When my friend Nancy contemplated a cross-country move, just one thing held her back: a job she loved. Rather than put in her notice, she made a proposal to work remotely.

The benefits were clear. Rather than spending hours a day in Atlanta traffic, she’d be able to start work before the rest of her team and continue after everyone else left to brave rush hour. She could use an instant messaging (IM) client for real-time collaboration and web conferencing for meetings. In addition, her company would be able to retain a happy, experienced coworker rather than having to hire and train someone new.

Her company accepted her proposal, but with reservations. They were understandably cautious about managing a remote worker. But more people like Nancy are realizing that work is a thing they do, not a place they go. The organizations that accommodate this new mindset are reaping the benefits along with their workers.

In my six years as a collaboration architect with CDW, I have seen many remote working cases like Nancy’s. While remote work is becoming more mainstream, it should not be approached casually. Most users have a notebook computer or tablet and IM tools, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fully equipped for remote work. They need enterprise-level tools to enable them to work at peak efficiency and feel as much a part of the team as their colleagues in the office.

The first step is to create a communications/collaboration strategy and explain to everyone why it’s important. Organizations need to choose a common set of collaboration tools and train everyone to use them — remote workers as well as those in the office (since they’ll be collaborating with one another). Many organizations already have such tools, but if they don’t create a strategy that spells out how they will be implemented, users will chose their own, making it difficult to deploy a unified platform.

Collaboration software can simplify this process, because it typically includes IM, video, voice, web conferencing, presence and other tools that make communicating and collaborating as simple as if users were sitting across from one another.

For remote workers to be successful, they need to be able to do whatever they would in the office. I split my time between the office and home, and when I’m working remotely, I use video chat and IM to stay in contact with my colleagues. Using presence tools, I can see if someone’s in a meeting or if they’re free, and I can then IM them just as easily as I could walk up to them in the office and strike up a conversation.

For remote workers to truly feel a part of the team, it’s also important to pay attention to the hardware and software in conference rooms. Audio connections are not enough. Organizations should require that meetings include video and web conferencing, so that all attendees can see each other, as well as the content being presented. A quality virtual private network should also be provided so that users have access to all of the applications and files they need to do their jobs, regardless of their locations.

These strategies have helped Nancy allay her bosses’ reservations. She’s received several internal awards from her managers and peers, proving her point that with the right strategy, a remote worker can be as productive as those in the office.

For more about remote work and collaboration trends, check out this article by BizTech Magazine’s own Matt McLaughlin.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below with any questions.

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4 thoughts on “Strategies to Make Remote Workers Feel Like Part of the Team

  • Sophie Triantafilou says:

    If only more organizations were as forward thinks as Nancy’s remote worker employer. Even a partial work week would result in a happier , more productive worker but would require a leap of faith that most employers are not willing to make. The investment in the hardware/software and somewhat more complicated work station setup, in the long run, does seem to pay off. I commend Nancy’s progressive employer and others similar sites.

  • James Hoskins says:

    Proven it can be done with the right tools and strategy! Makes me feel a little more heart warming about working from home! Thank you for sending this out Craig!

  • One of my problems as a remote worker has been that many of my co-workers aren’t comfortable using the technical solutions you describe. So it’s either conference phone calls or nothing. I’ve finally gone to Skype for conference phone calls. Since we have an 800 number it doesn’t cost me any of my credit, and with a good head set, I can finally hear and be heard. But video calls would be great. Make you feel more a part of things.

  • Tracey Mctague says:

    Good article, but teleworking is hardly new…and managers should get over the myth that they should have “reservations” avout managing a remote worker. The benefits to employers are well documented.

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