Imagine the dismay when business team dynamics break down during pivotal crunch-time. Now add time zone and geographical differences further exacerbating problems with meeting deadlines. This is the headache of remote employees.
More than 3.9 million American workers are working half their time remotely. This has been a long time coming since the proliferation of the Internet. Yet, we seem to have lost camaraderie where we gained flexibility.
Coordinating projects with one or two remote workers isn’t difficult. It’s when you expand to a team of several or more where things start falling apart.
This article shares nine tips to get your remote workers feeling connected–and an actual part of the team.
Bridging the Gap: Creating Team Cohesion with Remote Workers and Freelancers
Project management tools keep tasks aligned and workers communicating. Video conferencing creates bonding moments. Social media groups give a voice to remote employees…
…but these tools need your input to make them welcoming and engaging.
Here’s how it’s done.
1. Make a Group on Social
Bridge the gap with your remote employees by creating a Facebook group. The group serves as a hub for social activity. But, is handy for quick Q&A sessions if these individuals have hang-ups.
The group could find its way on other platforms, too, like:
- Twitter — Using @handles
- Private Forums — Installed on a project site
- LinkedIn — Through its group features
The social platform sets a relaxed tone versus collab tools. This will spur casual discussions, helping others get to know another better. Plus, it’s a fantastic tool for onboarding new hires as participants can chime in and welcome them!
2. Use Collaboration Tools
Add Slack to your growing list of free business tools. This is the go-to platform for collaboration with its desktop and app environments. You can use the platform for dedicated chat groups for remote workers.
Don’t want Slack? Consider Discord instead, as it provides similar features. Or, use old-fashioned IRC chat for easy discussions and file sharing.
Housing discussion in one platform removes the back-and-forth from email. The collab tools use plug-ins, removing the need to log in to several platforms to complete tasks. Try dividing the platforms into separate projects to keep everything aligned on on-track.
3. Have Regular Calls
Projects, like refreshing your brand or launching a project, rely on communication. Team members need a platform to discuss projects and tasks. Voice over IP systems and services is how your team gets it done.
VoIP is available through PBX hardware and mobile apps. Giving employees access to these features removes trouble phoning in with their devices.
A VoIP investment handles regular conference calls without hang-ups. The service finds its way in customer support roles, too. Plus, this gives them an easy platform to call and chat about projects if they wish to beyond normal hours.
4. Give Everyone a “Play” Budget
You hired remote employees for their skills and flexibility. Individuals come from many backgrounds, with lots of unique skills you could tap. Encourage remote employees to discover and pitch new ideas by giving them a budget.
Turn remote workers into project managers (on a small-scale) — budget for:
- Project tools
- Learning materials
- Food and drink
Your business saves a great deal of money by employing remote workers. Use the savings for “play” budgets they can use to improve themselves. This reinvestment could prove beneficial to projects.
The budget spurs teamwork as they overcome novelty and learning curve. They’ll bond as they discover and discuss tool or service’s implementation!
5. Host a Meetup
Save the date and make it a point to do an annual meetup of remote employees.
There are a few ways to do these meetups:
- Fly them in for the weekend, doing an office tour and dinner
- Book them for the business conference and paying for travel
- Livecast meetups for those who cannot attend
Setting a face to fellow remote coworkers builds relationships. Remote workers head home feeling they’re part of a group — now knowing others better. This could start non-work communication, furthering friendships and helpfulness.
6. Align Goals Beyond the Work
We’re at the cusp of the gig economy, where individuals hop project to project on a weekly basis. Retaining long-term remote workers pose a challenge as businesses entertain the opportunity. One way to keep them onboard is through shared goals and prosperity in the workforce.
Prosperity could include:
- Income sharing or stock options
- 1099 to full-time, salaried positions
- Influence on future projects
The goals should incorporate the remote team so they feel part of the greater group — not outcasts. Look for gaps and fill them with remote employees if you want to create a greater sense of cohesion.
7. Create Fun Side Projects
Fun side projects can replace the “play” budget mentioned above. This lets remote employees band together on something they find interesting. The work could create a new revenue stream for the business, too!
These projects let employees try new ideas without repercussions. Think of it as a way to let employees unwind after spending most of their day on heavy tasks.
8. Award Achievement with Incentives
Lead remote workers with awesome incentives like:
- Pay boosts if they reach performance goals
- Extra vacation time and better flex hours
- Their choice on what project they’d like to join
The incentive creates a twinge of playful competition. Many thrive on the competition but use it to form bonds, too. Others may feel more compelled to put in extra effort to get things done.
9. Stick to a Cut-off Time
Remote work compels many individuals to continue projects well-beyond their allotted times. This bleeds into personal time, straining relationships and nurturing burnout. Workers in this situation perform sub-standard.
Respect your remote workers set schedule and time:
- Have on/off days
- Don’t request tasks during off-hours
- Know they may have other clients
Their “always on” connection is wonderful but everyone needs downtime. Don’t expect an instant response when you know they’re away. Some of your remote team may have other business or personal projects they need to do, too!
Feeling Connected in the Workspace of the Future
Industry embrace of remote employees continues year-over-year. Remote connections provide the workplace of the future. Though, even with its comforts, we’ll see growing pains with feeling connected.
Today’s owners and project managers should adopt and support this sweeping change. Use this post’s info as you tap remote work whether it’s logo creation to marketing and promotions. Bridge the gap!