The business world has moved toward remote work more and more in recent years, giving CEOs the option of sourcing talent from around the globe. And when you employ both a local and a remote workforce, you can expand your team to include a diverse range of thinking styles and opinions. The key, however, is to make sure your teams interact personally so you can reap the benefits that this brings. Here's how.
1. Create the right culture.
It all starts with the right tone. As your business's leader, you set the company culture for your workplace, which immediately tells each worker whether you are a casual company or one with a more formal environment. Many successful companies feature positive, supportive cultures with employees excited to be part of a larger purpose.
Each employee should be well aware of the company culture, whether they work in your office or across the country. Every one of your meetings, in-person gatherings and written communications should support that culture. With positive, supportive business environments, you may be more likely to see the benefit that personal interaction brings.
2. Be selective.
Obviously, not every position in your organization should be remote. Some positions lend themselves to telecommuting, while others are better suited to the office. You may feel that your application developers work better when they can set up their own environment, for instance, while your marketing team needs the in-person collaboration that comes with being in the same place every day. Pay close attention to how remote work is affecting overall productivity and morale and feel free to pull back where necessary.
3. Assess your equipment.
Once you've added remote work as part of your business model, the software and hardware your team uses is essential. Make sure everyone has the tools they need to interact with each other, whether through chat, phone or video conference. Schedule regular team meetings via video conference and make sure everyone gets facetime on the call when feasible. Simply putting a face to the names they see in their inboxes and chats can make a big difference in your team's daily interactions.
4. Schedule in-person time.
It may not be easy on the budget, but in-person time can pay big dividends in your business's growth. I know several startups that hold invigorating retreats each year to unite far-flung teams based in the U.S. and abroad. CEOs often try to pick a locale somewhere equidistant to bring down the cost of the event. Whether it's an annual sales meeting or a retreat, it's important to try to find ways to bring the entire team together at least occasionally. If you can't gather everyone, at least set up regional meetings that allow segments of your team to get to know each other in person.
5. Encourage remote gatherings.
As you're building your team, try to ensure everyone has at least one team member nearby and encourage them to get together on a regular basis. Rent a co-working space where they can gather to discuss issues and collaborate on projects. If you have a large group of people in one place, make sure they have their own office, or schedule a regional meeting for them at least once or twice a year.
6. Encourage personal interactions.
There are small things you can do to help your team members get to know each other, even as technology dominates work days in the form of chats and emails. Set up teams for brainstorming or encourage fun interactions over lunch or Friday evening. Take advantage of the holiday season to start activities like a Secret Santa swap where even the most remote employees feel as though they're part of the team. Once your employees get to know one or two co-workers well, those relationships can build on each other until people feel they have their own support system within your organization.
If your teams are located elsewhere, be prepared to spend serious time on the road. As your business grows, travel should be part of the job requirement for anyone in a leadership role. When a manager pays a personal visit at least once a year, every employee can feel valued. Travel with your sales professionals and sit in on regional meetings. This may not only benefit your workers, but it may also give you the information you need to be a better manager.
Your team is perhaps the most valuable asset you have, whether they're under the same roof or connected to you through technology. The more you can facilitate an environment that includes those who aren't in the same building each day, the more you may see morale improve, which can help your business grow and thrive.