How to Best Support Remote Workers: An Interview with Mari Anne Snow of The Remote Nation Institute
2020 introduced remote working to many organizations that weren’t familiar with it or who may have never previously considered allowing their employees to work from home.
At the beginning of the pandemic, remote working was allowed for survival. But, over time, many companies decided to keep their employees working remotely — for various reasons.
Now that it’s becoming more common and companies are getting used to working remotely, it’s important for them to consider how to support remote workers in the best ways possible.
What do remote workers need most from their companies?
According to Snow: “Understanding and information.”
She adds, “Remote teams can get out of touch quickly, and that leads to additional stress. Any information is better than no information. Keep information flowing out to the team and back from the team so everyone knows where they stand.”
How can businesses best support remote workers emotionally?
Snow says, “Check in frequently and create safe spaces for people to be emotional. 2020 took a toll on everyone. Assume everyone is stressed and check-in frequently with your people. Make sure your folks are aware of any support services offered and reserve time in every meeting at the beginning and end for an informal chat.
Use people’s names and ask how they are doing whenever you speak with them. Don’t be surprised if someone gets emotional unexpectedly. Listen, acknowledge, thank them for sharing and ask what you can do to help. Show compassion, kindness, and humanity in these moments. We all need it right now.”
How can businesses make things less stressful for remote workers with children in the home?
Snow suggests businesses start by normalizing the realities of business today.
She says, “Remote work is an effective business strategy, but today’s remote work isn’t normal as the typical support systems like school and childcare don’t exist right now. If you lead a remote team, make it okay for your people to attend meetings with their kids on their laps. Learn their names and make it okay for their parents who will be stressed out unless they know it’s actually okay.
Also, be flexible with when your people do their work. If deadlines are met, then accept the work may be completed at odd hours as parents adapt to working around their kid’s needs.”
What about hiring new employees? How can employers help brand new hires feel connected?
”Retool your new-hire process. Take the time to reimagine your entire new hire onboarding process so a new hire feels part of the company from day one even if they are working from home. Take the time to plot out the new hire experience and create meaningful touch points that offer support and build team camaraderie. HR can play a role, so can the team leader and key members of the team.”
How can businesses aid WFH employees with processes or systems?
“Be explicit with what’s expected and keep iterating as you go along,” says Snow.
She continues, “Remote teams work best when they understand what’s expected and when there is honest discourse about what’s working and what’s not. Because things change rapidly these days, keep on top of any process or system by surveying your people and making sure these operational structures help, support, and enable work. If something is broken or runs poorly, get your people to help troubleshoot and then get the team what they need to fix things fast.”
How can businesses best support remote workers with tech tools?
“Evaluate the tools you already own first,” says Snow.
“Before you go out and buy a bunch of new stuff, maximize the tools that you have already paid for. Learning new systems takes time and a lot of change-management effort; whereas, learning new functionality with an existing system is less work and much less emotionally disruptive.”