Why and how to keep remote workers connected

As more and more organizations allow and even encourage telecommuting, they must invest in communication practices that ease collaboration and bolster hiring and retention.

Businesses invest the most capital in two things: their real estate and their people.

This means that physical office spaces and hiring/onboarding practices are not only top priorities, but their largest fixed costs, as well. Yet as the standard workplace shifts to a more flexible model, many organizations are changing the way they view and address both.

In embracing remote work policies and downsizing their physical spaces—even going as far as ditching formal headquarters—some organizations are signaling an openness to modern concepts that can change the way business is run and how work gets done.

As the workforce changes, recruiting and retaining the right talent are getting increasingly complicated. Organizations must get creative about attracting and supporting employees, because hiring new talent is expensive and time-consuming.

The recruitment price tag

According to a Fast Company article, in 2011 companies spent $45 billion on recruiting, yet 46 percent of new hires left the organization after their first year—and 33 percent didn’t last six months. According to a Global Workplace Analytics study, losing a valued employee can cost an employer $10,000 to $30,000.

Employees who feel connected to their co-workers and the company itself are less likely to switch jobs—increasing the organization’s retention rate and lowering costs needed to support heavy turnover. That’s why organizations have to take a good look at the tools and practices that support employee connectivity, so that workers’ needs remain at the forefront despite nontraditional work spaces and policies.

Taking steps to support new realities for the future of work requires not only a cultural shift but also new resources. Human resources executives must develop a culture of streamlined communications-one that eliminates barriers for remote employees, allowing them to feel connected, empowered and aligned with their teams and the company as a whole.

At the same time, organizations that invest in the right technology will be best equipped to connect and engage with employees regardless of where and how they collaborate.

Embracing the distributed workforce

The distributed workforce is becoming more and more appealing from both a financial and operational standpoint. Giving employees the ability to telecommute (even half of the time) can save a company $11,000 per person per year.

Additionally, 95 percent of employees say telework enhances their job satisfaction, and over two-thirds of employers in a recent survey reported increased productivity among telecommuters. Organizations must adapt to this trend for the overall success of the organization and to attract and retain top talent.

To make day-to-day work run more smoothly regardless of where workers are “punching in,” it’s important that employees can seamlessly transition from one communication method to another.

A chat platform might be the best fit for quick questions or thoughts, whereas video conferencing is more suitable for conversations that benefit from face-to-face communication.

Real-time interaction that emulates in-office behaviors and collaboration makes remote work more feasible and productive. This is best done in an application that combines voice, video and chat, so the transition between communication modes is realistic and regularly used.

Eliminating geographic barriers

Over 40 percent of employers are reportedly feeling the “labor pinch” as Baby Boomers retire, creating a need to reduce geographic limitations when hiring. This is especially true when it comes to the twenty-something workforce, which has the highest migration rate of any group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

HR professionals are realizing that sometimes the best talent isn’t located where they are, so they are starting to hire people where they live—offering remote work as an option. As a result of a shifting home base for key employees and customers alike, organizations are investing in real estate to support and retain the mobile employee.

Employers must realize that despite the new freedom to hire across expansive geographic locations, in-person face time is still important to establish rapport among teammates, maintain employee morale and develop a strong workplace community.

Given that a high percentage of communication is nonverbal, organizations must invest in technology tools to extend opportunities to bring the “office water cooler” to distributed workers.

A version of this article first appeared on TLNT.

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