Whether you've got one remote worker or your entire team is distributed, helping them embrace your company culture can mean the difference between having truly engaged employees and those just in it for the paycheck. Consider adopting the following tips to make your remote workers truly part of your team.
1. Educate Remote Workers on Details - When you hire new in-house employees, you likely spend some time ramping them up - you introduce them around, explain who they'll be working with, what hours everyone keeps, etc. When doing the same with your remote team members, don't forget to fill them in on the details that local employees figure out on their own: which folks prefer to be contacted by email instead of phone calls, how open the "open door" policy really is, when their coworkers are heading on vacation, etc. These types of things can affect your remote worker's productivity and how they are perceived by your local team. Taking the initiative to educate your remote folks about these "little things" can make them feel like they are truly a part of your team, even when they're miles away.
2. Remote Team Meetings - Your team meets once a week to go over progress, plans and priorities - where are your remote workers? If you haven't invited them to these regular meetings, you might be missing out on their perspective and expertise. Being left out of team meetings might also make your remote worker feel aliented and isolated, and turns you into a traffic cop for information travelling between the local staff and the remote team members. While you may not need them on the line for every meeting, carefully consider when topics invloving their projects are on the agenda, and include them!
3. Happy Holidays Apply to All - If your company hosts a holiday party, be sure to invite your remote team members. Even if there's no way they can attend, the invitation itself speaks volumes about how you value the relationships with your remote staff. Does everyone in the office get company-branded shwag from the boss? Your remote team should too. Likewise for the minor celebrations - if your team kicks off the weekend with a happy hour every Friday, let the remote workers know why everyone's offline at 4pm. Invite them to start their weekend early too, even if they can't join you for a brew.
4. Initiate Casual Checkups - How often do you check in with your in-house team? Beyond scheduled meetings, it's likely that you stop by their cubicles or pop your head into their offices every once in a while just to ask "what's up?". These casual conversations give your employees the chance to share things with you in a more relaxed atmosphere, one that lends itself to relationship building and trust. If you don't already, occasionally call or IM your remote staff to check in and make sure everything is on track in their world. While they may not have time to talk, they'll likely appreciate the interest - and you may find out clues to their daily worklife that will help you manage them better.
5. Nice Bosses Finish First - Day to day pleasantries are the norm in most office environments. You say "good morning" when someone walks past your desk on their way into work. You thank staff for their time in meetings. You wish people a good evening as they are headed home for the night. When your communication with remote staff relies primarily on email and other written communications, it can be easy to forget to exchange these pleasant additions to your conversation. Begin your first email or IM chat of the day with an upbeat greeting, or tell them to have a great weekend before you log off on Friday afternoon. Suggest that your in-house team to do the same. It's a small courtesy that can bridge distance and help your entire team feel connected.
6. Balanced Gratuities - When recognizing the efforts of your team, don't forget about the remote workers who contributed to the project's success. Whether you call them out for praise in front of the larger group, send them a monetary bonus for going above-and-beyond, or simply say 'thank you', be equal in showing your gratitude to your remote and in-house staff alike!
Got your own remote team culture challenge? How do you make your remote staff feel integrated into your local team? Let me know in the comments!
Erica Benton brings nearly a decade of experience as a small business owner, freelancer and independent contractor to her position as the editor-in-chief of the oDesk Blog.