State-of-the-art devices and technologies have opened up the world of the virtual office – one that enables employees to work from almost anywhere, at any given time. Workers don’t have to be physically present in a traditional office to produce; anyone with the ways and means to get the work done has the opportunity to make it happen. This concept has been increasingly embraced by all types of workers – women, men, young, and old. In fact, a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found a greater increase in the number of companies planning to offer telecommuting in 2014 than those offering just about any other new benefit.
But is something lost when we take away human presence and face-to-face interaction? Does camaraderie and a sense of connectedness to the corporate culture suffer? It is, and it can, if mobile workers are not present for key discussions or collaborations that may spontaneously occur. In these instances, mobile workers can be left feeling disconnected and disengaged. To avoid this, managers must prioritize engagement for all workers, especially those prized employees working offsite, and must ensure that communications are clear and effective. Following are some suggestions on how to make this happen:
Connect – in person: I’ve mentioned this before in this blog, but it bears repeating: Make sure your mobile workers maintain their connections to the main office in the best way possible – with regularly scheduled, in-person meetings. There is something intangible and invaluable about these that allow employees to truly connect.
Step up your gamification: Research group Gartner defines gamification as “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.” Competitions can enable bonds to form among teammates working towards a common goal. More than just an effective engagement method, a game-based performance management system can help with standardizing performance metrics and evaluation criteria – an application mobile workers appreciate as a means to leverage the fact they aren’t in the office.
Maintain close contact: Keep close contact with your mobile workers, so they can be confident they’re considered valuable members of the team. Make sure communications are concise, but personal, so they know you’re speaking directly to them.
Keep everyone on the same page: Create a culture wherein people feel comfortable reaching out to everyone via the technologies that are available. All team members should be kept in the loop, on a daily basis. Conference calls and video chat are great ways in which any ideas can be laid open for discussion and collaboration.
Recognize all, near and far: People working from home can be just as (if not more) productive as those in the office. Employee recognition programs are designed to recognize individual achievements, and show how all employees are contributing to the success of the whole. Give your employees an opportunity to show off their skills; it is motivating, and is sure to increase engagement.