You might have an open door policy at work, but what does that mean for employees who never set foot in the office? Over the last decade, telecommuting has grown from a fringe benefit to an essential business tool. In fact, data from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com shows a near 80 percent increase in remote working between 2005-2012. In the U.S. alone, there are around 3.3 million employees who work multiple days per week away from the office.
As working remotely gains popularity, managers are pressed to find more ways of involving “virtual” employees in the company culture. Formal recognition and continual feedback via phone and email are key elements, but managers are rarely trained on how to properly work with remote employees, making it a struggle for some organizations. It’s easy to lose the human touch when communicating across long distances, but here are some simple steps to keep relationships alive with a remote workforce:
1. Make face time.
A recent study from Blue Jeans Network reported that while 91 percent of respondents do not see the people they work with on a regular basis, workers overwhelmingly prefer face-to-face interactions with their managers and during meetings, even if that interaction is carried out remotely. Make some face time for your remote workers through the magic of videoconferencing tools like Skype or Hangouts. Schedule one-on-one time that they know is just for them where you can check-in and call out their accomplishments face-to-face.
2. Send an e-card.
It might seem old-fashioned, but people still like getting cards in the mail, and the right ecard can be a nice surprise in a remote worker’s inbox. You don’t have to send them a strictly corporate message – ecard technology is far advanced these days, with sites like jibjab.com allowing you to send media-rich cards with personalization elements.
3. Nominate remote workers for awards.
Nominating colleagues for awards who work remotely builds their confidence and ensures them that they are crucial and a valued part of the team. Be sure you are nominating them as regularly as co-located employees, or even create a special award initiative for remote workers.
4. Be mindful of emails.
A manager can get away with short, one or two-lined emails with employees in the office because they can always step out to follow up or give praise in person. Remote workers, however, experience the office vibe primarily through email.
Make a conscious effort to weave recognition and positive feedback into your regular emails with teleworkers. Keep them up to date on goings-on in the office. Bringing them into the loop makes them feel more connected to the corporate mission and helps ensure them that they are working alongside their co-workers to reach the same goals.
Recognizing remote workers is easy, it just takes a little extra effort to include them, and that’s really the secret. Overall, employees want the same things: a fulfilling job, a little recognition, a little respect, and someone to take an interest in their career. Remote workers are no different. Technology allows us to reach out to them with ease, but the personal follow-through is all up to you.