Develop routines: Consistent communication and contact helps to create a sense of belonging and teamwork. Off-site workers know they are valued and that contact with them is important. Be sure to touch your off-site employees through as many communication channels as possible and as consistently as possible. Schedule a weekly meeting time and be sure to keep it. Be available: Since it’s so easy to miscommunicate, it’s important to make yourself available to discuss issues as they arise. If you cannot be available, ensure there is a backup. Respond to messages quickly even if the response is that you’ll reply more fully at a later time. Employees need to know managers are there for them. Communicate around milestones: Use the milestones as an opportunity for direct communication in order to provide feedback and to stay connected with the employee. Arrange a face-to-face meeting where possible and cost effective. Reward and recognize: Take time to recognize employee efforts more frequently than if you were working side by side. Send a quick note or make a quick telephone call. If you have a staff newsletter, use it to introduce staff accompanied by photos so that colleagues can get a visual of those they work with remotely. Take advantage of technology: Technology advances now allow us to hold group meetings through emerging collaboration software, networking and remote-access technology, many of which are accompanied by video capability. This is an ideal and inexpensive way to get people together. Use it frequently to get your Plan periodic group meetings: Plan to hold bi-annual and/or quarterly group meetings as a means of sharing information and building team spirit. Link these meetings up with team training, group sharing, product knowledge and/or new service announcements. Be sure to hold special event gatherings such as a staff party during the holiday season. Measure task/project performance: Since individuals are not within arm’s reach, supervisors/ managers must ensure they establish accurate and well-defined key-performance measures. This means focusing on elements such as project deadlines, content, accuracy, completeness, collaboration and customer satisfaction. Manage your own discomfort: While some managers start out thinking overseeing off-site workers will not be a challenge, they often find old biases unexpectedly creep to the top of their minds. Learn to recognize your uncomfortable feelings, ask yourself why you’re feeling that way and resolve it. Avoid making assumptions and becoming concerned when the employee’s telephone is busy. Recognize the biases and old philosophies and rethink your approach.
Telecommuters, home-based workers and/ or those who travel a great deal need special ongoing personal attention in order to develop a strong sense of collaboration and teamwork. This requires strong organizational supports and a supervisory style that ensures concrete goals, objectives and task completion remains the basis for employee performance rather than the old fashioned, “bums in the seat” approach.