Operating remotely requires not only the right tech, it also takes engagement at all levels.
4 min read
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Many businesses have decided to stick with the “work from home” arrangements that the pandemic forced on the world. Take, for example:
- REI, the outdoor retailer, announced that it is selling its brand new, unused 8-acre corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington. In the same statement, CEO Eric Artz said the company will “lean into remote working as an engrained, supported, and normalized model” for employees.
- Since first closing their offices last March, Zillow teams have evolved new and inspiringly creative ways to work together, support each other, and embrace the approximately 500 new employees they’ve onboarded, entirely remotely.
- Research company Nielsen plans to convert its New York City offices into meeting spaces for employees as they continue to work from home even after the pandemic passes.
There is, however, an ah-ha realization when working from afar. Operating remotely requires not only the right mechanics, such as solid connectivity and efficient workflow. Logistics aside, it also takes engagement at all levels. Wherever the work gets done. The idea being a dispersed workforce, but never a detached one.
The concept of engagement should be practiced daily, and that holds true whatever the industry or discipline. Workers desire human contact and a sense of belonging—person to purpose. They typically thrive at businesses, entrepreneurial or established, where leaders maintain close, meaningful contact with the front lines. None of this limp, lip service of corporate speak.
According to Gallup, well-attuned organizations share similarities for success. They:
- Instill workforce engagement from the top down.
- Believe such bonding offers a competitive edge.
- Strive to make workplace communications commonplace.
- Hire leaders who get those things, plus know how to hire, develop and measure it.
Having run an on-demand virtual service company for a quarter of a century, I understand the real need for personal interaction with remote workers spread out over 1,000s of miles across the United States and Canada.
As an entrepreneur, I put in place virtual-workforce procedures to establish and now run Working Solutions, an onshore contact center outsourcer with a network of 150,000+ independent contractors—all working remotely.
Today, those practices and processes apply to startups, as well as to larger companies still refining their newfound remote operations.
Key success factors for working from home
- Become the business: Using accredited, in-house educators who acclimate new contractors in their jobs serving clients and their customers. Based on a client’s corporate training, virtual curriculum is developed to school remote workers in operations through the virtual classroom and interactive learning.
- See, solve and succeed: Providing go-to resources that enable workers, on staff and contracted, to answer business questions through platforms and apps. These resources provide a clear line of sight into company objectives and workers’ own performance, with help on hand to improve as needed.
- Diminish the distance: Reaching out to contractors in the field through online meetings, group activities and in-person get-togethers (resuming now that the virus is brought under control). These activities create an esprit de corps, forging closer and deeper relationships, and often create relationships that span years.
Even after the pandemic passes, remote workforces will prove to be an enduring outcome of the crisis. Newfound businesses have seen how less is more, with virtual offering the benefits of flexibility and access to talent everywhere. Lithe and lean are the orders of the day. Also, established companies are learning to do more with increased automation, to use less office space and to retain fewer workers on site.
Regardless of these efficiencies, the need to connect with workers on the front lines, no matter how far-flung, becomes even more important for business success. Being remote, in fact, reinforces the most basic human desire to feel welcome and believe in the work being done. Staying close inspires great performance, near and far.