“The opportunity to work remotely has grown nearly 80 percent over the past decade […] Increasingly, companies like Github, Zapier, Treehouse, and Buffer are using distributed teams to build their growing businesses.”
Companies and employees alike enjoy the numerous benefits of telecommuting. Startups and small businesses can save on overhead and hire remote workers who produce more than traditional employees. Meanwhile, teleworkers reclaim the time formerly spent sitting in traffic during the daily commute so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Do your employees feel like they belong?
However, remote workers sometimes feel isolated and left out.
Remote employees can quickly lose their sense of belonging which can lead them to become doubtful of their significance. Missing out on the jokes during the work day and going out with coworkers to lunch might seem insignificant, but it can seriously affect a remote team’s morale. Even missing the casual conversations that occur in hallways can have a negative impact on employee motivation.
You can combat the tendency for people to forget about the coworkers they cannot see, and make everyone feel empowered and included in the daily operation of your company.
1. Use the right technology
Technology has pushed telecommuting to the mainstream of modern business. Failure to use the latest collaboration, productivity, and project management tools and tactics to engage your remote workforce could result in disaster.
Embrace every online business tool available that can strengthen the connection between you and your remote team. An efficient, productive workforce will quickly earn back the money you invest in technology.
Communication, collaboration and project management apps help limit email correspondence among team members, so they can eliminate delays by working in real-time.
Conducting meetings via video conferencing apps can help everyone contribute to discussions and share their ideas. Video connections also capture non-verbal communication that helps establish a meaningful dialog.
Apps that support screen sharing also help employees support each other and communicate their thoughts.
Training and technology go hand in hand. Having all the latest technology and apps will do nothing unless everyone knows how to use them. Additionally, schedule routine one-on-one meetings with your remote team and hold hybrid staff meetings that include traditional and remote employees.
2. Encourage social interaction
Use technology to create a virtual environment that promotes collaboration and spontaneous conversations. Such an environment will enable remote employees to interact by sharing ideas and humor while allowing everyone to learn from the diverse backgrounds and experiences of team members.
Get everyone interacting in a consistent and healthy way and you will soon see your company come up with innovative and creative ideas that result in the delivery of better products and services delivered to your customers.
Ultimately, you will reap substantial rewards from a team that capitalizes on various perspectives and opinions.
Social interaction will naturally lead to professional exchanges that support your company culture and mission. Managers and employees will lose their skepticism of your remote workforce when they see how quickly people from different backgrounds can work together.
You can increase interaction by creating co-working spaces for your team members. Such places supply conference rooms and stocked kitchens to encourage a comfortable work environment. You can also create game rooms where workers can relax and take a break from their work. Co-working spaces can also help define boundaries between home and office.
3. Keep your remote team ‘in the know’
Before implementing a telecommuting policy, you should define every remote position so everyone knows how they fit into the organization. Let everyone know the reason for every task and how it contributes to the goals of your company. People need to know that the roles they fill and work they do matter.
Empower your employees with information. Let them know the goals they must achieve and give them control over how they manage and complete their projects. A sense of autonomy encourages a feeling of responsibility among team members that will drive them to find the most efficient ways to get things done.
Remember that remote workers don’t have chats around the water cooler or in the break room. Creating a virtual water cooler can help your remote employees easily say in the loop with everyday information. Similarly, include remote employees in important decision making, so they don’t feel left out.
4. Show your remote team that you care
Improve employee engagement by demonstrating genuine concern for them. Spend time with each of your remote employees so they know you have not forgotten about them and that you care for them as individuals. Break down every barrier and make each worker feels valued as part of the team.
Talk with them about their personal lives, just as you do with employees in the office. Show an interest … even when they come from cultural backgrounds you don’t understand.
Take this approach in group settings as well. For example, start every meeting asking about how people enjoyed their vacation or how they feel after being sick. Surprisingly, some of the most important parts of meetings occur when they get off topic.
Remote workers are usually more productive and often work longer and harder than traditional employees. Respect their schedules and encourage them to achieve a balance between their work and personal lives. Find out how each remote employee likes to work and how they would like to schedule their time. A compromise between your needs and theirs and they will repay you with loyalty and productivity.
Managing a remote workforce requires you to make every employee feel like a valued part of the team. Use technology and emphasize communication and collaboration to build a culture that encourages teamwork and embraces diversity.
Most of all, recognize the human factor of everyone who works for you. Give them the information they need and the autonomy they crave and your team will accomplish incredible things.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the recent trends in the business world. She spends her free time trying out new recipes or reading Scandinavian crime novels. Connect with @LisaBMichaels on Twitter.