As more and more companies come to rely on remote workers, many issues arise. A company may have employees working remotely for a variety of reasons: key employees travel, necessitating a remote connection, at least temporarily; having employees from all over the nation or globe offers businesses the opportunity to draw on talent and expertise that may not be available locally; locally-based employees may wish to work from home to cut down on commuting time and costs. The problem is how to ensure that remote workers feel valued, engaged and motivated.
Sharing goals, updates and events:
If remote workers are to stay engaged with the company they must be aware of, and share, the company's goals. They also need to be included in every update in the company and in events, large and small, business and social. When workers are in different time zones it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is up to date. Cloud computing helps by having data available to employees anytime, anywhere, but the HR department faces the not inconsiderable challenge of keeping everyone on the same page. Every worker's contribution must be recognized and valued, while their input must also be obtained for many company decisions.
Maintain regular communications:
All communications from head office should be mobile compatible so that remote workers can read and respond easily. These employees must still be able to see themselves as a valuable part of a team. Having regular times scheduled for conference calls, messaging, email updates, etc. can help assure that everyone is not only kept in the loop but also accountable; no one can argue that they weren't advised of something or missed a vital email.
Provide remote workers with the appropriate tools:
Clearly, a remote workforce needs the right tools: laptop computers, iPads or PC tablets, smart phones, etc. are essential to allow remote workers, permanent or temporary, constant accessibility to up-to-date data. Conference calls can be arranged to work around time zone differences and communication networks must allow for updating employees that may be absent from the office as frequently as needed. 'Face time' and video chatting can help managers based at a company's head office identify more regularly with their remote workforce; speaking to a 'face' tends to be more meaningful than sending or receiving emails or text messages.
Avoid isolating remote workers:
It is only too easy for remote workers to feel isolated and left out, a situation that will clearly be detrimental to morale and the achievement of a company's goals. Remote workers are not able to walk over to a colleague's desk for a chat and cannot readily stay abreast of office gossip (a mixed blessing perhaps, but being completely unaware that a colleague has married, had a baby, is seriously ill, etc. will only add to an employee's feeling that s/he is not really part of the team). Regular social updates may be needed to make remote workers feel part of the 'family'.
Provide ongoing training and education opportunities:
Whether they are located on the other side of the globe or just the other side of the city, remote employees are entitled to have access to the same education and professional development opportunities as their office-based colleagues. Online educational programs, such as those provided by Shift iQ, allow remote workers to participate in online, self-study or instructor-led programs while managers can easily assess workers' knowledge and understanding of new initiatives and analyze test results.
Keeping their remote employees fully involved is essential if a company is to get maximum benefit from a remote workforce. Fortunately, technology is on our side; in the twenty-first century, there is really no excuse for allowing any employees to feel out of touch.