Telecommuting – more often known as remote work- is gaining popularity across all kinds of business niches for a number of reasons. Lower costs, wider talent searches and the ability to increase operational hours without overworking existing staff are just a few of them. For employees it can offer greater flexibility and cut out hours of frustrating commute time, giving employees a better work-life balance.
However, one of the biggest negatives of remote work continues to be the disconnect that remote workers often report feeling. Effective managers know the importance of encouraging cohesiveness among team members, whether they’re seated in the same office or working on opposite sides of the globe, so engaging your team, even if they are located all over the country (or the world) is a must.
Not sure of the best ways to do that? Here are some tips that will help as you formulate a strategy.
Let Organization Bring Teams Together
Wherever they are working from employees need to upload files, check project progress and stay up-to-date on what’s going on. Not only does this help ensure projects stay on track but also that remote team members feel included, and valued, for the contributions they make.
A collaboration platform is a big help here. There are a number of different options but for a larger group Trello is particularly popular as it lets team leaders manage work across different platforms like Google Drive and Evernote, and so suits a number of employee working 'styles'.
Communication is an ongoing challenge for today’s businesses, especially as employees leave behind traditional voice chat in favor of email and text. Slack is dominating the area of workplace chat because of how easy it makes it for team members to stay in touch throughout the day.
Include Remote Employees in Meetings
Remote workers are often excluded from company meetings. Some employers find it hard to break out of the traditional 'get everyone in the conference room at 10' mindset because they don't quite know how to include remote workers effectively.
There are, however, a number of simple tools that can help. Zoom and Join.me are very popular. Another tool, GoWall, can be even more engaging, as it uses a digital “notewall” that lets everyone participate in brainstorming during the meeting and in a follow-up once the meeting is over.
These tools make meetings more inclusive and interactive, whether people are in the office or working off site and can be obtained at minimal cost, another plus.
Although few employees will balk at a raise, a growing number of studies have shown that employees value recognition over financial compensation. This could come in the form of pulling someone aside to show appreciation, or through something more formal, like a gift card for the person who has brought in the most business.
That can be harder to achieve when dealing with remote workers. You can send digital gift cards, but that can feel very impersonal. To up the feeling of inclusion recognize – and reward – employees during those virtual meetings. Telling someone thank you while giving them a head up that a gift card is on the way is far more personal and will make employees feel more valued.
Get Together in Person
No matter how spread out your team is, try to get everyone together in person at least once a year. If that's too expensive, consider regional meetings where you gather smaller groups. This real world interaction time will be highly beneficial in terms of strong team building, which will make each worker more productive.
Remote work is expected to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. While it has many benefits, communication can always be a challenge. With the right tools and procedures in place, though, you'll empower your team with the support they need to feel included and collaborate successfully across the miles.