Remote employees and contractors have long been touted as the future of work, and this trend is only accelerating under current circumstances. Many legal departments now have experience with, or are at least exploring, the benefits of hiring remote attorneys and paraprofessionals. These benefits include the larger talent pool and savings on office overhead costs. At the same time, managing a remote workforce comes with its own challenges.
One of the most-often cited obstacles is ensuring remote staff members feel integrated in the organization. When a team member does not physically show up to the office every day, it can be harder to ensure that the individual feels equally part of your team’s success, compared to someone who works on-site. Here are some tips to manage remote work relationships.
Communication is Key
Remote employees need to feel like they’re fully integrated in the team. Just like on-site workers, they need to have an open line of communication to field questions or suggestions about their work, or to communicate about their salary or other issues. Teams without clear protocols to ensure that team members can raise such issues are likely to experience higher turnover.
One way to ensure good communication habits is to set regular check-in points. Let reports know you’re interested in their opinion, whether it concerns a task, a deadline, or other aspect of their work. Try and make check-ins more than just a status update on an individuals’ task list. Show genuine interest and take swift action when your remote employees express concerns.
Choose Collaboration Tools That Work For You
Remote workers need to be on the same page as the rest of the team. Because of their setup, they are likely get more out of collaborative platforms than on-site employees can. Seeing what other colleagues are working on, commenting and sharing can enhance their understanding of company culture and provide them with a platform to ask questions and give feedback to other employees as well as receive feedback about their contributions. Some of our favorite tools to manage remote team members include Slack, Zoom, Asana and Jira.
Expand Communications Methods
Communicating via voice call for every matter that needs discussion is not always feasible when employing remote workers. Email is perfect for long explanations and instruction, but short-form communication tools such as text-messaging deserve consideration. Set expectations with your team members around such communications (i.e. expected response time), especially when people are in different time zones. Text messages work especially well for
- Last-minute change or checking in on a deadline..
- Quick reminders to communicate about things like deadlines, invoices, or to scheduling a conversation.
- Praise! Sending a quick text letting your team member know they did a great job goes a far way.
Schedule In Person Time When Possible
Emails and texts and other forms of written communication are essential tools to engage a remote team. In order to develop a strong company culture, bringing people together in person is crucial. Insofar possible, schedule team get-togethers on a regular basis, for example annually or biannually. This allows people to hear each other’s voice, connect with them on a more personal level, and build more trust.
If meeting in person simply isn’t possible, make sure to schedule video calls to check in from time to time. If remote workers do not have the infrastructure to do so, consider buying it for them. A good webcam and microphone is sure to pay itself back in no time.
Pay Market Rates, or Above
One of the distinct advantages of hiring remote attorneys is that one can opt to hire in lower-cost jurisdictions. When entering into an engagement with a remote team member, make sure you understand market rates for their work in their geographic area. Matching or exceeding these rates will go a long way towards ensuring retention.
Many companies operating in markets where rates are higher opt to pay remote workers a wage that is commensurate with the rates in the market in which the company operates. Such an approach can provide significant incentive for workers to remain with the company.
Businesses can successfully engage remote legal professionals by ensuring smooth communication adapted to a remote work context, implementing a feedback system, finding time to meet in person, and making sure rates are in line with market conditions.