Remote working options have increased in the past few years. There are a few reasons why companies might offer remote options: not only do many people prefer it, but studies show that some employees are actually more productive from home. Allowing employees to have a flexible work arrangement can decrease turnover, and you may be able to cut costs on office space and supplies. Other companies are offering remote options out of necessity: since unemployment is very low, it can be tough to hire good candidates. Candidates have more leverage to determine the terms of their agreement, and they use this to get some kind of telecommuting option.
As any manager will tell you, remote working arrangements come with unique challenges. In some cases, employees working from home will be unresponsive or distracted by household chores. Remote employees can feel isolated like they’re not part of the team. This issue can be exacerbated when on-site employees forget to consult remote employees regarding critical decisions or include them in bonding activities. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it requires a conscious effort to make sure remote workers are included. There’s a number of ways to make this happen—you just need to find the method that works for your organization. Chances are, individual remote employees may respond to different approaches.
Communication is key
Complications with remote employees are from a lapse in communication. You should be proactive and make sure you maintain healthy contact with your remote employees. Of course, you’re not going to run into them by the coffee machine for an impromptu check-in, so you’ll have to find a substitute. The use of Slack and Skype can streamline communication. It’s imperative that remote employees are notified and included in meetings and business decisions, but also in more casual contexts like lunch breaks. A lot of managers find success by hosting “virtual coffee breaks” where remote employees can socialize and casually interact with coworkers.
Flip the script
Another solution is by inviting them to share a little bit about their “remote” location with the workplace in general through a video call. This strategy is particularly useful when you have employees who are very far away from home base—like in another state or country. By giving a virtual tour, coworkers are able to gain a window into each others’ lives, which can give insight into unexpected shared interests and will contribute to company culture in many crucial intangible ways.
Remote employees don’t need much to keep them feeling like they’re a part of the team. By “pairing” an on-site employee with a remote worker in a relationship that involves them collaborating with each other, checking in, and helping each other out, you’ll be able to maintain strong ties with remote employees.
At the end of the day, remote work is what you make of it. Some companies rely heavily on remote labor, but still manage to maintain a strong company culture by being proactive about keeping everyone in the loop, making sure everyone feels included, and not slacking on communication. In fact, by flipping the script, you’ll learn more about what your employees’ lifestyle habits are—knowledge that can be integral to developing long-lasting, holistic relationships. Ultimately, remote work arrangements don’t have to be a cause for stress in your workplace—all employees want to feel as though they are a part of the team, and good managers want to include them. So all you have to do is be proactive and things should fall into line.