However, it does not take psychic ability to know that the future of work involves an increasingly mobile, remote workforce. Thus, the challenge becomes not only to maintain a positive company culture for your in-house staff, but also to immerse all your remote workers in your company culture. Due to sheer logistics, that is a more difficult proposition. What happens to your company culture when part of your staff works remotely?
Extending Your Company Cultural Boundaries
Companies that begin with a remote worker model are more likely to focus on building a robust culture remotely from the get-go. However, if you have a strong company culture established before you begin distributing work remotely, it is essential to have just as strong a focus on maintaining that culture as your workforce becomes more geographically diverse.
It is never safe to merely assume that your culture will translate well to remote workers. Remote.Co's "5 Mistakes Companies Make When Transitioning to Remote Work" observes: "Don't assume that company culture sans office and water cooler will be a rosy experience. When individuals or teams are spread across cities, regions, or time zones, the culture of an organization can make or break a firm."
It is therefore necessary to ensure that your company culture transcends logistical issues and translates, not only in-office, but for your remote workers as well.
Increase Employee Engagement by Keeping Remote Workers in the Loop
What, then, can be done to ensure that your remote workers are immersed fully in your culture and are engaged and happy in their work? Here are five tips to get you started:
1. Talk the Talk
One of the potential pitfalls of working remotely is that it is easy to experience feelings of isolation. Without the regular give and take that naturally occurs in a shared office space, the worker can begin to feel like the Lone Ranger.
One way to mitigate feelings of isolation for your remote worker is to keep the lines of communication open at all times. Ensure that any inter-office communication that is readily available to your on-site team is also available to your remote workers. A strong communication policy will help your remote workers to feel a valuable part of your team.
The most common tool for keeping the lines of communication open with remote workers is email. However, email is becoming ineffective as email threads pile up and spam takes over the inbox. In an age where we have social channels like Twitter and Facebook that keep us updated to the very second, instant feedback is an important feature we need to keep in mind for open communication lines.
Slack is an amazing social tool to keep employees remote and in-house fully connected. We use Slack at Hoopla to create channels of communication for all employees, as well as social spaces for individual teams. Slack makes it easy to keep the team rolling with instant messages that come with alerts, sending over files with ease, and keeping tabs on activity feeds. Our remote employees love being in on the latest announcements - as well as the inside jokes that go around! And of course we use our own Hoopla TV to broadcast live updates on displays in each office.
Photo from Slack.com - "Where work happens."
2. Schedule Regular Face-Time
Inc.'s "6 Ways to Keep Your Remote Workers Productive" states: "In-person interactions with the broader team help build better camaraderie and eliminate mistrust. So if a remote worker hasn't visited in a while, set up a time for him or her to come to the office, participate in meetings in person, and spend time hanging around with on-site colleagues. And schedule an off-site lunch or dinner meeting for you and your remote employee to talk one-on-one."
If your remote workers are too geographically distant to make that feasible, you can achieve much the same effect by scheduling video conferences on a regular basis. There are a variety great ways to make face-time happen with minimal cost and effort, such as GoToMeeting by Citrix, Google Hangouts, BlueJeans, LoopUp, or Adobe Connect. Each of these video conferencing tools has options for businesses of various sizes, so you should be able to find the perfect fit for your organization with minimal effort.
Photo from LoopUp.com - "No more painful conference calls."
3. Uphold Team Traditions
CMSWire's "How to Nurture a Positive Company Culture with Remote Workers" notes: "Traditions are the root of culture. Even the smallest traditions remind staff that they are part of a community and increase those warm, fuzzy feelings of inclusion that comprise a positive company culture."
Perhaps your company acknowledges important life events like anniversaries or birthdays for employees. Or maybe you provide quarterly bonuses or annual company picnics to rally the company troops together. Whatever traditions your company embraces, it is important to include remote workers in the proceedings as much as possible.
Traditions are particularly important to sales teams. Are there traditional things that your company does to recognize the accomplishments of sales people internally? Perhaps you display sales team stats on large screen displays or acknowledge team members when they close a large deal for the company. If so, do not forget to include remote workers in those traditions, as this can serve to unite teams no matter where team members may be.
4. Play the Game
Gamification is a great way to keep your teams engaged, whether in-house or remote. Salespeople are often inclined toward a certain level of competitive spirit, and gamification allows you to use healthy competition to best advantage.
How can you include remote workers in your gamification efforts? Use a system to calculate points, broadcast real-time updates, leaderboards, metrics, and company announcements no matter whether they are sitting in your office or working remotely. In this way, your teams stay connected and engaged, without regard to physical location.
5. Leverage Employee Recognition Initiatives
Everyone, including your remote workers, appreciates being recognized for achievement. BusinessNewsDaily's "No Face Time? No Problem: How to Keep Virtual Workers Engaged" advises:
"A digital recognition program that's used for all employees can level the playing field for out-of-office workers. By awarding virtual badges or rewards for employee achievements, you can show your staff that you're really recognizing their efforts."
Provide a technology platform for real-time recognition of sales team members as they close deals and reach goals to ramp up the enthusiasm of the whole team. Has Scott in Sales landed an account your company has been working on for weeks? Let everyone share in the excitement by broadcasting it out through TVs, Slack or Yammer, and mobile apps to celebrate his success. Broadcasting the accomplishments of remote team members along with in-house members keeps everyone in the loop excited, engaged, and included.
The Bottom Line
Modern companies are embracing remote workers in record numbers. With today's advancing technology, it is possible to hire the top talent from around the world, based, not on physical proximity, but on desired skill set. Communication challenges need no longer be a barrier to hiring the best talent for your company.
What’s more, advancing technology makes it possible to keep remote workers in the loop and fully engaged. Embracing technology helps you to achieve employee engagement with both your in-house and remote staff.