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5 ways to make telecommuters and remote workers feel included

Sharon Florentine | June 20, 2014
Making remote workers feel like part of the team is one of the trickiest parts of management. However, by focusing on the right technology and on effective communication and personal interaction you can create a productive remote work scenario.

Plan for Plenty of Personal Interaction
But while technology can get teams closer to a fully collaborative, personal experience, it's still not quite the same, says PGi's O'Brien. The lack of personal interaction remains one of the major barriers to a successful remote work scenario.

That's when the human element has to take center stage, with an emphasis on constant, open communication and an understanding of the need to build trust and personal connections between workers, O'Brien says.

"The first few minutes of any meeting, the off-topic parts that may seem irrelevant or just 'small talk' are the biggest contributor to building trust and better personal relationships, as well as 'contextual intelligence'," O'Brien says.

"Talking about your kids, or the game last night, or TV shows -- that creates a context for you as a person. The other people in the meeting are then able to connect to you as a parent, a human being, rather than an acquaintance or a stranger," O'Brien says.

Taso Du Val, CEO of TopTal, which provides outsourcing, staffing and contract work for software developers, says there's another important element of communication that can sometimes get lost, even when using video and other face-to-face technology.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - and Then Communicate
"Communication is obviously key, but it's not just about delegating tasks and getting status updates," Du Val says.

"Even if you have meetings every day, you have to be able to convey enthusiasm, energy and your expectations, and that is much more difficult for remote teams," Du Val says. "While it's easier to get this across on video, certainly, on the phone or on a collaboration platform, you have to use your voice, your phrasing, the tone of your email or message these emotions that are difficult to express sometimes," he says.

With a 100 percent distributed core team, DuVal says his firm has a unique perspective on remote work issues. He emphasizes TopTal's commitment to consistent communication and on frequent meetings to bring otherwise dispersed teams together.

"Every department has either a daily meeting or a thrice-weekly meeting. That's where we focus on fostering connections and collaboration with every single team," DuVal says.

"When you have constant communication; when you hear every single day that your peers are working hard and making progress, that inspires you and prompts you to do better yourself. It starts to positively impact how you operate and how you perceive your job and your purpose within the organization as a whole," DuVal says.

Focus on the Big Picture and Business Outcomes
Understanding each individual's purpose and role within the larger organization is an important part of making remote workers feel included, says InterCall's Bellmar.

 

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