A MATTER OF TRUST
“We hear from managers who say, ‘How do I trust that my employees
will be working?’” said Brie Weiler Reynolds, senior career specialist
at FlexJobs. “For an answer, you have to go back to the idea of having
proactive communication, checking in regularly with your employees,
measuring results and that sort of thing.” She also advocates moving
slowly and methodically, adding flexibility and remote work incrementally.
In the end, though, a leap of faith is required.
“I think people need to start from a place of trust and proceed that way
until an employee shows them that they can’t be trusted,” said Weiler
Reynolds. “Starting from a place of distrust makes employees feel like
children. If you flip that and start from a place of trust, you’ll quickly see
which employees are not cut out to work flexibly but you’ll also see that
most employees, to some degree, can work this way and really thrive.”
thinking about this and thinking how to turn it into a more formal
policy, it can be a very incremental process. It actually works better
for HR to just do it a little bit at time. Think about which types of
flexibility really fit with the company culture and business strate-gy
and goals, and then implement that incrementally one team at a
time and refine it as you go.”
QUESTION OF CULTURE
In terms of culture, remote and flexible workers shouldn’t be an
obstacle, but rather an element of that culture.
“I think HR needs to partner with senior leadership to un-derstand
what kind of culture they want to have, then try to
understand the workplace strategy, not just about remote work,
but in general – the workplace itself, and how shall we design it?”
said Harrington. Culture is then baked into everything the compa-ny
does, including its mix of workers and how managers connect
with and lead them.
ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION
In support of culture and engagement, strong communication
becomes even more essential. Managing remote workers, for ex-ample,
involves being proactive and addressing potential problem
areas before they take root.
“Managers can’t sit back and wait to see problems popping up or
wait for employees to come to them,” said Weiler Reynolds. “They
can’t wait until they can physically see someone struggling in their
cubicle. Instead, they have to reach out and ask how things are go-ing,
where people are struggling, what’s causing the problems and
what is unclear. Then, they need to encourage employees to do the
same thing, so the proactive communication goes both ways.”
Meetings, too, take a different form when team members are
working flexibly or remotely. While video or teleconferencing is
common in most workplaces, employees can still benefit from a re-fresher
“This might sound really ‘nuts and bolts,’ but I’ve seen many or-ganizations
make good inroads by focusing on the fundamentals,
like how to behave on a conference call, and encouraging people to
use video technology,” said Harrington. “Many of our clients have
access to video calling, but don’t use it because they’re not comfort-able.
It’s amazing, though, what a difference it makes when you do.”
What’s more, the extra few steps involved in setting up a video-conference
can act as a natural filter for scheduling unnecessary
meetings, or running them inefficiently.
“Meetings get a bad rap and many of them can be pointless,
but managers can make the most of them by focusing on trouble
points and areas where people are stuck, rather than on a laundry
list of tasks people are working on,” said Weiler Reynolds.
Getting employees active on more communication channels –
including internal chat and messaging boards, videoconferencing
and teleconferencing – can benefit productivity, team building, en-gagement
“Many organizations spend a long time figuring out how to be-come
multi-channel with their customers – how to be anywhere,
anytime for them,” said Harrington. “If you’re trying to become
multi-channel with your customers and you become multi-channel
with your employees, imagine how much better employees will get
at communicating with your customers.”
Whether or not an organization decides to add flexible and
remote work to its mix, there’s a lot to be said for adopting the
practices that support it.
“Using more communication channels to reach more employees
effectively, for example, and having open and honest dialogue can
help you figure out where speed bumps are and where processes
are ineffective. That can help shape things in a more effective way,
even with workers in the office,” said Weiler Reynolds. “One of the
biggest things managers and HR can take away from these chang-es
to the workplace is that the practices that help you manage the
remote and flexible workforce are good for all employees and man-agers.
They’re just good for business.” n
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20 ❚ NOVEMBER 2017 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL