4 Ways to Include Remote Employees in Daily Office Culture
Gallup reports telecommuting for work has climbed to 37 percent in 2015, up nearly 10 percentage points since 2008. A survey of business leaders at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit found 34 percent said by 2020, more than half of their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely and 25 percent said more that three-quarters would not work in a traditional office.
The primary reason isn’t to cut costs but to attract talent. Millennials especially are searching for companies that better fit their lifestyles. Companies who offer flexible work environments and hours are more likely to draw high-demand workers. It appears working from home or anywhere, really, is no longer a perk but a checklist item for many of today’s workers.
Managing disparate teams of employees is an increasingly common challenge for companies. How do you get the most productivity out of people who may rarely work in the same location?
Building a Virtual Team
One of the debates surrounding working remotely is whether it stunts collaboration and innovation. Many companies take a hybrid approach, allowing employees to work in the corporate office a few days a week and telecommute the other days. This flexibility may be great for the individual employees, but if your team has members working remotely on different days, chances are your team is rarely physically in one place.
Companies need to find ways to bring a virtual team together, both physically and figuratively. Here is our list of the 4 ways companies can connect remote employees with those in the physical office.
1. Schedule regular in-office team meetings.
Even for employees who enjoy working from home or on the road, it’s always nice when the gang gets together. Face-to-face communication can’t be replaced with technology, at least not yet. Shaking a hand, looking into someone’s eyes, sensing body language and facial expressions – all of these physical expressions help us assess a person much more effectively than over a phone or video call. Physical interaction is more engaging and builds better relationships. When a team comes together you get synergy, rapport, and the ever-desired collaboration.
Meetings can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even quarterly, depending on where your remote employees are and their job demands. Meeting at an offsite location may be fun, but office time is a good idea to give remote employees a feeling that they are part of the company, not just a team. It’s important every employee understands that their contributions matter and their output is aligned with the goals of the company. Bringing them in the office helps others, even those not on their immediate team, make personal contact.
2. Schedule regular team conference calls.
In-person meetings aren’t always possible for every team member, but that’s no reason why remote employees should feel remote. Conference calls and video calls are simple to organize unless you have employees working internationally in distant time zones. For the sake of the team, however, those employees should be included in at least some of the team meetings, even if it means scheduling the calls on off-hours.
Be sure to leave time in the calls for everyone to have the opportunity to talk a little about what’s going on in their lives, not just their projects. When we meet someone in person, we rarely jump straight to “what have you done for me lately?” Instead, we ease into it with small talk about the family, weekend plans, etc. Allow team members to socialize a bit before and after the actual work topics are discussed.
3. Use organization chart software.
It can be challenging for remote employees to put names with faces they rarely see, or to know who does what, or who reports to whom without some sort of organization chart software to help them along. Today’s organization chart software is interactive and accessible on mobile devices, giving every employee the opportunity to quickly find who they need and connect with them instantly with a tap of the finger.
The org chart software also enables employees to add personal details beyond name and title into their public profiles. Examples include photos that show a more human side of their personality, other skill sets that might be of value, specific training, and what projects they are currently working on and with whom. Profiles can be updated anytime and changes are immediately represented in the chart.
4. Use team collaboration software.
Tracking project assignments, status, and progress can be a nightmare using email. Fortunately, there are several highly useful collaboration tools that bring every project stakeholder together, whether working remotely or not. It’s like a virtual all-hands-on-deck meeting with full transparency.
Most software works similarly to the organization chart software, enabling workers to make updates in real-time. Team members can see exactly who is working on what, when, and how. Project resources and deliverables are stored in one place and categorized with their corresponding project, accessible to anyone who may need to reference them. No more digging through emails to find that attachment. Every conversation thread for any project is recorded with dates and times, giving managers and team members insight into exactly what is happening with the project. No face time needed.
It’s obvious today’s workplace is changing. Technology is enabling us to do more than ever before and we can leverage it to bring us together from every corner of the globe. Whether your employees work in an office or are on the road, you can use technology to ensure they feel part of the team.