It can be easy to think of telework as a silver bullet for engagement – what’s more appealing to an employee than rolling out of bed and walking across the hall to work in their pajamas? However, telework is just as new and different to employees as it is to management, and it is not always fun and games getting adjusted to it. Here are some of the big challenges employees contend with when going remote:
Blurred Work and Personal Lines – Working from home is great, but with much closer boundaries it can become quickly confusing as to when work ends and personal life begins. With children and family in the mix the employee may find themselves having to reschedule their entire life to ensure they can even get the unbroken time they need to work.
Psychological Connection – Many go into a remote position with the innocent presumption that technology will fill in for real human interaction, but once the convenience of in-person support is absent, they find it difficult to maintain a constant psychological connection with the work. This can lead to unintended engagement slumps or miscommunications.
Time differences – We field several remote employees in different time zones throughout the world, and sometimes asking for two or three hours of difference is stressful and not always feasible. Remote employees can feel great pressure to stretch their limits with strange, unfamiliar work schedules.
So here’s a good checklist to prepare an employee who’s going remote:
Discuss schedule: Set up some expectations for working hours. This doesn’t have to be a hard conversation. Have a frank discussion about roadblocks (i.e. new personal schedules, time differences) and work something out that both parties can feel good about.
Set up a regular touch-base: Providing mile markers is the easiest way to ensure a remote employee doesn’t start to get off track. Even if it’s just a five-minute call to say “thanks for the hard work,” a weekly call (at the least) can do wonders for maintaining a connection to the home office.
Open a work/life balance dialogue: Regularly checking in on work/life balance with remote employees sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that stereotype why it’s such an insidious engagement sapper. Wherever work and life collide, it will always be a dilemma. Take the first step and make it part of the conversation.
Don’t dilute recognition and rewards: Recognition can lose its impact across distances, so be sure to have some options in place that give remote workers a comparable experience (i.e. online or social experiences). Too often they get trapped in the land of email-only recognition, so keep a healthy variety of award types handy.
Like anything else, there are considerations on both sides of remote work. In many ways successful engagement of teleworkers happens the same way it does with their office-bound counterparts – clear communication, empathy, and proactive response.