Five steps to making remote employees less distant

Promoting an inclusive workforce is a challenge in a virtual-office setting. But there are things you can do to make your staff feel that they are part of your team.

  

If you're an entrepreneur with an expanding business, chances are you have some remote employees. Oftentimes, up to half of an office's staff works outside the office – and why shouldn't they? When you can't find talent nearby, find it across the world.

The problem is, having remote employees comes with its own bag of issues. Since they're not immersed in the company culture, it's easy for them to feel isolated, underappreciated, or even unimportant. These three things are difficult enough to handle when you can talk to someone face to face; when you're dealing with remote employees, it's better to nip it in the bud. Here are a few things you can do to make your remote employees feel part of the team.

  •  Keep them in the know and empower them

The biggest problem your remote employees face is feeling disconnected from the start-up. It's easy to see why; they're far away and can't be physically present. They don't get to hang out with their co-workers or see the little things that make up a company culture. They can easily feel unimportant in the grand scheme of things and may decide to take their talents elsewhere because of it.

You can avoid this by empowering them to make their own decisions. Because they're remote employees, they need a level of autonomy, especially if they're in a different time zone. Don't make them wait for your say-so; give them requirements and let them sort it out.

You can also keep them in the know. Just because they're far away doesn't mean their opinions are less valid. Involve them in meetings, or let them mentor new employees. Give them tasks like you would any other employee.

  •  Find ways to get company culture across

One of your primary tasks as an entrepreneur is to establish the right company culture. Doing so ensures there's an underlying unity in the people you hire and the way they act. It solidifies the heart of the company and gets everyone on the same page.

The challenge is in making sure your remote employees are included in the culture by making concessions. For example, you can celebrate their birthdays as you would any other employee's. Treat them as you would anyone in the office, even if you never see them in person.

  •  Use the right communication technology

Communicating with remote employees is more complicated than with office workers. Whereas office workers can simply be called into your office, your remote workers may not even be awake when you need to tell them something. The solution is to find the right communication technology.

The platform you choose will vary according to your needs. What won't change is the need for all your employees to use the same technology and to know how to use it efficiently. Train them in its use as you would any other skill or office requirement. Without it, your company risks falling into disarray.

  •  Make them part of the team

Teamwork is essential, as many entrepreneurs know. When your employees are in sync, you'll notice the difference. Things get done efficiently without a fuss, and there's less complaining in the office as a whole. It's a great feeling, one that your remote employees must have a part in creating.

Have remote employees work with office workers. Collaboration not only helps foster teamwork; it also allows everyone to socialise with each other. Harmony and synchronicity can be created with familiarity and experience. There may be some rough patches, but the benefits are worth it.

  •  Show them you care

It's easy for remote employees to feel dehumanised. They don't interact with office personnel and they're far away from you. It won't take long before they feel like just another cog in the start-up machine. This can make them detached and work at less than their best, or even tempt them to leave your employ altogether.

That's why you need to show them that they're not just a cog, they're a person, and one of your valuable employees. Don't just stick to business when you interact with them. Ask about their lives or comment on a picture of them on social media. Give them small talk. It matters more than you know.

Remote employees are powerful tools for entrepreneurs who know how to manage them. They're giving you the opportunity to make a strong and profitable start-up. Treat them like human beings and include them in your company culture. Your future will thank you for it.

© Zawya SME 2021