One of the most well-known companies who successfully use a remote workforce, is Google. With over 100,000 workers in more than 50 countries and 150 cities, they’ve learnt a thing or two about what it takes to ensure a team works harmoniously, no matter their location or timezone.
Google are lucky enough to have access to the people and technology needed to study more than 5,000 of their employees, and they spent two years measuring their performance, well-being and connectedness to discover exactly what was important when it came to agile working success.
Happily, they found there to be no difference between the output of remote teams versus teams in the same office. The results also showed the well-being of their staff had no difference, with those who worked remotely still finding a good work/life balance, as well as their office based colleagues, by getting a good nights sleep and regular exercise.
Cost vs happiness
So the first important lesson for business leaders using a remote workforce, is that it has the potential to greatly lower business costs but also increase happiness of your employees. But it is not without challenges, of course. Technology, whilst the backbone of any agile workforce, can often mean video calls may cut out or give poor sound quality, making a quick catch up between teams a real effort. In a traditional office setting, teams are built and relationships are cemented around those casual chats at the water-cooler, so how do you build teams when they are around the world?
This may seem an unusual thing to be encouraged, but Google advocate letting their teams chat about what they did at the weekend, at the start of every meeting. It helps to build rapport within the teams. Google also advise to ask your team members which days they would prefer meetings on, and then adapt a rotation strategy with meeting days, so everyone can see a little effort has been made to accommodate their requests.
Managers are key
Leading by example as a team leader can make a huge difference. If managers take the time and put the effort in to getting to know their team members, building strong relationships no matter what timezone their staff are in, will make a huge difference to well-being. It will also show your office based team who may be struggling with getting to know remote workers, that it can be done successfully and will benefit everyone long-term.
Make no assumptions
Assumptions for office based teams can be things like when they should and should not attend meetings, what hours they are expected to respond to emails and holidays days. All obvious if you work together everyday, but the same cannot be applied to remote workers. The best way to avoid any confusion is to not assume anything and instead, set clear boundaries on communication expectations, identifying the days they will be on holiday (for example, different public holidays in each country to be aware of) and which meetings are required for them to attend.
Finally, there is no replacement for face to face interaction, so if it’s possible, Google recommends to arrange a get-together for your team, perhaps celebrating their hard work. You can also allow those who can’t be there to connect virtually to the event, to make them feel part of the celebrations.
If you liked this post, why not read: How to leverage agile talent to grow your business, while you sleep