Hiring remote employees is like choosing a cat for a pet. You can stroke and coax them every once in awhile, but for the most part, they take care of themselves. Okay, this is only partially true.
Yes, companies do often see a boost in work with remote employees. One study conducted on the billion-dollar company CTrip showed this boost. Remote employees took less sick time and fewer breaks, resulting in more hours worked. In fact, they found that each remote employee saved the company a total of $2,000!
Interestingly, when the study ended, many employees chose to return to the office. Their reason? They felt lonely. They were disconnected from the world and from the company itself. If you do hire remote employees, you’ll have to work a little harder at keeping them in the company loop.
When employees don’t sit in the hub of the office, you can’t expect to just shoot them an email and then snub them for the rest of the week. Often, you should communicate with them better than your office personnel.
James McDonough and Chris King from Maracaibo Media Group are great models for remote employees. They show how they thrive on good communication.
“We have a great IM program that enables us to speak to one another in live time to ask questions or to discuss a client. We are always brainstorming and throwing ideas out via email to one another, and everyone’s opinion and thoughts are welcomed,” McDonough says.
King agrees that he is always in touch with the office. He connects through chat platforms or email or even a physical meeting every few weeks. Through consistent contact, both McDonough and King stay well involved with their company.
While in-office workers can pop into a manager’s office for a brief question, remote employees may wait hours for an answer. That could slow down their work or disrupt their schedule.
As you’re reaching out to your remote employees, consider using a chat platform. Chatting in real time will bridge the gap in communication a little better. Then, if they’re teaming up on a project, they can work directly with the in-office employees.
One way remote employees might get disconnected is through their work performance. In–office personnel can tell you’re unhappy with their work by the scowl on your face. But often remote employees won’t hear from their managers at all. That disconnection gives them little knowledge about their strengths and flaws.
Chad Halvorson is the CEO of the employee scheduling software When I Work. He suggests giving remote employees regular feedback. While he does advise scheduled reviews, he also stresses feedback through personal contact. It’s easy for both the manager and the employee to distance themselves during a formal meeting.
This regular feedback could include praise or a simple correction about a minor flaw. Remote employees will usually appreciate the response. And by discussing their performance regularly, they will also see how they benefit and fit into the company.
Keep Remote Employees Up to Date
Sometimes, remote employees simply don’t know enough about the company to feel as if they’re part of it. The company may have hired them in a rush, handing them the job after a ten–minute phone interview. Or maybe the company is expanding rapidly. The remote employees are struggling to keep up with all the product changes.
Bhavin Parikh, who founded the company Magoosh, says they send out newsletters to keep their remote team updated. Newsletters or reports prove flexible since the employees can review the information at a convenient time for them.
Companies can also divulge important data in the newsletter. They can provide sales statistics and publicly praise employees for their hard work. As the newsletter or report unfolds the goals and successes of the company, remote employees will develop ownership of and connection to the brand.
A manager steps down from their role unexpectedly, and you have to fill the position with someone qualified. Or maybe a specialized team member bails on you. When you’re promoting someone to these new positions, don’t forget about your remote employees.
As Nicholas Bloom, Stanford Professor of Economics, studied data about remote employees, he discovered some important facts. These employees worked 9.5% more hours with 13% higher production rates. But they received promotions about half the time as in–house employees did.
These workers may not qualify for some promotions that require an onsite person, such as a call center manager. For other roles, though, they may actually be the best choice. And you bet they will feel more like part of the team if you promote them to a level of authority.
Encourage a Local Presence
Think back to the study that researchers conducted on CTrip. What was the one thing remote employees missed about the office? Physical interaction.
Jon Elvekrog, CEO of advertising company 140 Proof, suggests getting remote employees involved with your brand locally. If your company is hosting a business event in their area, have them attend. Schedule a meeting for remote employees that live within the same area.
Even if you can’t let those employees interact with your brand in person, Elvekrog recommends urging them to represent the company locally. He mentions planning a network event and letting them do the networking. Promoting your company will help those employees proudly wear their roles.
Another aspect of office life that remote employees might miss is the office banter and personal connection that workers usually have toward their colleagues. All work and no play definitely makes for a long work day.
Companies can remedy this situation with a little forethought and effort. They can send around emails about special days, such as birthdays. They can video holiday events that remote workers can’t attend, or make company announcements to all employees through a conference call.
Social media company Buffer uses an app called Sqwiggle to personally connect with their remote team. The app takes screenshots of the team whenever a manager wants to see them. Employees can also click on a picture to chat with that person. It keeps everyone accountable while stirring up some fun in the process.
Another idea involves that chat platform. Employees do need quick access to their colleagues and managers for work–related chatter. But they also could connect with their colleagues through a chat channel where they might talk about personal topics.
Worried that these ideas might cut too much into work time? You shouldn’t. After all, you hired these employees to work remotely. If you’re worried about them, you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.
Gamify the Workload
You remember summer camps as a kid. They were so much fun because you could compete for your team and scream your head off rooting for your teammates. Your counselors probably motivated you with points or prizes.
You can actually apply the same ideas to your remote employees. Nicole Fallon from Business News Daily calls it gamifying. Gamifying just means applying game–like qualities to a task that is not normally a game. Fallon says many companies use this tactic for customers, but it can appeal to employees too.
Badgeville, one of the leading game apps, surveyed over 500 workers about their gaming tactics. They found that 91% of those using games said they felt more productive and engaged. Since a 2015 Gallup poll revealed that only 31.5% of employees actually feel engaged on the job, gamifying tasks could seriously help the corporate world.
Success Magazine offers a few tips for gaming well. They recommend keeping the game where employees can readily see it, such as a calendar or object. You’ll should also provide a goal and some sort of reward for a job well done.
While Success Magazine stresses a physical game, game apps might still work well. Employees can pull the app up on their computer or phone, keeping it in front of them while they work throughout the day. These apps may also profile each employee, showing accomplishments and brief personal information that will help colleagues connect with each other.
Connect Face to Face
Nothing will connect employees more with your company than an in-person meeting. Jon Elvekrog advises a meeting at least once per year. He mentions bringing remote employees to headquarters for training or team-building. Managers should also visit the employees’ local areas every once in a while.
For a startup or small company, I realize that periodic visits might not always happen. But you should involve the guy at home in your business. If you can swing some face time, your remote employees will connect with your company tremendously.
Remote employees can tell if you really care about them. I agree that they should work well on their own. You probably wouldn’t have hired them if they couldn’t. But since they’re saving your company thousands of dollars, you could spend a little time connecting them more with the rest of your team.
Plus, connecting with these out of sight employees will boost their morale. And a happy employee leads to increased productivity which leads to better benefits for the company and the team.
Sarah George is a flower–sniffing, homemade–cooking wordsmith who loves pounding out breathless stories until they fill with life. In her spare time, she loves designing her home with thrilling thrift finds and challenging herself with a good workout.