Across the globe, companies are adopting remote work solutions to attract the best talent in their field. A recent Gallup poll found that 37% of U.S. employees have teleworked in their current job, and that number is expected to grow to 43% next year. With numerous benefits for both employees and their organizations, it can be tempting to explore telework options.

But for every benefit of telework, there are a number of pitfalls. At the 2017 Chicago Nonprofit Conference, Kathy Gallagher, Director of Partnerships for Target Analytics, said that organizations need to take a holistic approach to telework adoption. “You have to change your practices and you might have to change your culture if you hire remote employees,” she observed.

Gallagher and Heather Martin, Chief Operating Officer of InterfaithFamily, shared with attendees a number of tips on how to create an effective and efficient virtual organization, or to build one alongside an existing organization:

  1. Establish a communications charter – At InterfaithFamily, each employee has access to a communications charter, in which each employee shares 1-2 paragraphs about their communication preferences. For example, one employee may hate talking on the phone, but will instant message as long as necessary. Clear expectations will avoid further confusion and frustration, and this can relate to work hours, response times or other interactions.
  2. Know how to motivate the individuals you manage – Each employee is different, and this tip boils down to identifying those differences. “I have employees who need the kudos,” shared Martin. “And I have employees who, if you recognize them in public, will cower under the desk.”
  3. Hold regular individual and team meetings – “You may feel that you have more meetings than you have ever had before your remote employees,” said Martin. But because you don’t have impromptu water cooler moments, you need to be intentional about touching base.
  4. Pair up remote workers – This strategy has proved effective for integrating new employees into a team. Martin shared the story of a new employee in Atlanta paired with an existing employee in Los Angeles. Any time the new employee had a question, instead of going to her director or the national office she could call her partner, who could often provide a fast answer.
  5. Hire the right people, and make sure to meet them – Martin says to integrate questions directly related to telework into the interview when hiring a remote employee. This will provide clarity on the potential employee’s ability to self-motivate and their effectiveness in the position. And what to do after the hire is made? When a new hire joins InterfaithFamily, they come to Boston to spend two days meeting their new coworkers, which Martin says is essential to the process.

So what are your secrets to telework success? Let us know it the comments below!

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