The isolated need a more hands-on approach, but it requires balance. Remember, some people choose remote work because isolation boosts their productivity. IBM learned this the hard way. In 2009, IBM reported that almost half of its workforce (386,000 employees in 173 countries) worked remotely. In 2017, after a steady decline in progress per quarter, IBM’s leadership decided that it needed to generate more ideas from its employees. So, they called in their remote workers to boost collaboration and innovation.
In short, it didn’t work. Those remote employees who loved to work remotely immediately began searching for new jobs that would continue to allow them to work from home. Those who did return to an office deliberately isolated themselves, possibly to recreate the environment that had best suited them. It’s a cautionary tale for managers: The isolated aren’t sad, they’re cut off. Managers can fix that by integrating remote workers deeper into the organization, despite their distance.
Supporting the unique needs of remote workers may seem like a lot of work for a manager. It can be. Though the best managers are masters of individualization, staying on top of the psychological welfare and work environments of remote employees takes time and concern.
It helps to use the elements of engagement as an organizing principle. The five conversations that drive performance are oriented toward engagement, and they keep managers focused on where their attention most helps performance. Those conversations also give managers time and opportunity to understand remote employees. To consider their unique contributions. To watch how they like to communicate. To discover how they respond to workplace situations. To understand loneliness when they see it or isolation for what it is.
When managers can meet the basics needs of engagement, even casual, friendly conversations turn into innovative discussions that help the team and organization thrive. That’s what leaders want from remote workers, of course, and they’re right to worry that loneliness and isolation may get in the way.
They can — but they don’t have to. Not if managers know the difference between loneliness and isolation and have the tools they need to solve for both.
If you need more information about how you can manage remote employees with more efficiency, reach out to RichLine Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.