In January 2020, I began a new job with Ancora as a remote employee a few hours from the main Cleveland office, just two months before many offices began shutting down at the start of the pandemic. I learned that adapting to a new role remotely, and operating at a distance from colleagues, has certain difficulties as much of the professional workforce found out a few months later.
Building strong relationships, both internally and externally, has always been a critical component of doing business, yet doing so has become even more important over the last few years as in-person interactions were limited. As a new remote employee, I was fortunate to have onboarding take place in-person, before everything shut down. The ability to meet with people face to face from different functional areas of the firm provided a head start on establishing those working relationships with my fellow employees.
When many businesses went fully remote, new employees had to work harder to establish those relationships. As a result, many relationships had to be built through calls, texts, emails, Zooms, etc. I have found that it takes a concerted effort to avoid having these relationships become solely transactional.
Employers need to be up front about establishing shared expectations regarding availability, time online versus in the field, etc. with their remote employees. That commitment begins in the interview process, with the employer setting expectations at the start of the relationship to help employees navigate the complex new environment we are living, working and evolving in, even as we come out of the pandemic.
Employers have been streamlining remote workstations to allow employees to seamlessly work with individuals in different locations and with software providing colleagues the opportunity to work efficiently together. In addition, with workers performing remotely, often hundreds of miles from the home office, companies must make an effort to establish and maintain a strong culture that transcends virtual working.
In my opinion, culture is vital to the ongoing success of remote employees, allowing them to feel a part of the team, whether they are just down the street or across the country. However, achieving that goal requires an effort on both sides. Allowing new coworkers to become trusted partners, in spite of the distance, is essential to empowering growth and collaboration.
The underlying component to success in this new world is consistent communication. This, along with investments in better technologies, allows employees to grow both personally and professionally, despite the hurdles of the pandemic environment. An elite culture, modern technologies and unique offerings enable employees to succeed in a virtual world.
Companies that are hiring remote employees today need to ensure that there is buy-in from the beginning on both sides, with clear expectations set up front. Build out your technological capabilities to accommodate those who aren’t in the office and create a culture that is team-based while being client focused.
Remote work isn’t for everyone, and remote positions may not make sense for every firm. But with a focus on strong relationships, good communication, efficient processes and the technology needed to power it all, remote work can provide rewarding opportunities. ●
Greg Hopkins is Senior Vice President, Family Wealth Advisor, at Ancora