Remote employment is excellent for flexibility and location independence. However, scheduling and self-management does come with its own hangups. Remote workers are expected to self-motivate and produce the work without those inherent regulations that an office or an in-person team brings, and sometimes their lack of physical presence to the manager can make attention on their personal needs fall to the wayside.
But try to consider the relationship between remote worker and employer as a long-distance relationship, so to speak. It relies on good communication, openness, and tech to keep everyone productive.
How to Feel Part of the Team as a Remote Worker
Physically removed from the team, remote workers can be at a disadvantage, especially because you’re not there to experience all of the natural connections that happen in a traditional office’s day-to-day, from small talk to lunch breaks. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Here are a few ways that remote workers can integrate themselves with the team.
1. Identify Your Personal Needs as a Worker
This might sound like a no-brainer, but as a remote worker you have more flexibility to set-up your ideal work environment and workday. First, identify what works best for you — Do you like having regular check-ins? Do you prefer speaking over Skype calls? Do you prefer more laissez-faire management? — and articulate that to your manager or team. This will help them determine the best ways to communicate with you over quick questions or big asks.
2. Let Them Know When You’re Online
If the team is juggling different time zones or if you’re more of a night owl, make your team aware. While one of the perks of remote working is having a fluid schedule, giving a general idea of when you’re online can help set teams at ease. This way, your coworkers become familiar with when you’re working and available to answer off-the-cuff needs or respond to emails.
3. Proactively Communicate
This goes for big group meetings or even just greeting one another on the Slack channel: speak up first or ask a coworker how their weekend was. It’s much easier to get to know your team and assert yourself when you’re physically nearby. As the remote colleague, you might have to put in this extra effort to bridge that disadvantage. Don’t shy away from asking professional questions, or even asking a coworker if they’ve seen any good movies lately.
4. Offer to Meet Up
It might be obvious, but let teammates know where you are and offer to meet up if they’re ever in your city — even if it’s just for a happy hour or a coffee. Social niceties might not let a coworker assume that you’d be willing to meet up if they’re ever traveling, so try suggesting it.
How Employers Can Support Their Remote Team
With the rise of remote work and the trend of in-house and remote teams for many companies, employers are now finding new ways to manage and support both types of employees. Consider a few of these tactics when leading your remote team.
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1. Get Good Tech
Whether it’s Slack, Google Hangouts, or Skype, the best way to incorporate all members of the team is through one network. This gives all team members a virtual watercooler to communicate organically and in real-time, whether it’s making decisions about that email campaign or seeing if anyone binged Stranger Things already.
If you have a team of remote and in-house workers, make sure you set up proper cameras for conference meetings too. As one partial remote and in-house team realized, people in the room during meetings had a much easier time knowing when to speak up or add input when they could see the people taking part.
2. Create Regular Check-Ins or Open Hours
Sometimes, those “quick questions” or niggling concerns any worker might come across in their day-to-day can be avoided on large group chats or even in email. Setting up office hours or recurring phone calls to check in can help build that relationship and give remote workers the free time to air any small grievances or ideas. It also helps the employer learn more about their remote teammates one-on-one and invites feedback.
If you opt to keep open hours, be sure to actively ask for check-ins and encourage the use of the open office hours, along with setting up one or two required check-ins in the year. You want your teammates to feel heard, and not all of the communication has to come from them.
3. Proactively Keep Everyone on the Same Page
Establish processes to disseminate decisions. It’s easy to let updates fall to the wayside when relaying it to your remote team members, especially when they’re not physically there as you work through it. Creating recurring team updates, stand-up meetings, or even creating checklists for who handles what can keep everyone in the loop.
4. Build Team Bonding Occasions
There are so many different ways you can bring the team together. Try holding a once yearly all-hands retreat, setting a book club over Skype, or even expensing a drink for a virtual happy hour. A laid back occasion is sometimes what you need to encourage others to chat and learn about one another. It’s often those moments that build the bonds and create personal investment into your team’s work and goals.
Georgette Eva is the Community & Events Manager of Croissant, the app that gives access to coworking spaces on demand and makes the world your office. She and her team work remotely, exploring coworking spaces and new cities, but they’ll come together to cowork in New York or have a book club meeting over Skype.