When Adam Schwartz founded Articulate, an e-learning authoring software company based in New York, in 2002, making the company fully remote wasn’t planned, but it’s what ended up happening. Schwartz didn’t want to limit his talent pool to just the Big Apple. He wanted to expand it around the world. Some of his early key members included employees in Mumbai and Missouri.
|“Finding great people who fit into your culture is a real challenge for any company. It’s all the more difficult when you’re limited to the cities where you have offices. I could pick and choose the best talent from anywhere around the globe, and I did. I couldn’t imagine limiting us to even a large market like New York.” —Adam Schwartz, CEO of Articulate|
Leaders like Schwartz aren’t alone in this global workforce sentiment. Organizations all around the world are embracing flexible work and distributed teams to the point that remote work grew by 159% between 2005 and 2017. Studies show that not only are remote employees just as productive as office employees, but also that they work an average of 1.4 more days per month.
Culture is a key factor that determines how well an organization performs. Studies show that organizations with rich cultures have higher employee retention, higher productivity, and higher profit.
But remote teams introduce a new problem that organizations need to tackle: How do you create a sense of culture when employees are thousands of miles apart? It’s common for remote employees to get left out of many events when they don’t share the same office space, leading to a loss of identity and a disconnect from their teams.
Studies show that remote employees often feel isolated, which can result in a 21% drop in overall productivity. Coupled with the tendency by employers to overload them with assignments, remote employees are especially vulnerable to loneliness, stress, and burnout.
Simply assigning them a team and expecting togetherness to naturally occur isn’t enough. Inclusiveness has to be facilitated. Luckily, there are plenty of easy tactics we can implement to make it happen. Here are several ways to do it:
One of the biggest contributors to feelings of isolation is when remote employees are left out of the loop. Teams that don’t have established routines for communication end up with employees who work in silos, where remote workers aren’t connected personally or aligned professionally.
Weekly virtual check-in meetings give teams the opportunity to see what colleagues are working on and offer any support they can. If a teammate in New York is running into administrative roadblocks on a project, a colleague in San Francisco might have insights into pushing it through. Team leaders can also use weekly meetings to make sure group projects are on track and update employees on upcoming tasks.
Weekly one-on-one meetings are a great way for team leaders to connect with their employees. Use these meetings to check on daily tasks, understand their progress for the week, discuss upcoming assignments, and build rapport. It’s also a great opportunity to encourage employees to share their milestones and recognize their successes.
Nowadays, every organization has some form of online presence to stay connected with customers and clients. But social media can also be leveraged for employees as well, and some of the biggest brands in the world recognize this.
Social media, like LinkedIn, can be an excellent tool for remote employees to stay engaged and updated on the organization’s product releases, customer satisfaction, and accomplishments. Remote employees can engage by liking, commenting, and even sharing those stories, contributing to their feeling of inclusion.
But don’t stop there. Social media can extend far beyond just corporate news. Consider highlighting different parts of your organization that employees are really proud of, such as its commitment to philanthropy, building artwork, and even hosting a pet day. Here at RingCentral, our cafe serves free food to employees daily and has its own Instagram page (@ringcentralcafe).
There’s no dispute that face-to-face interactions are key to developing relationships at work, but remote workers miss out on those interactions, contributing to their feeling of isolation. Also, team messaging and phone calls aren’t enough to bond remote colleagues, as 93% of communication is nonverbal.
Video conferencing is the king of bridging the gap between office and remote employees. When employees can put a face and voice to their colleagues, they naturally develop closer relationships that replicate how employees interact in an office environment. And with stronger bonds to their teams, remote employees feel closer to the organization at large and are much happier as a result.
Employees appreciate when their colleagues can celebrate their birthdays with them, and remote employees can join in on the fun too. Through your team messaging app, employees can leave “happy birthday” comments and gifs for remote employees and vice versa to make them feel as included as an office celebration. Your organization can even have cake or pizza delivered if it’s in your company culture.
Off-site events like holiday parties and happy hours are excellent at helping employees let loose, but remote employees don’t have those same luxuries when they’re separated from their teams. That’s why it’s important to get teams together at events dedicated to both work and leisure, like a company or department retreat.
Retreats allow all employees to get together and share ideas, align goals, and socialize. But be careful of making retreats too work-centric—retreats are opportunities for team building versus getting specific projects done. Adam Schwartz, CEO of Articulate, said in a blog with Hackernoon that his company’s retreats are “95% socializing, 5% company meetings.” Use retreats as an opportunity for building connections and save projects for regular workweeks.
Studies show that remote employees have a higher rate of burnout than their colleagues in the office. Eighty-two percent of tech workers felt burnt out, while 52% report working longer hours than office employees. This could be due to several reasons, including feelings of responsibility, wanting to prove their productivity, and not knowing when their teammates have slowed down.
Leaders in the organization should strive for better work-life balance within their teams, especially with remote employees. Encourage remote employees to take breaks, use vacation time when they want to, and refrain from enforcing a strict 9-to-5 schedule. Better yet, lead by example. After all, even managers need breaks too.
While you won’t have the convenience of entire teams in the same office, it’s easy to create a cohesive identity with remote employees no matter where they are. Modern technology allows employees to work from anywhere, but communication, collaboration, and productivity still depend on human connections to be successful.
Make sure your remote employees feel included and your organization will thrive. Start with having the right video conferencing solution to make connections happen. Learn more about RingCentral Video and click here to request a demo today.