It’s no secret that remote environments are growing in popularity; a trend that is being driven by new generations of workers who expect boundaries and desire harmony between work time and personal time.
But remote workplaces do come with challenges. One often cited is the lack of collective work experiences – including a shared office space – and the negative impact this is assumed to have on the creation of cohesive workplace teams or a unified culture.
The Right Way to Work Remotely
As it turns out, Inspiring HR knows a thing or two about remote work environments. They are a 100% remote business model, with 11 employees scattered throughout the country in a manner that best meets the HR needs for their 100+ customers nationwide.
When Inspiring HR’s consultants gathered together for the first time at their inaugural company retreat in March of 2018, it seemed the right time to assess whether it is really possible to build a productive and collegial team within a remote business environment.
From the start, we had our answer.
“For me,” said Inspiring HR’s CIO and Founder Mindy Flanigan, “the most affirming moments of the entire retreat were from that first evening. I watched my team greet one another like long lost friends, even though they had never physically met before.”
As the retreat progressed, a recipe for remote work success came into focus.
Buy-in and support from leadership. Mindy isn’t just Inspiring HR’s leader, she’s also a remote worker herself. As such, she understands the importance of clear communication on matters such as client response time and when her employees are required and not required to be available. She implemented standard operating procedures to keep service levels consistent and provides an environment for team members to seamlessly support one another during vacations or leaves of absence.
Hire remote-ready employees. Successful remote employees are self-motivated, results-orientated and tech-friendly. They are effective communicators and collaborators who can also work independently and take responsibility for their success rather than looking to “rise with the tide”. Once you find an employee with the right combinations of traits and skills, you must orient them properly. Inspiring HR has a rigorous new hire orientation program that begins on day one. There is a precise checklist to follow so nothing falls through the cracks. This affirms to their team members that they are valued and allows them to start building their workplace relationships right away.
Communication is key. In order to quickly remove obstacles and keep everyone and everything advancing forward, leaders are required to have regularly scheduled check-ins with the employees they supervise. These one-to-ones are used to review open tasks, connect employees with colleagues best equipped to help them over hurdles, and provide dependable, uninterrupted time to discuss any concerns or issues. For new employees, these one-to-ones occur weekly. For more seasoned employees, they may take place bi-weekly or even monthly. This constant communication flow also reinforces expectations on deadlines, client service levels, productivity, and professional development so that consultants can effectively self-manage – through block timing and boundaries – the integration of work and personal demands.
Technology and tools make all the difference. At Inspiring HR, they rely on Wrike and Slack to keep their work organized and communication flowing. There are times, however, when a reliable, low-tech option is the best fit for building relationships, as was noted by Sr. HR Consultant Val Juarez: “I have found it important to replace the ‘face time’ I had in an office with picking up the phone and talking to my colleagues about work, to troubleshoot, to brainstorm, and to support each other. Listening to each other in conversation helps their remote team learn and gel.”
Project work makes the team work. Project work is one of the most effective ways their remote consultants deepen their workplace connections and build awareness about all the expertise available within their dispersed team. With the right tools, we can share their experience and skills with coworkers as easily as if we worked down the hall from one another. Project work also creates an atmosphere of accountability, reliability, and trust that is often absent from remote workplaces, but that is thriving at Inspiring HR.
Remote work lets employees focus on the job. Having a remote environment can eliminate the wasted time, gossip, and friction that plague many companies. When they did come together at their retreat, they jumped right into productive brainstorming sessions at a level that may not have been possible if they had brought their daily baggage to the table with them.
To compete for the newest generations of talent, companies should position themselves as remote-friendly employers. At Inspiring HR, they are a working example of the viability and potential of remote work environments for small businesses.
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