Technological advances in video conferencing and real-time communication strategies have opened up opportunities for collaboration with others across the country and around the world: possibilities that would have seemed unimaginable a generation ago. As Nicole Fallon notes in an article for Fox Business called “Overcoming 4 Big Challenges of Managing Remote Employees,” telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular. Employees see the flexibility as a perk, and many employers see little reason, logistically, to require employees – particularly knowledge workers – to work on-site.
And yet, there are still difficulties that aren’t easily bridged by technology. As Fallon notes, fostering a coherent corporate culture can be a challenge with remote employees who aren’t seeing, or necessarily even talking to, their coworkers every day.
“If you are physically separated from people you’d like to influence—customers or colleagues—you can reduce that distance not only by visiting them but also by emphasizing your common attributes and interests,” says Rebecca Hamilton in “Bridging Psychological Distance,” an article for Harvard Business Review. “You can narrow the spatial gap with far-flung colleagues by connecting on a personal level at the beginning of phone calls or e-mails and, when possible, using Skype or other video conference services.”
Another important component of making remote employees a part of your company culture is having them on-site from time to time. If this isn’t feasible or, as is the case with some organizations, there isn’t any place that is technically “on-site” because all employees are remote, other options may be renting a location for an annual or quarterly company meeting, or meeting virtually, as Hamilton notes, via video conferencing.
Ever-improving technology and increased demands for work-life balance and flexibility will likely mean a growing number of remote and telecommuting employees in coming years. Companies engaging with growing numbers of these employees will need to keep in mind the importance of a company culture for even the most geographically-diverse organizations.
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