One-fifth of Americans now telecommute, with the number expected to reach 60 percent in the next five years. As working from home goes mainstream, business leaders are tasked with a variety of new challenges, from ensuring workers remain productive to effectively communicating through phone conversations and email.
Another issue gradually emerging is the exclusion that occurs when workers aren’t in the office. In the current work environment, the vast majority of workers still drive to an office most days, so those who aren’t part of that rat race may start to feel isolated. This is especially true in businesses with a combination of office staff and telecommuters, as those working from home continually miss out on birthday celebrations, impromptu meetings and the socialization in the office.
Here are a few ways you can include co-workers in your daily activities.
- Host virtual meetings.
If email and the phone are your chosen communication tools, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Solutions such as GoToMeeting and Google+ Hangouts will give your remote workers the face-to-face interaction they need to feel as though they’re a part of things.
Video chat is also a great tool for including remote employees in group meetings, whether you’re bringing together a combination of on-site and off-site employees or simply hosting a chat with multiple remote workers. GoToMeeting’s HDFaces feature allows up to six video feeds in each session, making for easy group chats.
- Stay connected.
When workers are in the office, team members can simply walk to each other’s cubicles for quick one-on-one meetings. With some employees at home, however, impromptu discussions are much more difficult. Phone calls are one solution, but many businesses are finding online chat tools to be a much better way to keep staff in touch at all times.
HipChat offers secure, easy-to-use chat for businesses. The service is designed to let team members communicate throughout the day, either through text chat or video chat. Entire teams are able to initiate group chats, and images and files can be shared directly within the chat interface to make collaboration easy.
- Schedule office visits.
Even teleworkers occasionally need to have in-person interaction with their fellow workers. If your remote workers are located within a short driving distance, consider inviting them to the office occasionally to touch base. This could be for scheduled meetings, annual office parties or both.
If your remote workers are spread throughout the country, you can still find a way to bring them together. On a scheduled basis, fly employees into a central location for training. This can serve as a refresher for longtime employees while also letting some workers meet for the first time. Employees often work much better together once they’re able to meet in person.
Teleworking offers an exciting opportunity for workers, saving them time and money while also saving space in the office. By addressing the small challenges that come with working remotely, leaders can make the most of the many advantages it brings.