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With so many mobile communications services now available, many businesses are choosing to allow their employees the flexibility of working remotely. But even though today’s technology makes it easy for remote employees to stay constantly connected to the main office, it can still take thought and effort on an employer’s part to make sure these employees truly feel like part of the team.
Read on for six best practices that will help companies ensure remote employees feel as if they are part of the action.
Adopt a “remote first” attitude.
Prioritizing remote employees with a “remote first” attitude is one of the most important ways that employers can help prevent these workers from feeling left out. As a practical example, a “remote first” attitude means that if even one team member is working remotely while the rest are in the office, meetings will be held via videoconference.
This way, the remote worker can be included (as opposed to holding an in-person meeting and then filling the remote employee in on the details later). Taking that extra step to prioritize remote inclusion is a vital part of helping the team feel like a cohesive unit, wherever its members are located.
Ensure expectations are understood by everyone.
One thing that remote workers often struggle with is the feeling that, because they’re not in the main office, no one really notices their efforts. Employers can address this issue directly by setting crystal-clear expectations for remote workers. Employers and employees can work together to set goals and timelines and to break down major projects into milestone steps.
It can also be helpful to clarify expectations for reporting on work accomplished. For example, it might be a good idea to have an employee generate a summary at the end of every week outlining what deliverables were completed and what tasks are still outstanding.
Communicate, and communicate some more.
When it comes to managing and integrating remote workers, it’s far better to communicate too much than too little. Remember that important exchanges of information don’t always happen at formal meetings. They also happen around the water cooler, during lunch break, or when employees just happen to bump into each other in the hall.
Remote workers don’t have the advantage of being on the spot to benefit from all these informal exchanges. This means it’s vitally important that employers keep them looped in on all levels of discussion. This is the case even if that means checking in more frequently than when dealing with in-office employees.
Try the buddy system.
For companies with numerous employees working remotely, it can be helpful to assign an in-office “buddy” to each remote worker. This relieves some of the pressure on managers and supervisors to ensure that remote employees are always looped in to what’s going on. Additionally, when remote employees have a dedicated go-to counterpart in the office, it can boost productivity and help them stay on task.
Schedule routine visits.
Modern technology and communications platforms make it easy and effective for employees to work remotely. However, there’s still no substitute for actually seeing colleagues face to face. For this reason, it’s a great idea to schedule regular office visits for remote employees.
Depending on where they are in the world, this could just be a visit of a few days once a year. However, that period of real contact can make all the difference. Be sure to incorporate business activities and company meetings with excursions and teambuilding exercises so they have the opportunity to both work and play with their colleagues.
Similarly, it can be helpful for management and leadership to visit remote employees at their place of work. This can enhance supervisors’ understanding of where those employees are coming from and what particular support they could use from the head office.
One of the biggest challenges remote employees face is that they often don’t get to see the successful fruits of their labors. If a remote worker completed a report that a client praised, for example, that feedback doesn’t always make it back to an employee who’s not in the office.
Employers therefore need to go the extra mile in making sure that remote employees feel their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Simple gestures like a thank-you e-mail or a quick phone call when a deal is clinched can make all the difference.