Keeping remote workers engaged and productive

remote worker at her desk

When it comes to working remotely, most enterprise leaders and employees usually have pretty strong opinions that fall along familiar lines of argument. For example:

Pro: Working remotely allows employees more flexibility to do their jobs when and where they want, resulting in higher productivity and job satisfaction.

Con: Remote workers can become disconnected and isolated, leading to potentially lower productivity and higher rates of turnover.

Pro: Allowing employees to work remotely gives enterprises a larger pool of candidates from which to hire because they don’t have to focus exclusively on people either already living near the organization’s offices or willing to relocate.

Con: Communication between remote workers and office employees can be more difficult and irregular, leading to confusion about assignments, expectations, and accountability.

Based on data from ProfitWell, which provides a business intelligence platform for enterprises with subscription-based revenue models, there appears to be another downside to remote working — slower growth.

“We spoke to just under 2,000 companies, both remote and co-located, to learn more about how quickly they grew,” ProfitWell’s Patrick Campbell writes. “Across three revenue bands and all different kinds of ARPU [Average Revenue Per User], the data was clear—remote companies grow slower than co-located ones.”

Here’s the data ProfitWell used to draw that conclusion:

  • $1M to 10M in revenue – remote companies grow 30% slower
  • $10 to 75M – remove companies grow 10% slower
  • +$75M – growth rates level out

“Basically, the smaller the company, the slower its growth,” Campbell says. “You’re trading the speed of growth for more flexibility, a larger talent pool, and, when you’re not careful, more difficult communication.”

Is that worth the tradeoff? That’s something for enterprise decision-makers to determine, though admittedly it isn’t necessarily an easy call.

For those organizations that already are using a lot of remote workers or are considering doing so, Google has some advice based on a two-year study it conducted on remote work. Here are Google’s top three tips for making off-site workers feel happier and more connected:

  • Get to know each other as people: Instead of jumping right into an agenda, allow some time at the top of the meeting for an open-ended question, like “what did you do this weekend?” It’s an easy way to build remote connections and establish a rapport.
  • Set boundaries: Instead of making assumptions about preferred working hours, ask co-workers when they like to take meetings; some may opt for a certain time of day if given a choice or like to disconnect completely from their computers at other times.
  • Forge in-person and virtual connections: Sometimes it’s just easier to be face to face. Managers should provide clear guidelines and opportunities for team members to travel for in person meetings. On a video call, express reactions to coworkers ideas noticeably to indicate they’re being heard.

If I had to guess, I’d say the reason remote companies experience slower growth is because they’re not doing enough to keep remote workers connected, directed, motivated, and productive. Those tips from Google — along with effective communications and collaboration tools — can go a long way toward closing that growth gap.

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