Aligning in-office and remote working teams

As the number of people working remotely continues to increase, we look at how you can ensure your in-office and remote workers remain aligned.

Gary Luther

03/08/2020

About 52% of the global workforce is now operating remotely at least some of the time.

Allowing employees to work from outside the office delivers a range of amazing benefits. First, it supports greater work/life balance. Employees who work externally often have the freedom to adjust their schedules to suit various demands.

Secondly, remote working improves productivity. As long as your employees have the right tools at hand, they can get more done at home. They don’t have to worry about in-office noise or distractions getting in the way.

All the while, remote working eliminates the daily commute, reduces office overheads, and improves your chances of retaining key employees.

The only problem?

You need to figure out how to align your remote workers with your in-office staff.

The rise of the hybrid workforce

A lot of professionals and HR experts are talking about the transition to remote working right now. At the start of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many organisations to begin embracing virtual meetings and other digital strategies faster than expected.

This sudden shift created a new era in the workplace, where remote working isn’t just a long-term concept – it’s something that people want right now. The ability for staff to work from anywhere gives companies another layer of business continuity and protection.

When work isn’t a place you go to but something you can do from any location with an internet connection, it’s easier to keep things moving smoothly.

However, even as the world discovers the many benefits of remote working, it’s unlikely that everyone will shift processes overnight. Instead, we’ll have an environment where some employees are remote, while others operate in-house.

The key question, how do you keep these two factions connected?

Bridging the gap between in-office and remote teams

Keeping all of your team members connected is crucial.

Failing to do so often leads to silo mentality. That’s what happens when your marketing and sales team have no idea what your product and customer service groups are doing. Gaps between employees cause issues with missing information and disengagement.

The good news is that just because your employees aren’t always in the same room, doesn’t mean they can’t stay connected. Here are some tips to get you started.

1.   Communicate constantly

The first step in any team-building strategy is communication.

Your remote and in-office employees need a shared environment where they can talk about everything. This includes not just conversations about the workplace and professional projects. You also need a virtual water cooler where people can bond on a deeper level.

Instant messaging apps like Microsoft Teams are perfect for supporting on-going discussion. You can have one large channel where everyone can chat, as well as dedicated spaces for different groups in your team. There’s even the option to set up regular video and audio meetings too.

Once you have your tools in place for ongoing communication, make sure everyone knows how to use them. This could include introducing policies that dictate when it’s a good idea to use instant messaging, and when it’s important to call or video conference.

If you do have video and audio meetings, remind your remote workers not to log-in from a location where someone might overhear them.

2.   Cultivate team connections

The remote side of your workforce might benefit from things like flexible work hours, and the lack of a daily commute, but they’ll struggle in other ways. Home workers don’t get a chance to connect with their team members and build deeper connections.

When your employees start to feel isolated, they’re less engaged by your business, and less likely to stick around. This is why it’s so important to strengthen human connections.

Creating water-cooler style chat rooms where people can have conversations about everything is a good idea. Video meetings that mimic face-to-face interaction boost a sense of community too. However, there are other steps you can consider.

Think about scheduling a regular check-in with your remote workers so you can see how they’re doing. Start competitions that get both your in-office and remote employees involved and working towards the same goal.

There are even virtual team building activities and bonding sessions available to help you out these days. For instance, you might have a community coffee break.

3.   Master the challenge of management

Managing an in-office team is simple enough. When you see people around you every day, it’s easy to check up on how projects are coming along. Managers in office environments are also more likely to give praise and recognition to people in the office.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to forget about remote workers and what they need. Supervisors and managers in hybrid workplaces need to ensure that remote and in-office employees are getting the same treatment.

This could mean that you set up a digital environment where you can give rewards and “karma” to people who deliver the best results. That way, it’s easy to keep track of how everyone is doing in the same place. You could also look into things like leaderboards and wallboards to track performance.

At the same time, make sure that all of your employees have access to the same guidelines for workplace policies. For instance, what do your teams need to know about setting passwords and two-factor authentication?

How do you assign projects to your employees and ensure they’re sticking to deadlines? Does everyone in your team need to log into a time-tracking app, regardless of whether they’re in the office?

Clarify processes and expectations early, and you’ll have fewer problems with inconsistency.

4.   Put transparency first

One of the biggest problems that remote employees have when they move away from the office is that they can easily begin to feel out of the loop. Just because some of your team members aren’t around to hear daily office updates, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get the same information.

When people understand the goals of the company, which direction it’s moving in, and the role that they play, they’re more likely to deliver their best work. From day one, you need to be transparent about everything that’s going on in your business with all of your employees.

Keep people up-to-date about the mobile device management tools you use, and how they track information on an employee’s phone. Make sure your team members know what kind of systems you’re putting in place to protect and support both in office and remote employees.

Create a culture of transparency by explaining the reasons behind big business decisions, and how they connect to larger goals. If anything changes in your business, don’t host an in an office meeting and let other team members know later. Ask everyone to join a digital meeting instead.

Making sure everyone gets crucial information at the same time will prevent your remote workers from feeling like an afterthought.

5.   Align your tools and technology

Finally, when you have both remote and in-office employees to work with, it’s important to ensure that your technology is properly aligned. If you know that your at-home workers are using their own smartphones and mobile devices to get work done, consider implementing a BYOD policy so that your in-office staff can take the same approach.

Think about what kind of tools will make all of your team more productive. For instance, you might decide to start using a digital project management service like Asana or Trello to track assignments. That way, managers can use the same process to keep everyone on the same page.

Digitising more of your processes with things like cloud-based backups and data storage, online instant messaging tools, and video conferencing will make everything feel a lot more natural for your distributed team.

Remember, if anyone in your workforce has trouble getting used to the new tools and services you’re going to be using, it’s important to provide plenty of training. One-on-one sessions and webinars improve your chances of employees adopting the approved tools you want them to use.

If your staff don’t feel comfortable with the tools you provide, your risk of shadow IT increases.

Connect your remote and in-office workers

The age of remote work is here.

Every day, the number of people working remotely increases. Many experts believe that flexible working is the future of the office environment, offering greater productivity and cost savings. However, we won’t all move to a remote landscape overnight.

Instead, companies need a way to support both their in-office and remote workers during a time of transition. If you need help empowering your hybrid workforce, contact the team at Nice Network today.