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#WorkTrends: Remote Work Is More Than Staying in Your PJs

Remote work is a hot topic these days, and many people dream of working from home. And why shouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t want to keep their pajamas on, stroll over to their laptop and work from the convenience of home? And did I mention the savings in gas money?

If only it were that simple. Successfully working remotely takes a lot of effort, not just for employees but also for the organization that signs the checks. In order to seek some guidance, we turned to James Lloyd, co-founder and chief technology officer of Redox, a completely distributed company. We broke down all things remote: How to manage a remote team, how to lead a remote company and how to work remotely without losing productivity OR the human connection.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Remote Work: An Investment in People

Remote work is incredibly convenient for those who get to do it. But Lloyd says remote work is also an investment in the organization’s people. “Many of us have come from environments where your job is very geographically located, and when things happen in your life that may mean you need to move,” he says. “That means you might have to change your job, and that feels like a really low investment in the people that you work with.”

Distributed companies like Redox avoid this issue and have other advantages as well. “We can recruit from anywhere,” Lloyd says. “It helps us get the best talent possible.” This trust and investment placed in remote workers lead to a very positive outcome: “We see a remarkable amount of retention,” Lloyd says.

The Challenges of Building a Remote Team

There are a lot of potential employees out there who are interested in working for a remote organization or having the option to work remotely. But building a remote team is not without its challenges, Lloyd says. As he and his co-founders grew the company, they kept a tenet in mind: “We definitely want ‘remote’ to not mean ‘isolating,’ ” he says.

Lloyd and his team quickly learned that face time was incredibly valuable. At the start when there were only eight employees, the team got together every six weeks. Now the company gets together twice a year for three to four days at a time. “It’s really important for just getting to know each other and meeting people who aren’t normally on your teams,” he says. “We typically use that time to align around our goals and our strategy.”

Providing social support for employees is also very important, he says. “For many people who have a lot of experience in an office setting, they may find a lot of their friend groups and social circles being formed with coworkers, because you have that proximity,” Lloyd says. This typically isn’t an option for remote workers, so Lloyd and his team have created settings for his employees to interact online regarding things outside of work. However, the Redox team also looks to support its employees in their hometowns, by connecting them with meetups and volunteer programs.

How to Make Your Remote Workers Feel Like They’re Part of the Team

Not every company is completely distributed, but many organizations have remote workers or employees who work remotely part of the time. This has created a conundrum: How do you better connect the people off-site to their colleagues who are at the office?

Lloyd says setting protocols for meetings can go a long way toward helping remote employees feel more of a connection. His team uses the videoconferencing tool Zoom for internal meetings, and they require every person to use Zoom, even those who are in the same location. “Even if there are three people in a conference room and one person in a different state, all four people have their webcams on,” he says. “It really helps to prevent alienating the person who is not in the same room.”

Additionally, Lloyd recommends doing as much preparation as possible for meetings ahead of time and to do it in writing. This allows meeting-goers to focus, and it also respects the differences in employees’ schedules. “Everybody feels like they can make an equal contribution independent of their location or time zone,” Lloyd says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Working Remotely: Is Staying Connected 24/7 A Good Thing?

Technology has given us the ability to stay connected 24/7 which is a blessing and also a curse. One of the downsides is that the lines between work and down time have become increasingly blurred. Many companies feel that employees should be available nights, weekends and even on vacation. Some provide employees with smartphones with the understanding that they will be accessible whenever they are needed.

Not all employees object to this. The majority of respondents to a recent Gallup Poll said that being able to work remotely after hours was a good thing. With 42 percent saying that being able to stay in touch with the office during down time was a “strongly positive” development and 37 percent saying it was only “somewhat positive.” However, only about a third of respondents said that they “frequently” connected with work after hours.

Whether they object or not employees who spend more hours working remotely outside of normal working hours are more likely to experience stress. Despite this, for most of us being connected to our job almost constantly is the norm.

Still there are a few leaders speaking out again the current 24/7 work cycle. Earlier this year, Arianna Huffington spoke passionately at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference about the need to step back. She talked about waking up in a pool of blood after cutting her eye and breaking her cheekbone when she collapsed from exhaustion in 2007. At the Huffington Post, she established a policy of disconnecting from the office where employees are not expected to answer email after hours or over the weekend.

Some European countries have made radical changes. The German labor ministry voted in guidelines which prevent ministry staff from being “penalized” for failing to respond after hours. Some German companies, including Volkswagen, BMW and Puma, restrict after hours email. VW even stops forwarding emails to staff shortly after the work day has ended.

In France, employers’ federations and unions signed a “legally binding agreement” that requires employees to disconnect from the office after working hours. This agreement affects the French offices of some non-French companies including Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Meanwhile, in Sweden the city council in Gothenburg voted to try out a six-hour workday with full-pay for its staff.

Are these changes a preview of what’s to come in the US? It doesn’t seem likely. Does this mean that employers should be forbidden from contacting employees after hours? In our culture of staying connected 24/7 that doesn’t seem likely either. But there should be some room for compromise.

Is it urgent every time our smartphone bleeps or buzzes? Probably not.

(About the Author: Annette Richmond, MA is a writer, optimist, media enthusiast and executive editor of career-intelligence.com. Having changed careers several times, including working as a career coach, she has a unique perspective on career management. When starting career-intelligence.com over a decade ago, her goal was to provide a one-stop online career resource.

In addition to being a writer, speaker and consultant, Richmond contributes career-related articles to various other sites including ForbesWoman. She holds a BA in English from Sacred Heart University and a MA in Applied Psychology from Fairfield University. She resides in Rowayton, CT, with her husband, Eric, and their four-legged kids.)

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