There are many advantages to working as a remote team, not the least of which being that employees enjoy more flexibility in terms of hours and location. Working virtually provides easier access for people who are juggling family responsibilities as well as those with disabilities, and it provides employers with reduced overhead costs. With the various technology options and video conferencing, i.e., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, Slack, and GoToMeeting, staying in touch does not have to be a problem.
At the same time there may be equity issues related to allowing employees to work in a remote manner. How does an employer or supervisor decide who may continue working remotely and who should travel to the office for in-person work? Employers need to put their employee’s health and safety first and monitor evolving federal and state health guidelines, and some functions require a physical presence in a work location whereas some do not.
For those positions that can be worked remotely many employers have decided to change course from their original decision to allow for employees to work in a fully remote model. They are finding that the team dynamic is different and decisions are made independently when employees are not in person. The level of trust obtained by in-person, face-to-face communication cannot be replicated in the online world, so for certain positions employers are asking employees to be onsite, at least some of the time. What we are seeing is that the vast majority of employers in the BioPharma and Med Tech industry have landed in a “hybrid-remote” work model where people are being asked to be onsite a few days each week and work from home the rest of the time.
This compromise is not based on the health of the workforce as much as on convenience, commuting issues, recruiting and employee retention. The pandemic affected every individual differently. Offering ways to meet employees at their comfort level by providing the continued ability to work from home provides meaningful support.
As you work towards a permanent hybrid-remote team, here are four questions to consider:
1. Do all employees working remotely have access to an adequate workspace? Technology, privacy, etc.
2. Do some of your employees find remote work to be isolating? Working virtually drastically cuts down on the regular socialization and informal decision-making that comes with in-office work.
3. Do your employees feel safe sharing home life with others during virtual meetings? Some employees may not be comfortable being on camera during a virtual meeting.
4. During virtual meetings, are you hearing each employee’s point of view? Ask each meeting attendee to contribute to the conversation.
Keep a delicate balance between what your employees need and what they require. Define specific goals for your virtual workers and check in with them during the day. Recognizing work well done can provide another factor in creating a strong culture with your remote team, and it is probably time to get back to live team-building events. Make a point of celebrating individual and companywide success, big and small, from teams as well as an individual’s success. Effective communication is the key to maintaining work relationships and delivering successful work, and a constant and insightful flow of communication is an absolute must in working with your remote team.
Telecommuting has advantages and disadvantages; the employer’s role is to make every employee’s job easy to perform so they can be as productive as possible, and the business can then be as successful as possible.
The Alpine Group