Employee wellbeing is the new champion of the workplace. It is well established that the best minds thrive in an ecosystem hinged on flexibility. Top performing employees work best when they are unhindered by rules around time, tasks and workstations. Such flexibility is increasingly offered through remote working options. While conventional wisdom may suggest that certain types of roles may align better with remote working, the increasing adoption of the remote work culture among organisations denotes that this phenomenon transcends roles or industries.
Business leaders often find that enhancing office infrastructure, providing transport facilities and even paying for overtime do not enhance the productivity and morale of developers. That’s where the flexibility to work remotely puts the zing back into a software developer’s performance. Studies have shown that remote working significantly enhances employee satisfaction and improves the bottom line for companies as well.
Remote is the new normal
In a recent survey conducted on remote working, it was interesting to note that 43% of developers shared that the ability to work remotely is a must-have. However, organisations often shy away from offering remote options due to concerns around the monitoring of work, lack of team cohesiveness and security of confidential data. On an impulse, leaders often state that collaboration is not possible through remote working. However, technology is breaking barriers in collaboration by allowing people from different parts of the world to stay in touch easily and seamlessly.
Here are four best practices that ensure the success of an organisation where remote is the new normal.
Leveraging digital communication infrastructure
New cloud-based instant messaging platforms like Slack and Flock enable team members working from different locations to share messages, files and tools seamlessly. Using video to engage with teams enhances the personal connection, and managers get to understand body language better.
Group chats are ideal for problem-solving. Encourage creating these groups on WhatsApp and other new mobile platforms so that teams can connect immediately and effortlessly to ask questions and share suggestions. You can also bring remote teams together by mentoring through work demos or hosting webinars for training and knowledge sharing.
Introducing team off-sites and in-person training
Getting remote teams to come together in person occasionally is also a great idea to promote team bonding. Create programs to enable remote and in-office employees to meet in person through annual events, conferences, dinners and meetings. Invite families to office get-togethers to create greater connection and bonding. If you have several employees working remotely at different locations, it pays to organise local in-person meetings for the smaller cohort of workers in each of the remote cities. You could even get them to fly down to the headquarters once or twice a year as part of an annual company off-site or for other meetings such as a sales kick-off or department-specific off-sites.
Aligning clear individual goals with organisational goals
Setting expectations is very important for all team members, irrespective of whether they are remote or not. Create a set of individual goals that are based on employee roles and interests. A point to note here is that these goals must mirror the larger organisational objectives for the year and must also incorporate ways to support the future roadmap of the company. By further adding a weightage to each goal, you can provide a clear action plan for remote workers.
Introducing perks for remote working employees
Many organisations do not allow the benefits of travel allowance, monthly lunches and employee-engagement programs to percolate to remote employees. This can cause a feeling of isolation that can be avoided with a properly thought out strategy. Encourage remotes to participate in employee programs, compensate for in-house parties with special gifts and ensure that remotes get a share of office goodies.
At DigitalOcean, where more than 60% of our workforce is remote, we find that our remote cohort has the highest engagement when compared to other subgroups in the company. We make this happen through several measures, the first being our investments in digital communication infrastructure. This enables remote workers to reach out to each other at any time, even if they are at opposite ends of the globe. Our meetings are always video-based, so participants feel more connected and engaged during the conversation. At work, we also encourage programming in pairs and frequently share demos, deep dives and mentoring sessions. This does not mean that teams never meet in person — we organise fun events and get-togethers a few times in a year to bridge gaps in connectedness. As a result, our remote working policies benefit both the business and employees.
Should your organisation embrace the new normal? There are many reasons for us to say ‘aye’. First, we are living in an increasingly global work environment, where the best talent can be hired from multiple geographies. In such a scenario, remote working is not only ideal but also inevitable. Many large corporations have already made a conscious effort to offer remote work to employees. Second, while it enhances employee satisfaction and wellbeing, remote work also enables businesses to save on overhead costs. An inclusive and comprehensive policy will further make remote working more mainstream. Having said that, the overall success of the new work that is remote needs technology and, more importantly, a culture that proactively makes employees feel included, avoids burnout and maintains a positive work-life balance! Thus, every company must try and make remote working a success, but a one-size-fits-all remote working strategy should always be avoided.
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Prabhakar Jayakumar is the country director of India at DigitalOcean. Prabhakar is a business leader with proven experience in building and executing GTM strategies for technology-focused businesses. A Graduate of IIM Bangalore and NITK Surathkal, Prabhakar has experience across marketing, sales, business development, technology consulting and system architecture in consumer internet, e-commerce, cloud and software domains. He is also the founder CEO at a startup aimed at building private social networks among neighbourhoods in India. Prabhakar is also the seed member of the team that launched the Amazon marketplace in India and the second hire for Amazon’s international expansion team in India.