An employee who forms part of a team based in a serviced office can hold a live video conference with their coworkers at a different office, all whilst browsing surreptitiously through Facebook. The internet is a miracle.
The problem with having employees spread around the country, or even the globe, is that often it can be hard to establish an inclusive company culture. Luckily there are a number of ways that employers can let their remote employees know that they are not only valued, but vital to the business as a whole.
Many companies that utilise cloud storage and file editing facilities such as Google Drive still require their employees to communicate with each other directly using email.
But, try as it might, email just hasn’t evolved into a platform that lends itself to the rapid-fire communication of phone apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger.
Adopting a whole new means of communication can be tough for any company, and especially hard for those with a high number of what might diplomatically be called senior team members.
For many of these companies, however, the demands of employees for opportunities to work remotely means that a new means of communication is being forced on them, like it or not.
This could be a golden opportunity for employers to establish an online network for their remote teams where they feel able to have more natural, quickfire back-and-forth interactions.
The San Francisco-based group messaging service Slack has been making waves in recent years, passing three million daily users earlier this month. The platform has its fans, particularly among companies comprised of millennials, who spent their time chatting online even when they’re not working.
Whether or not it will become widely used among larger companies is still unclear, but investors seem to believe that instant messaging is the future of corporate communication (the company was recently valued at $3.8bn)
Create opportunities for networking
Improving virtual communication should naturally be a priority for remote employees, but it’s also important to provide opportunities for them to attend face-to-face meetings with their colleagues.
Internal networking is something that can easily fall by the wayside, but for remote employees it can make a huge difference to how they interact online.
Whether it’s a teambuilding event, an AGM or just a couple of drinks on a Friday night, identifying key occasions for remote teams to come together is a fantastic way to help them establish their place in the company culture.
Writer and analyst Kate Lister told SkilledUp.com that: “Research shows virtual teams can be just as effective as co-located teams if they have already developed that bond of trust in working together on a face-to-face basis. Once you’ve got that it doesn’t take much to keep it going.”
It might sound trite, but meeting up for a brief coffee meeting, even once a month, could provide a valuable opportunity to catch up, talk through issues and plan for the month to come.
Look to management
When it comes to planning, what remote workers need more than anything, according to a 2011 study, is effective leadership.
Good management will create teams that are productive, engaged and efficient. A bad virtual boss is infinitely easier to ignore than one who can physically look over your shoulder and breath down your neck.
Equally, it takes a skilled leader to inspire and unite teams made up of members who are working remotely.
Ultimately, your remote employees only need the same benefits as the employees you see in the office every day. By providing them with good leaders, a sense of the company culture and adequate communication tools, you will be giving them the fuel needed to stay focused and engaged, no matter where they physically work.