Plenty of businesses made the switch to remote operations in the spring and summer of 2020. Though some have brought most or all of their workers back to the office, others haven’t. A 2022 Gallup survey of employees showed that 53% of workers were at least in a hybrid arrangement. Nearly one-quarter were fully virtual.
The result of this major shift has understandably caused ripples throughout the corporate landscape. Leaders are now faced with updating their operations to better fit this transformed working world.
The process isn’t as easy as it might sound. Even after three years of dealing with remote teams, companies are still trying to iron out all the details. As such, they’re asking many pertinent questions: How can they keep virtual workers engaged? What are the practical considerations for onboarding and training remote staff? How can customer service remain consistent and high when support agents aren’t in-house?
If you’re an entrepreneur at the head of a small business with remote workers, you’ve probably pondered these thoughts. Below are some ways that businesses are navigating five specific challenges related to their virtual workforces.
1. Companies are dealing with international hiring realities.
A huge advantage of having remote employees is that you can hire from anywhere. However, bringing on international workers isn’t the same as bringing on those from your home nation. Countries and local governments often have specific regulations to consider. Underestimating or neglecting them can lead to administrative and financial headaches.
One way to bypass these sorts of problems is to work with firms set up to handle international hires. Hiring platform Oyster regularly works with corporate clients who want to offer high international high performers a global work opportunity. The platform promises international hiring compliance and streamlines the matchmaking process. Essentially, this type of service plugs global hiring gaps and makes paying remote workers simpler.
2. Leaders are refining their managerial styles to accommodate virtual teams.
Managers, supervisors, and others with direct reports are making major adjustments to their leadership styles. Practices that work well in office settings, like “management by walking around”, fall short in virtual environments. Yet workers still need to be managed. In fact, they want to be noticed and guided. At the same time, they don’t appreciate being hovered over or treated as if they need to be watched. They don’t want to be presumed guilty of taking advantage of their remote positions, either.
It’s obviously a tricky balancing game to try to keep a team in alignment when you can’t see them. And the bigger the team, the harder it becomes to stay on top of every person and all the moving parts. Leaders who are successful often set up regular group and individual check-ins. These events can take place online and keep everyone on the same page. Daily 10-minute meetings — which may be harder with a global team — help bring people together. Weekly structured one-on-ones make sure issues don’t fester for too long. The key is being deliberate rather than waiting for the serendipity of a traditional water cooler discussion.
3. Corporate cultures are facing a reboot.
Just as running a remote team is unique from running an in-person team, building a corporate culture is, too. Corporate culture in a conventional sense has always had strong roots in people being around one another physically. Now, though, the corporate culture is more ethereal. Instead of evolving from interpersonal relationships happening in a workspace, it’s arising out of a plan instituted by the company.
The Washington Post explored the subject of the development of remote and hybrid cultures. The deep dive found that companies that started remotely, like GitLab, followed some simple culture-building rules. These included being transparent and communicative, as well as offering opportunities for workers to socially interact. Such laid-back interactions were typically on Slack or through virtual conferencing platforms. Though not a replacement for in-person interactions, they helped solidify employee bonds necessary for cultural growth.
4. Employees are leaning more heavily on tech tools.
Without the latest technology, remote work wouldn’t be possible for most organizations. Technological tools from centralized CRMs to customized apps are key elements of making remote business operations run smoothly. These tech stack must-haves keep workers on the same page and give them access to critical information. Frequently, that information is available in real-time to anyone, anywhere.
Technology is also pushing along the opportunity for asynchronous workflows. In a standard office setting, synchronous work tends to happen. After one responsibility is finished, another can begin in succession. However, remote workers may be scattered throughout different time zones or working flexible schedules. Technology such as project management software enables asynchronous work to occur. The software can capture all conversations and show how projects and duties are moving along.
5. Benefits packages are undergoing a transformation.
All employees are attracted by compelling benefits packages. Remote employees have begun to look beyond the standard perks of paid time off or retirement investment matching, though. What they want are benefits specific to their needs. Organizations are beginning to acknowledge this and to supply their remote employees with distinctive and competitive hiring advantages. A recent Paychex survey showed 65% of remote workers whose companies updated their benefits were more satisfied.
For example, some companies are offering healthcare insurance stipends rather than access to employer-based healthcare plans. The reason is understandable: A geographically spread-out team may not be able to be covered under the same insurance provider. Therefore, offering generous stipends to offset the cost to purchase healthcare makes sense. Other businesses give stipends to cover Internet costs or home office upgrades. Some also send their remote employees technological equipment like corporate-owned laptops, tablets, and other devices. The outcome is that everyone is given the support they need in an equitable fashion to perform their jobs.
The SuN Takeaway
Growing a smooth-running company isn’t impossible, even if your employees will probably never get together in the same room. You just need to change your business practices to better adjust to having remote teams.