Working remotely is increasingly becoming a part of the company culture all over the world. Technological leaps in the past years have led to an overhaul in the traditional workplace definitions and paved the way for flexible work.

According to Gallup report on State of the American workplace, 43 percent of the workforce spent at least some of their time working remotely and these numbers are slated to increase consistently in the years to come.

Balancing organizational productivity while providing the employees with the flexibility they desire can be a tough task. The question that most organizations struggle with is how to prepare for the future, which will constitute of flexible workforce and teams working remotely. Here is a list of things you need to keep in mind while managing a remote workforce.

1. Have a communication strategy in place.

Effective communication is the key to workplace efficiency. Leverage technology to ensure that your team stays in sync even though they may be physically in different geographical locations.

Have a communication strategy which is aimed at creating the digital workspace where the team’s progress can be tracked in real-time, queries can be resolved, project updates can be delivered and which acts as a place where the team can bond even if they are not present in the same physical location.

Communication tools like Slack, Zoom, and Skype can be a great resource when managing a remote workforce. Incorporation of project management software such as Trello, Asana, and Jira are of great tools for team collaboration.

Web and cloud-based file sharing solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. allow you to access key documents when working remotely securely, and can facilitate more efficient collaborative projects. Use of these collaboration and communication tools ensures that all the efforts of your remote teams are streamlined in the same direction.

If the members of your flexible workforce happen to be in different time zones, schedule a communication time that works best for everyone and ensure that everyone is brought up to speed and every team member is on the same page in regards to the project. Optimize virtual communication and use digital tools to discuss the problems, progress, and plans. Regular interactions within the teams are the key to a productive workforce that operates remotely.

Lastly, certain situations demand meetings with the employees take place in a face to face manner. Periodic scheduling of regular meetings can give an effective boost to communications. Ensure productive scheduling of meetings, and this will make sure that the time of both remote, as well as in-office employees, is well spent and genuine communication with the contribution of ideas takes place.

2. Offer flexibility but measure productivity.

The advantage that remote work offers to the employees is freedom from the 9-5 face time in the office premises. The downside that many companies feel is that you cannot track the actual amount of time that is spent doing the work. But do you even need to?

Instead of the traditional approach that focused on how much time the employee spends sitting at the desk, it is necessary to take on a result-oriented approach. Measure productivity by setting up deadlines within which the work needs to be wrapped up.

For example, if your development team functions remotely, rather than focusing on the screen time and computing the hours spent writing the code, you should instead focus on whether the projects are being completed within the estimated timeline.

The employees have the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they want as long as the work gets done. The organization benefits from having the work finished promptly and also end up with a motivated and more productive workforce. Having complete control over the work is done often leads to better results, healthier workplace relationships, and ultimately, greater employee retention.

3. Focus on maintaining the company culture.

Just because your workforce is remote doesn’t mean that they get to be disconnected from the company culture. The core values that the organization functions on are instrumental in forming the company culture and are responsible for an employee’s engagement within the organization.

Communicating the company culture to the employees and encouraging them to implement in their everyday work results in higher motivation with the teams working towards building something they care about.

The focus on the company culture should start right from the hiring process itself to judge how well the individual would fit within the organization. Ensuring that an employee is a cultural fit within the organization becomes even more important when you offer work flexibility.

Even if remote working is a possibility, collaborating with the other members of the team is a necessity. For instance, if you are hiring a developer, while the technical skills and knowledge of the tech stacks are essential, the people skills and collaborative capabilities should also be taken into consideration.

4. Establish a feedback and training loop.

Constructive criticism and actionable feedback from the coworkers, customers, and employers are even more significant for remote teams. The chances of conflict increase multifold when the team isn’t available for resolving the issues, assumptions, and misconceptions that arise in the course of the work, in a face to face manner. A feedback loop becomes a must to weed out these possible detractors.

A robust set of policies, feedback, and training loop ensures digital connectivity establishes a culture of support and trust that the flexible workforce can rely on. Make sure to include both the in house as well as remote teams when designing training and development session for your employees.

Training should not only focus on the technological aspects and newer tools such as leveraging AI but also have sessions on tips to becoming an efficient remote worker and leading virtual teams. A work culture that is focused on continuous improvement allows for personal growth, which leads to higher engagement and increased employee loyalty to the organization.

Rahul Varshneya

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder and President of Arkenea and Benchpoint. Rahul has been featured as a technology thought leader in numerous media channels such as Bloomberg TV, Forbes, HuffPost, Inc, among others.