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Small Business Tips \ AUG 28th 2015

8 Ways to Make Remote Employees Feel Part of the Team

8 Ways to Make Remote Employees Feel Part of the Team

If you’re managing a company today, chances are that some of your employees work remotely. As many as 30-45% of employees work outside the office and an increasing number of companies see the benefits of hiring talented remote workers. In addition to representing the company in other parts of the world, they can keep the business active 24 hours a day.

Despite the benefits, it can be challenging to supervise employees from afar and ensure they feel in the loop, committed to the company and engaged in its culture. Virtual employees run the risk of feeling isolated, underappreciated or unempowered. As a manager in the 21st century, it’s up to you to help them feel part of the team and to model this inclusiveness for the rest of the in-house workforce. Here are 8 easy-to-implement tips to help you out:

Choose (and Use) the right technology for communication

From phone and email to project management systems and video conferencing solutions, you can choose from hundreds of tools to make communication seamless and easy for your employees. It matters less which platform you go with; what matters is that all employees are on the same page.

Your staff members should all use the same technology and they should know how to use it well. Train employees on how to use your project manager or group conferencing software and establish clear protocols about how information should be shared. Different types of information should be relayed over email, via text or on your project management system. Most importantly, include virtual employees on all relevant communications.

Set aside time for a weekly video call, both one on one, if possible, and as a team or full staff. Seeing people’s faces while you speak with them is invaluable and makes for far more effective communication. If you have weekly meetings with your in-house employees, include remote staff as well. Add an extra chair to the conference table, set up a tablet and make sure your remote worker is live on video.

Show You Care

Brainstorm ways to show your remote employee that you care about them. Let them know that you see them as more than just a cog in the wheel, completing projects to help push your bottom line. Whether during your weekly one-on-one, through a daily text or in a quick email, take the time to ask about their personal life. Inquire about their families, hobbies or a recent weekend getaway you saw pictures of on their Facebook wall. This will help your remote employees feel like you know them and care about them beyond their role in the office.

Empower them and keep them in the know

If your overseas employees feel like they have to wait for your approval to make any kind of decision, they will likely get frustrated – fast. It’s up to you to empower them to make decisions on their own and take on leadership roles. Let them be a mentor to a new employee. Involve them in team and company decisions and keep them in the know. It never feels good to be the last to find out about a big change in the company, or that someone was fired. Announce big news when everyone is “around” – at a weekly meeting or a company Skype call.

Include them in the culture

Every company has its own culture and traditions. Maybe it’s a weekly team lunch, summer Fridays or a ritual of buying employees a goofy birthday gift. Whatever it may be, include your remote employees in these traditions. Have an afternoon happy hour every Friday? Send remote employees a very real bottle of whiskey and have them join in. Celebrate their birthday just as you would the birthday of a local employee and be sure to send over a cake or a card.

If you can afford it, make sure that all of your employees are invited to fun days and company retreats. This serves the dual purposes of ensuring your remote employees feel appreciated and helping to build the relationships and connections among your staff.

Create opportunities for social interaction

Working from home can sound glamorous but it can be isolating. Humans (well, most of them) are social creatures and the vast majority of employees benefit both socially and professionally from social interaction. Collaborative environments inspire ideas, laughter, perspective and innovation.

To create interactive opportunities for your remote workers, ask them to collaborate on a project with another staff member, even if they live far apart. Today’s countless communication options make it easy for coworkers to work together. Shared experiences can create bonds among your workforce that transcend geographical distances.

Let them be a local rep

Create opportunities for your remote workers to be active in their local community on behalf of your business. In addition to giving them opportunities to socialize (see #5), it’s a great way to make a remote employee feel empowered and valued. Ask them to represent the company at conferences in their area or to attend meetings with other businesses, potential partners or prospective clients.

We also recommend signing up your remote workers for access to a co-working space. If you’re in the web design field, you may want to check out the Wix Lounge in NYC. There are coworking spaces available in cities around the world, and they offer a great way for your employees to meet others and to spread the word about your business.

Give out perks!

People stay at jobs for many reasons – because they enjoy what they do, because they feel appreciated, because they’re well paid. But sooner or later if a job is no fun, many employees will begin to look elsewhere.

Perks can range from a Starbucks gift card and a company mousepad to gym memberships, dental insurance and huge year-end bonuses. Find perks that fit your company culture (and budget) and invest in them. They will usually pay for themselves, because happy, committed employees will mean a more productive and consistent workforce for your business.

Keep in mind that for employees who work from home, overwork is a bigger problem than underwork. To prevent burnout, consider instituting mandatory vacation time and holidays and encourage them not to work into the wee hours.

Save them a space at the office

Finally, remember to save a seat at headquarters for your remote workers. Nothing feels more welcoming than a desk with your name on it. If your remote workers come to the office from time to time, make sure they have a comfortable and consistent place to work from.
Do you work with remotely or have employees who do? If you have other great tips that we didn’t mention, we’d love to hear about them!

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