Google is a giant company. Thriving on the web, it's no stranger to employees working in remote places.
The company has nearly 100,000 workers spread over 150 cities in more than 50 countries on five continents. In its quest to create the perfect remote team, researchers at the company spent two years studying more than 5,000 employees for solutions.
Here, the researchers measured well-being, performance, and connectedness among other things, and came up with recommendations on how to keep things consistent, even if employees are spread out across the globe.
According to Veronica Gilrane from Google's People Innovation Lab (PiLab):
"Well-being standards were uniform across the board as well; Googlers or teams who work virtually find ways to prioritize a steady work-life balance by prioritizing important rituals like a healthy night's sleep and exercise just as non-distributed team members do."
To some organizations and companies, having workers working remotely, can lower costs. At the same time, the workers will feel less restricted to the company rules (working time, dress code, for example), making them happier workers.
But here's the catch: managing workers who work remotely may not be easy. From creating schedule to catching deadlines, things can be hard to maintain.
Gilrane mentioned that many interviewed said remote work made it "more difficult to establish connections" with their colleagues. It also required the remote workers some extra brain power to schedule their work times across time zones.
"The technology itself can also be limiting," said Gilrane.
"Glitchy video or faulty sound makes impromptu conversations that help teammates get to know, and trust each other, seem like more trouble than they're worth."
For those businesses who have employees working remotely, Google shared three things they can follow.
Traditional management principles still apply, but the trick here is to adapt them to the unique set of rules found only in virtual workplace.
1. Get To Know And Better Understand Employees
Many businesses tend to keep relationship between employees and their employers only to what happens in the office. But the fact is that, employees will value their employers more, if their superiors can care more about what happens in their lives outside of work.
Google suggests that, instead of jumping right into scheduled work, businesses should at least allow some times at the beginning of a meeting, where participants can share some personal conversations. For example, they can talk freely about their plans for the weekend.
Doing so can help employers to know and better understand their employees, which would enable them to keep their productivity rate high. This can also help employers to help their employees, if anything goes wrong on their side.
Getting to know employees working in remote teams also includes employers knowing their meeting schedule. Most people would opt to have meetings on certain days, or certain times of the day. Most of the time, participants won't know this unless they ask.
If they can get to know each other better, things should flow a lot more smoothly.
2. Have And Set Clear Boundaries
"Norms set clear expectations for how your team works together," said the researchers. "But they're often assumed rather than explicitly stated, leaving opportunities for confusion."
Here, companies need to have clear boundaries. So instead of making assumptions or leaving things to just come up by chance, they need to clearly communicate guidelines about:
- Communication: From answering emails/pings off-hours, expected response times, and information-sharing across time zones.
- Meetings: Team members must know when they should join meetings in off-hours, and when they can be excused.
- Schedules: This can include personal times, vacation, etc.
3. Maintain And Forge Connections
Having team members work side-by-side in an office can ensure a company to properly manage their employees for maximum productivity. But if companies can build trust between employers and employees, remote workers can work well, as if they are working in an office.
But this takes effort.
Google recommends that companies do spend those extra efforts to connect participants to a personal level.
"Pick up the phone or send an instant message to ask about their day [or] weekend plans," they write.
Employers can also hold meetings just to discuss their experience, and how members of the team can better support and include each other.
Remote work is a working style that allows people to work outside of a traditional office environment. This is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully.
So instead of commuting to an office to work on a designated desk, remote employees can work on their projects wherever they please. Remote workers have the flexibility to design their days so that their professional and personal lives can be experienced to their fullest potential and co-exist peacefully.
Remote work is on the rise. While it has been feasible for a few decades, but with the internet that is spreading and becoming increasingly faster, working remotely is becoming even more mainstream.
But still, business should know that there is no replacement for in-person interaction, like once explained by Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo!.
Mayer said that "people are more productive when they're alone, but they're more collaborative and innovative when they're together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together."
What this means, there are some trade-offs.
But for companies to have remote workers to work at their fullest, they need to bring the full team together in one location as often as possible. Make these meetings special, to get each other personally better, and to celebrate the team for their hard work.
If for any reasons employees can't make it, invite them to connect virtually, to make them still feel like part of the occasion.
"We found managers leading by example and making an extra effort to get to know distributed team members can be extra impactful," said the research team at Google.
Businesses should know that the most efficient way for employees to get a job done is not always the best way to get it done. And this applies even more to virtual workplace.