important these plans are not one-size-fits-all. After all, employees choose remote work for a variety of reasons, so your managers’ strategies for engaging each employee need to fit their unique talents, experience, and professional aspirations.
2. Onboard and train managers and employees to collaborate remotely.
Once you choose the right team leads, provide an onboarding experience that sets clear expectations and prepares them to manage a distributed team effectively. One important expectation is engaging out-of-office employees to do their best work and to grow in their careers. This makes weekly one-on-one meetings essential, but those are only a starting point. It’s also important to consistently give remote workers opportunities to present and share their work with colleagues. This reinforces that your distributed workforce is a united team, even if you don’t physically share the same space.
In the same way, managers should encourage their in-office employees to collaborate with remote workers whenever possible. Whether this means sharing work-in-progress to get feedback or scheduling video whiteboard meetings where team members can brainstorm across locations, managers need to encourage community among all their employees. And whenever your team’s travel budget allows you to get everyone together for an onsite gathering, do it—even the best virtual collaboration can only improve with face-to-face time.
3. Deploy technology to support remote collaboration (including webcams).
Adopting the right technology is a crucial element of engaging remote employees, as 68 percent of employees believe it’s very important that new technologies allow them to work from anywhere according to a recent Quartz report. Ideally, the technology you deploy should give remote employees the same kind of great work experience as onsite workers, allowing them to access the same communication and filesharing apps from any location and any device.
And whenever your distributed team has a video conference, make it a team policy to turn on individual webcams—even if most of your team is in a physical conference room. The goal here isn’t to make everyone self-conscious, but rather to encourage employees to engage with their remote colleagues. By seeing the faces of everyone on a call, your team will feel more present and connected to their coworkers across locations.
Lead your distributed workforce toward a sense of community
Many of the best practices for building community with a distributed workforce are the same as with an onsite team: choose the right leaders, encourage each employee to collaborate and engage, and do all you can to make each team member feel valued and included. The primary difference with remote workers is understanding how technology plays a key role in empowering each team member to do their best work no matter where they are. As you lead your distributed workforce toward stronger community, do not neglect how the right workplace technology can help everyone do their best work—together.
For more best practices to include in your remote work strategy, read this eBook.
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