More and more frequently, teams are spread out across the city, the state, even the world; rather than having your full team working out of the same office, you may have “virtual” or “remote” employees working from the comfort of their own homes.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled to celebrate the advantages of having a remote workforce; I won’t go into that here, except to affirm that for many businesses, the option to work virtually can create a more flexible and robust workforce.
Having virtual teams brings its own set of challenges, though. For instance, how do you ensure that employees are engaged when you don’t see those employees in the office every day?
And how do you offer affirmation to an employee when the only time you lay eyes on said employee is at the annual holiday party?
Simple Gestures to Affirm Virtual Team Members
To keep your virtual employees engaged—and to ensure they feel appreciated—you’ll need to make a special effort. Some small but significant ways to do this include:
Schedule some face time. E-mail is alright, and even texting can be fine for simple yes-or-no questions. But it’s also important to have some face time with virtual employees—to be able to look each other in the eyes and have a moment of meaningful connection. Thankfully, there are plenty of technologies that make this possible—including Skype and, naturally, FaceTime.
Make a point to check on your employees regularly. Add it to your weekly schedule or your Google calendar. Reach out to your virtual employees weekly, even if just to ask if they’re okay and to thank them for their work. Don’t let virtual employees feel forgotten or alone. Remind them regularly that they are key members of your team.
Make sure virtual employees are part of team meetings. Get them on Skype or on speaker phone, or use a virtual meeting platform to ensure that all employees are engaged.
Include virtual employees in the collaboration process. Remote workers may be solitary, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the itch to be part of the team or to brainstorm with other employees. Actively include them in collaboration, and make sure you provide online collaboration resources, like Dropbox.
Give virtual employees chances to grow. Schedule time for them to either come to the office for team trainings, or allow them to attend some virtual conferences or webinars. Make it clear that, even though they work remotely, you care about giving them opportunities to develop.
Be deliberate in including your virtual team members—because that’s the only way to get them engaged.