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Remote Workers Don’t Have to Be Your Team’s Black Sheep

May 17, 2017, 8:33 PM UTC
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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What are your strategies for staying effective while working remotely?” is written by Shawn Moore, chief technology officer of Solodev.

Working remotely has become commonplace in the business world. What many companies fail to consider, however, is that unless they create a truly distributed workforce where all communication happens over designated channels, remote employees will almost always feel like the odd ones out. This is especially true for companies that use a hybrid hiring model, in which some of the workforce works remotely while others work in a traditional office setting.

The hybrid model can hold productivity back if not properly implemented. We have tried the hybrid approach in the past and found that allowing single team members to work remotely is not the most effective strategy. When a single team member works remotely, they don’t have an equal opportunity to build the same kind of relationships as members of the team who see each other every day. A good solution to this is to deploy an entire team remotely, so that all employees feel like they are operating on an even playing field. In short, entire teams can be effective when working remotely, while a splintered team of both traditional and remote workers will be less likely to produce the same results.

Another component to the success of remote teams and individual employees is keeping communication to designated channels. If a company has a disjointed system of communication where information is not disseminated properly, remote employees will miss out on key directives that could impact their performance. Designated channels also ensure that remote workers feel included in non-work related conversations that help bring teams closer together.

At Solodev, we were initially hesitant to use any tools for communication that went beyond a phone call, in-person conversation, meeting, or email. But as time went on, we realized that this was not a sustainable infrastructure for effective workplace communication. As new tools that were more appealing came out, we slowly shifted from the traditional model of communication and collaboration to the modern, Silicon Valley-inspired approach to workforce management.

Companies also need to make reasonable accommodations for employees on maternity leave, or who are dealing with a medical emergency or temporary disability. Since no company plans for a person to unexpectedly work from home for a few months, they must prepare for such occurrences ahead of time. Having an arsenal of tools to help employees effectively work from remote locations is no longer an option; it has now become a necessity.

At Solodev, we have prepared for such situations by implementing the processes and tools that allow our team to do their work anytime, anywhere. We use Jira and Asana for project management, TimeCamp for time tracking, and HipChat for internal communication, all of which are easily accessible on any Internet-connected device. In the event of an employee vacationing in Hawaii, they can use the exact same tools as employees working at our headquarters. With the proper discipline and a dedicated working environment, that employee can be just as effective as someone in the main office.

Moore does not have any investments of the companies mentioned in this article.