Contributed by Jen McKenzie
More and more companies are utilizing remote workers these days. While there are numerous advantages to doing so, there are challenges too. Remote workers often feel isolated or not part of the group. It’s easy to forget about employees in different locations that you don’t see every day. Here are four practical ways to make your remote employees feel like they are part of your team.
1. Utilize the Right Technology
There are numerous ways to communicate these days; however, the best method is through face-to-face interaction. Look for ways to increase your use of Skype, Slack, Asana, Facetime, and other similar apps, and limit the amount of times you send emails or text messages. Project management software, video conferencing, and screen sharing will also help your employees feel as though they are actually there and not forgotten. It’s not enough to just utilize the latest technology. Make sure everyone is using the same programs and are on the same page. Set aside regular time for video call or conferencing, and invite remote staff to any meetings you do hold in house.
2. Encourage Social Interaction
Those who collaborate together in one location naturally develop bonds because they carry on casual conversations and may even hang out together off the clock. When you have remote workers, you will have to try a bit harder to encourage social interaction. Depending upon where these individuals are located, it might be possible to coordinate projects at a co-working center, which comes furnished with office equipment, Wi-Fi, and even a game room for breaks. If getting together locally isn’t possible, consider adding a telepresence robot. Basically, a computer with speakers and microphones, it allows workers to virtually place themselves in a remote location. In doing so, they can interact with other people in the office just as they would if they were physically present.
3. Keep Workers Well Informed
Part of the frustration telecommuters face involves not being “in the loop.” It can be easy to overlook remote workers, so you must make a conscious effort to keep them informed. Including them in meetings and scheduling regular chat sessions is a good start, but is not nearly enough. You must also let them know what your company’s goals are, and advise them whenever those goals change. Provide remote workers the same courtesy you do other employees by allowing them to voice their opinions and explaining why it is you want them to perform certain tasks. Involve them in the decision-making process whenever possible, and do not forget to provide timely, encouraging feedback whenever the situation warrants.
4. Show Team Members They are Valued
Every employee wants to feel appreciated, and virtual workers are no different. It will take a concerted effort for you to get to know remote staff members, but the time you spend will pay off in the long run. Utilize the power of social media to help you establish friendships, and encourage others at your physical location to make connections as well. When holding online meetings, take a few minutes in the beginning to “catch up” with everyone on the latest happenings in their personal life.
Model inclusive behavior online, and odds are that your remaining team members will be inclined to follow suit. Treat those far away the same as you would local workers. For example, if you regularly host birthday parties for your in-house staff, send a gift basket to your remote workers. Instead of handing out Christmas bonuses personally, mail a gift card instead. It may not be quite the same, but just knowing that you consider them as equals with in-house team members will go a long way toward helping telecommuters feel appreciated.
Employing remote workers decreases costs and can provide individuals with greater flexibility. However, it does come with a downside, that being the fact that many off-site employees and independent contractors feel isolated and forgotten. Making them feel part of the team requires some effort, but is necessary in order to build cohesion. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help telecommuters feel appreciated, included, and a valued member of your organization just as they would if they were physically present.
Contributed by Jen McKenzie, a freelance writer from New York, NY. She is fascinated by all things having to do with words, business, education and cutting-edge. When Jennifer is not busy writing, she enjoys taking long walks and spending time with her two pets Brando & Marlon. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie