How to set employee expectations for remote work

A woman in casual clothes works remotely on a laptop on a patio overlooking a forested mountain scene.

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If you’re a manager, a team lead or in HR generally chances are your employees have requested to work remotely.

By 2028, projections by Upwork show that 73% of all departments are expected to include remote workers.

With remote work becoming increasingly normalized, fulfilling these requests is no longer as simple as saying “yes.” Without setting expectations or defining clear remote work policies, organizations open themselves and their employees up to the risks of:

  • Employee burnout
  • Social isolation
  • Loss in productivity
  • Decreased team collaboration.

How do you encourage a healthy work environment when you’re separated by a screen?

Likewise, how does management implement greater collaboration between virtual teams and those in the office?

5 steps: How to set employee expectations for remote work

Setting work-from-home expectations is the first thing an organization must do if they wish to promote remote efficiency. Here are five things to consider, so your employees are able to perform at their best while remote working.

1. Set up communication channels

When working with employees across a hybrid or fully-remote model, communication plays a huge role in ensuring productivity.

Both your remote teams and employees working from the office need to be able to reach each other during their specified work hours. Start with being clear about the tools needed for day-to-day communication.

Will emails be efficient enough to address time-sensitive concerns, especially considering all the back-and-forths? If emails no longer work as your main form of communication, consider incorporating collaboration tools or shared workspaces to exchange messages, make calls and send across files faster.

Aside from work communications, remote employees will miss out on in-office experiences like water cooler chats and random hallway interactions.

It’s worth establishing a social platform to encourage these sorts of interactions virtually. Updates could range from something as major as hitting a sales achievement or your hobbies outside of work. This platform serves as the place for keeping everyone in the loop, regardless of where they are.

2. Agree on working hours

Flexibility naturally comes with the territory of remote working. Yet there have to be ground rules in place to promote teamwork and effective, timely communication.

Without proper guidelines, your team members might be ill-equipped to handle delayed responses. In some scenarios, it may even lead to miscommunication and dissatisfaction.

A simple solution starts with team leads and managers clearly stating an employee’s expected availability in their remote work policies.

You may need to establish standard working hours, but still afford the flexibility for employees to arrange their schedule around their lifestyle, while not compromising on deadlines, work quality and prompt communication.

3. Establish clear targets and outcomes

Some organizations make the mistake of overwhelming employees with a barrage of must-do processes, as they correlate number-of-hours-worked to productivity.

It is essential to adopt a mindset shift to a results-oriented culture instead of focusing on hours and processes. Remote or otherwise, prioritizing outcomes will allow employees to work smart and independently to achieve their goals.

The results? Employees who clearly understand the bigger picture and feel more satisfied with their work regardless of where (or how) they’re doing it.

“Those who really struggle with remote work are the ‘butts in seats’ leaders — the folks who are only satisfied when they see people ‘busy’ and at their desks. But the leaders who were more focused on outcomes and delivering excellence? The leaders who didn’t care how the work got done, just that it got done well? Those leaders are thriving.”

$Bronwyn Saglimbeni, communication coach$

4. Have routine discussions about wellbeing

Employee wellbeing can easily be overlooked when your team member isn’t present in the office, and this can negatively impact productivity and employee retention.

It falls upon the shoulders of team leads and managers to facilitate an open discussion about how employees feel working from home and if they require additional resources and tips to help them manage their time effectively.

Schedule one-on-one virtual coffee breaks to check in with remote workers who may hesitate to reach out on their own. On a wider scale, team leads could start each day with a chat check-in on group communication channels.

5. Build team spirit

One of the biggest concerns over remote working is social isolation.

Being isolated from your colleagues and feeling disconnected from your company culture can cause adverse effects, both work-related and beyond.

Either team leads or human resources (HR) — sometimes both — should take the initiative to foster engagement starting from someone’s very first day on the job. Something as simple as best-practice onboarding to the team (either remotely or in an office setting) can help with fostering team spirit.

Another idea is to break up the work week by organizing a round of virtual icebreaking sessions over video calls. Lighthearted events such as these promote a greater sense of belonging to the company, so remote workers do not fall through the cracks and risk being left out of key employee experiences that make your organization’s culture unique.

What can you do to support your remote employees?

Remote working presents a valuable opportunity for organizations looking to grow exponentially, as they can tap into talent from anywhere. An organization equipped for remote work will focus less on whether people are productive at home and more on creating a conducive environment. This is essential for satisfaction for both remote workers and management.

To set employees up for optimal success when remote working, ask:

  • Do they have the resources and tools to collaborate with team members easily?
  • How easy is it for them to get the information they need on time?
  • Are we fostering an open and welcoming social atmosphere, beyond just work-related tasks?

The right strategy can make a world of difference when it comes to managing a remote workforce while keeping up with growing business demands.

Some features that are helpful include:

  • Content services hosted in the cloud so employees have secure, scalable access to the critical information they need, where and when they need it
  • A secure enterprise file share solution to share, review and store sensitive information between remote workers and external stakeholders
  • A streamlined workflow solution with automation built-in to capture and manage tasks more efficiently

Discover how Hyland’s cloud-hosted content services platform provides your employees, remote or otherwise, with the tools they need to collaborate, communicate and deliver quality work.

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Carly Pullar is the manager of employee engagement at Hyland.
Carly Pullar

Carly Pullar

Carly Pullar is the manager of employee engagement at Hyland.

... read more about: Carly Pullar