Your team members have had a taste of remote work and they don’t want to give it up. Almost a fifth (19 percent) of all workers would like to be fully remote, 8 percent would like to work remotely four days each week, and 17 percent would like to work remotely three days each week. Another 34 would prefer to work remotely two or fewer times a week, and 21 percent say the nature of their work does not allow them to work remotely at all.
Executives have taken notice and it appears that hybrid work is here to stay—at least for now. A third of executives say their organization will have a mixed model, with some team members in person full time, some hybrid, and some fully remote. This model allows for the greatest flexibility toward worker preferences, but comes with some unique challenges around remote worker bias. For example, remote workers may be promoted less often, receive fewer raises, be left out of meetings, or feel excluded from in-office bonding events.
If you want the hybrid workforce model to be successful long-term, you must be intentional about remote inclusion.
Start off on the right foot with remote employee onboarding
Set remote team members up for success during your employee onboarding process. Remote workers will need a different workflow than their colocated counterparts, including:
- Making virtual introductions.
- Setting travel arrangements for any in-person onboarding.
- Shipping required equipment, like laptops and peripherals, or providing a stipend for the team member to purchase their own ahead of time.
- Matching remote new hires with a remote buddy to answer their questions and help them navigate the company remotely.
- Clarifying your remote work policy so new team members understand things like core work hours, security protocols, and childcare expectations.
Getting onboarding right can help remote workers feel like a part of your team right away, and provide them with the resources they need to be productive from anywhere.
Track raises and promotions
Remote team members tend to be less visible than their colocated counterparts, and therefore less likely to be top of mind for promotions. A 2015 study found that remote team members are half as likely to get a promotion despite being 13 percent more productive than their office-based peers.
Using a modern performance management system can provide more transparency around team member performance, driving better decision making and holding managers accountable. Make sure your company leaders are using your platform to track feedback and recognition and using it during your compensation cycles and promotion considerations.
Track your promotion and compensation metrics by remote status and dig into your performance data if you need to investigate discrepancies for your remote team members. Simply being aware of inequities for remote team members may be enough to combat them, but additional manager training may be needed as well.
Set measurable goals
Many remote workers feel the need to work longer hours to compensate for not being ‘visible’ in the office. Of those employees currently working remotely, half (51 percent) worry their manager doubts their productivity. And 44 percent say the worry that their manager doubts their productivity has prompted them to log into work earlier or stay online later. This can contribute to employee burnout, which is problematic in itself—but managers may not even identify burnout in their remote team members if they don’t see them regularly.
Managers can get ahead of this issue by working with their team members to set realistic, measurable goals and communicating progress toward those goals during regular one-on-ones. Then remote and colocated workers alike will clearly understand what’s expected of them and where they stand.
Make meetings inclusive
Remote team members can be inadvertently excluded from meetings for any number of reasons. Colocated team members may forget to dial in from the conference room. Remote team members may feel awkward chiming in when they can’t make eye contact or raise their hand to express they have something to say. Conversations may continue taking place in the office hallways following a meeting. Or meetings may take place when remote workers are unavailable to join.
You can make meetings more inclusive by:
- Designating a facilitator at every meeting to ensure everyone has the opportunity to speak.
- Requesting that everyone, even colocated team members, call in to the meeting separately.
- Defining core hours that team members should be available, and discouraging meetings outside of those times.
- Encouraging after-meeting discussions to take place on a designated Slack channel.
Rethink your benefits and perks
Many organizations are already rethinking their benefits and perks to better align with the post-pandemic world of work. For instance, health and wellness are front-and-center, while office catering is less common than it was a couple years ago. Use this opportunity to also make your benefits and perks more remote-friendly. For example:
- Expand your healthcare options to better serve team members in different geographic areas.
- Offer a stipend that workers can use to create a home office and subsidize utilities, or to use for coworking space.
- Send food delivery gift cards and monthly care packages in lieu of catered lunches and a stocked kitchen.
- Allow a fitness reimbursement to include home gym equipment.
- Cover travel and entertainment expenses for remote team members to get together with their colleagues.
Get frequent feedback
Many organizations are allowing or expanding remote work options in a hybrid workforce for the first time and mistakes will surely be made. Gather frequent feedback from your team members, especially at first, so you can make necessary improvements and mitigate the risk of remote worker bias from the start. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Use employee engagement and Pulse surveys to ask specific questions. Include a question around the team members’ remote work status so you can identify how responses differ by group.
- Review exit survey data to uncover if remote and colocated team members are leaving for different reasons, and how you might be able to reduce further turnover.
- Monitor employer review sites for anonymous feedback your team members might not be comfortable sharing with you directly.
Final thoughts on remote worker bias
Remote worker bias was a persistent issue in the pre-pandemic world of work, but the normalization of remote work has the potential to make that a thing of the past. More people have experienced remote work than ever before and understand the benefits and struggles that come with it. And more people want to make it work long-term. Thinking about remote inclusion with more intentionality and getting feedback from your team members can ensure your remote workers don’t get left behind in the transition to hybrid work.