In the last few years, there’s been a shift in the way that employees think about remote and flexible work. While it was initially conceived as an employee benefit to help promote work-life balance, it is now viewed as a core offering for any competitive position. Fuze’s own research has shown that 83 percent of employees don’t need to be in the office to be productive. In the same vein, a recent FlexJobs’ survey revealed that in 2017, 32 percent of respondents quit a job over a lack of flexibility. Not only are modern employees happier with remote options, but they aren’t afraid to jump ship if they don’t have them.
This embrace of remote work has fundamentally changed the way that teams collaborate. While the increasingly decentralized workforce has had a positive impact employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, the dynamics which define teams have become slightly tricky to manage. Video calls have become virtual conference rooms, yes, but it requires a certain effort by managers to make employees feel included. Team leaders are using a diverse array of tools to replicate the in-person experience.
But it isn’t only managers who need to be more strategic in the way they approach team dynamics. Particularly in the gig economy where remote contractors are increasingly common, disparate employees have an equal responsibility to ensure that their voices are heard and that can contribute to the best of their ability. Here are a few tips for remote employees to best manage relationships with supervisors:
- Lean on the tools that power you. Between voice, video, and messaging, the suite of channels that enable remote work offers plenty of opportunities to engage with managers. While it can be easy to “go dark” when you don’t have a meeting scheduled or there isn’t something you explicitly need at the moment, keeping an open line of communication is incredibly important. By making daily check-ins a priority, it establishes a stronger rapport for those moments when you truly need to push your manager on something.
- Create a system. The defining characteristic of the modern workplace experience is that it’s highly individualized. Technology is built to accentuate and support unique productivity preferences. Between remote employees and managers, there needs to be a certain level of structure which informs the working relationship. Have a discussion early with your manager about expectations on both ends – availability, channel preferences, etc. Also, don’t be afraid to hold managers to those expectations. They need to adhere to a certain system just as employees do. Remote work doesn’t, and cannot work when it’s a free-for-all.
- Reevaluate when necessary. As demonstrated by the high-profile rejection of remote work by some companies last year – building the right flexible and remote work strategy is still a work in progress for businesses. The truth of the matter is that for both employees and their managers, there is no guide book to what works for everyone. If there are struggles within a remote work team, be proactive and open that dialogue. It might mean a number of things – adding more video calls, leaning more heavily on group chat, etc. It can be an exciting experiment which, in the long term, will ultimately benefit the entire business.
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