The genetics of today's modern companies look quite different than past decades. Gone are the 8-5 workweeks and the four-story office spaces littered with cubicles.
The workforce of today has introduced some changing demands, and remote work is at the top of the list. An increasing number of companies are realizing the benefits of hiring talent from a remote location, and the emergence of technology has made this option more feasible.
However, despite the advantages employers who invest in the remote option run the risk of having a staff that feels isolated, unappreciated or excluded.
It is much easier to foster teamwork and camaraderie in an office setting, so talent professionals are tasked with finding ways to keep these remote employees motivated and engaged despite the physical barriers.
Employers must recognize that this unique group still contributes to the organization's overall goals and should make intentional efforts to include them in all culture building exercises and company initiatives. Luckily, companies who have utilized this growing employment tactic have shared a variety of strategies for managing this delicate situation.
Here are a few recommendations:
Utilize the Right Technology
Modern day technology has made it possible to connect at any time no matter what kind of physical barriers exist. This is great news for employers testing out the hiring of remote employees.
It means there are ways to include them in major conversations, perform reviews, gather feedback, and conduct training without losing the personal touch. If you have remote employees, you'll want to invest in the very best technology and communication tools to ensure your remote employees feel connected to the rest of the staff.
Tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack and Asana, and Adobe Connect will make communication between office employees and those that work remotely more convenient and accessible.
You should use the video conferencing features of these tools as often as you can, as seeing faces and being able to observe non-verbal cues can have a huge impact on engagement.
You can also set parameters regarding when to use email versus one of these more collaborative tools. You'll want to make sure your employees are consistently following these guidelines and are trained and knowledgeable about the various technical options for engaging with your remote employees.
Foster Social Interaction
It's been said that social interaction and friendship at work have a huge impact on employee engagement and overall job satisfaction.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to foster these connections as much as possible. Collaborative structures inspire new ideas, offer new perspectives, and create an overall sense of fun and inclusiveness.
As mentioned above, you can generate some rules surrounding the use of videoconferencing and can encourage it as the primary tool for collaboration. You can also intentionally create projects where a remote employee must work with an in-office staff person to accomplish a goal.
These scenarios offer shared experiences that can transcend the geographical lines. It also offers your remote employee the opportunity to interact more closely with other staff members making them feel like a more included member of the team.
Finally, you might consider offering remote employees the opportunity to lease a co-working space. These trending collaborative work spaces allow remote employees or independent contractors the chance to mingle, network and brainstorm with other professionals.
These spaces often offer access to all the normal office amenities including conference rooms, kitchen, and break room. This will allow your remote employee to more clearly draw the line between work and home and will offer them plenty of social interaction.
Show Them You Care
Just because your remote employee doesn't rub shoulders with you each day doesn't mean you can't have a vested interest in their life and personal goals.
Remote employees should get just as much personal attention as your in-office staff.
The non-business conversations have the biggest impact when it comes to building trust within a team. Try asking a personal question prior to each online meeting and make sure everyone has the opportunity to respond.
Additionally, show a respect for the unique challenges that come with a remote job. Remote employees often struggle with work life balance.
Often, remote employees have an office at home, and it can be more difficult to step away at the end of a day. The lines get a bit blurred and this can create frustration and burnout.
As an employer, it's important that you nip these feelings before they become a problem. Take a proactive approach and regularly talk to your remote employee about their schedule and how they can better manage their time to achieve more balance.
This effort won't go unnoticed and your remote employees will feel respected and appreciated.
Keep Them in The Know
It's important that you communicate how each employee plays a role within the organization. This communication is a crucial step in making your remote employees feel connected to the company and its mission.
All employees (remote or not) should understand what the organization is trying to accomplish, the long-term goals, and how their day-to-day helps achieve these goals. Managers must be diligent about sharing these updates so that there is no confusion or feelings of exclusion.
Train your managers on ways to empower your employees to take ownership of projects and involve them in the decision-making process. You should also work with them to set timelines and completion goals while explaining how these deadlines fit into the overall big picture.
This will create an unparalleled sense of connection and pride and will motivate your employees towards their best work.
As we've seen, companies with remote employees face challenges when it comes to employee engagement, teamwork, and inclusiveness. However, companies that are proactive with their communication and expectations experience a lot of success with this scenario.
If you're interested in creating more remote opportunities make sure you invest in the proper technology, train your staff and management teams on the importance of inclusiveness and communication, and make a personal commitment to show an interest in the growth and develop of these re staff members.
About the author
Jen McKenzie is 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