With close to half of American employees telecommuting at least some of the time, today's offices need to be able to accommodate and even facilitate remote work. But that's often easier said than done. As a manager, how can you ensure a team mentality among employees who live states apart? As an employee, how do you build camaraderie with a colleague you might never have met in-person?
As the leader in shared, temporary and virtual office space in the D.C. area, Metro Offices is familiar with the challenges (and benefits) remote work can bring to a business. Here, we share our top tips to minimize the miles between remote and in-house staff so your organization can reap the rewards of a close-knit team, no matter where your people are located.
Get some face time
These days there are numerous user- and budget-friendly options available for video conferencing with far-away colleagues. Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Adobe Connect and more all offer users the option of quickly and easily connecting coworkers and allowing them to see and hear one another in real time.
Using video-conferencing technology may be a no-brainer when it comes to large, all-hands-on-deck meetings, but you don't have to wait for a special occasion to use it. Once a week, instead of sending an email to that remote colleague, why not pick up that headset and give them a video call? This is a particularly good idea if you need to ask something of them. A request made face-to-face is 34 times more likely to be successful than a request made via email, according to a recent study. Camera-shy? After a few face-to-face sessions, you won't be, and you'll start to feel like you know your colleague a bit better.
One of the drawbacks of working remotely full-time is the isolation you can sometimes feel, especially if most of your colleagues work in one location together. You also tend to miss out on certain events or perks: when there's birthday cake in the kitchen or the boss calls in a masseuse at lunch for 10-minute chair massages, for example.
Think it's impossible to include a remote employee in that sort of thing? It's not. The next time you order in lunch for a meeting, order lunch for your remote workers at the same time, if they're in the same time zone. If they're not, have lunch delivered to them later, or on the following day. It's a small gesture that might seem silly, but it sends the message to the employee that they're part of the organization and they're valued.
Phone it in
For those times video chat would be inconvenient -- your colleague's in an Uber, for example, or you're eating lunch at your desk -- try calling. With the phone, there's no need to worry about your hair or what you're wearing, and you can multitask if necessary. But having an actual conversation and hearing the other person's voice will build rapport and help cut down on miscommunication and misunderstandings that sometimes result from a poorly worded or quickly typed email.
Make an effort
Most employers require at least some face time between employee and manager, be it every few weeks, every few months or annual. If you have a remote colleague scheduled to make a regular visit to the office, put some time on their calendar, for coffee, a meal, or even just a 10-minute catch-up in the office. No matter how good the video-chat technology, for bond-building nothing beats real, 3D interaction.
The same goes if you're the out-of-towner coming in for a visit. Go out of your way to schedule some time with your colleagues to chat, find out how they've been and what they've been up to. They'll remember the time you spent together and appreciate the extra effort you made.
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