Remote Employee’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
CEO & Founder
“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth.”
Remote work had already been on the rise, but in recent months, we’ve seen a rapid increase of companies switching to remote work. For us, like for many others, remote work was an opportunity created out of necessity. Much like what happened when Henry Ford introduced the first-ever car to humanity: had someone asked people of that time what they wanted, they probably would’ve asked for a faster horse, not inventing the new machine that could take you somewhere way faster than any horse could. The parallels between industrialization and remotization seem very clear to us; both offer positive changes and new opportunities.
We have 15+ years of experience in the customer service industry, which we used to successfully implement work from home projects for our clients, some of which are entirely remote. In contrast, some of our other projects combine the remote with in-office work. Remote work comes with its challenges, and in this article, we decided to share our learnings on how to to set up and manage remote employees – aligned with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Covering the basics
The first two levels, originally named Physiological needs and Safety and security, are the basic needs that need to be fulfilled for anyone to be able to work at all. This includes both ensuring a quality IT setup, as well as making sure that your remote colleague has a comfortable working space and reasonable breaks. Your remote employees need to feel as secure and taken care of as their in-office peers, i.e., you need to provide them with continuous support from various departments (HR, IT support, management), and ensure proper data protection.
These basic levels are critical, and they need to be adequately thought out and implemented, as they are a foundation for everything else. However, they cover the operational part only and do not include the managing part – which is, in our opinion, more challenging to implement and maintain successfully. It’s important to remember that every remote project requires a lot of work, and you have to dedicate yourself to it completely. Switching from strictly in-office to at-home work isn’t simple, but if you approach it with confidence and structure, the transition will be a lot smoother.
The inclusion of colleagues working remotely is one of the greatest challenges, and it’s something that requires constant attention. As we all know, they are away from you (location-wise), and at the beginning, they can be less responsive due to lack of in-person communication. However, remote employees are ultimately your company’s employees, they are just as worthy, and they should feel equal to their peers. In a way, you should be the one to provide this sense of belonging to them.
It’s important to always keep your remote employees in mind. Sometimes, companies tend to first think of the in-office employees, and then try to come up with solutions for their remote colleagues afterward, which can bring more challenges. In order to raise our consciousness about remote employees, we hold a bi-weekly workshop with our team leads, while also having our HR and learning and development team provide constant feedback to our management. Remote employees need to be on everyone’s minds at all times, just like the colleagues working in the office. This mindset starts at the C-level and should have a chain reaction throughout the management so that it covers all of the company. We include our remote employees in events such as International Women’s Day, Masquerade, as well as covering some of their expenses if they wish to join us for parties and other gatherings. We are also always thinking of ways to create online versions of all activities we do: we created online simulations of spaces that we used for the usual offline activities, such as break room, fun room, terrace for lunch breaks, etc.
Continuous, conscious, and intentional communication flow is what ensures our remote employees’ happiness. They have to be included in all relevant online environments so that they don’t feel left out at any point. We do this by implementing the “enablement, not enforcement” rule. This means that we do everything we can to enable communication channels for all our employees, and it is up to them to decide whether or not they wish to use them to their full potential. In-office colleagues build relationships gradually and with no outside pressure, and we offer the same possibilities for their online colleagues.
Even if there’s a single remote employee on your team, they should immediately be included in all activities, and not treated as an afterthought. If you have a meeting, make sure you organize a video conference and avoid notifying the remote employee afterward with just an email. It will help your remote colleagues feel included, as they will not miss out on any information, and they will also get to have a say and share their opinions.
“Fulfillment of my potential is not based on my location”.
Regardless of job positions and locations, we treat our employees equally. A lot of what we do is based on the principle of “Fulfillment of my potential is not based on my location.” In fact, the last two job promotions in our company were given to our remote colleagues. We see them as equally skilled and equally worth, and thus we always look at competence and not location.
Their skills and development should not go unnoticed. One thing we do is to have our remote employees provide constant feedback to their team leads. The team leads, then make sure to notice the employee’s personal interests and growth and report back to our HR team, which, in return, makes sure to keep track of those notes when there’s a promotion or an internal job listing open. It’s all done to ensure adequate career opportunities for our remote employees, and it circles back to the inclusion. It also opens the possibilities for the employee’s fulfillment.
Bear in mind that the in-office employees will seemingly learn faster due to being surrounded by their coworkers. The remote colleagues have a longer learning curve because they do not have spontaneous (real-life) communication happening at work. Remote employees and their managers also require development support more often, in the shape of different workshops and training.
One obstacle that arises in these situations is the imposter syndrome, where remote employees feel as if they’re not doing enough, just because they are working from home. Performance management plays a vital role here – team leads should reassure the remote colleagues that their job is equally valued, and we do that by communicating all goals and tasks clearly. We also include daily and weekly feedbacks for our remote employees and the tasks they’re performing to avoid burnout and adjust workload. It’s important for the remote team to feel as if they have an invisible hand guiding them through their work, to increase confidence levels. Well-structured performance management helps them feel more secure in what they do and minimizes the feeling of imposter syndrome.
We realize this is a broad topic that will surely, expand in the coming times. Surely you realize that underneath this high-level overview lies at least a thousand small details on how to manage remote teams. We have only just started describing it, in hopes that it will help you realize that now’s the time to think remotely.