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Have Virtual Employees? Don't Forget to Engage Them

October 15, 2015
By Michelle Amodio - Virtual Office Resource Contributor

Working remotely is a perk that is more common these days as businesses ditch the brick and mortar offices to save on overhead costs. In addition to saving on having a physical space to conduct business, research has backed up the notion that offering remote capabilities are desirable; workers without workplace flexibility would be willing to make substantial trade-offs to have access to telecommuting and/or flex hour programs; they are more satisfied and productive in the workplace when they have flexibility and control. While there is a lot of good that comes with offering a remote work benefit, how can managers keep their employees engaged?

Continuous communication is key, especially across multiple channels. Remote site workers need more frequent exchanges than those in the office to absorb new information and to help them feel aligned with the rest of the team. Regular phone meetings, email, and Web conferences are obvious choices for facilitating this regular communication. Real-time chats, discussion boards, team calendars, interactive whiteboards and other collaborative technologies can help, too.

Don’t forget to include virtual employees as you have meetings. With Web conferencing or phone conferencing, remote workers can be just as part of the time despite their physical absence.

Despite it’s many pluses, having geographically dispersed staff can complicate communication. What’s lacking is in-person time; management, team building and extracting peak performance lacks with off-site employees. While the majority of work time can be done remotely, always make sure your employees get some good ol’ fashioned face time in, too. This can help instill the leader influence that is critical for inspiring good work and creating trust, as well as help initiate a sense of belonging.

Given that, it’s imperative that managers expect the same work ethic as in-office employees, including the quality of their output and their presence in meetings, even if their presence is virtual.

Remote employees miss out on the socialization that comes with working in an office. It’s up to management to make sure remote employees feel welcome and encourage them to attend company functions if they’re nearby. Of course, if a certain remote employee is based elsewhere, and you happen to travel to that city on business, schedule time with them and make them feel part of the team. This type of interaction is crucial to engagement.

The bottom line is remote employees are a part of your workforce, and should thus be treated like their in-office counterparts. Expectations should be the same for them as it is for everyone, thus communication needs to be stressed in order for you to get the most out of them and to keep them engaged. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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