Working remotely? Tips to make remote workers feel like part of the team

Working remotely may just be the future of the workforce. Though statistics remains unclear on how many people work from home or away from the office, studies report that workers are happier when they have the freedom and flexibility to work remotely. Remote workers often save employers thousands and thousands of dollars all the while being more productive. According to a recent report from Inc., remote workers tend to be 20 percent more productive when they get to tackle creative projects away from the office.

I am a remote worker myself (and a freelancer—so I’m the future of the global workforce) and I can confirm my flexible work schedule. The Quietly crew has also taken to working from home once or twice a week as needed to make use of those productivity statistics. Together, we make up the new norm of onsite, remote, and freelance workers. We thought we’d share a few tips to integrate remote workers seamlessly into your company’s team.

Communication, communication, communication

Communication is the end all be all for any company, but even more so for one that balances different types of workers. Communication is the number-one tool every company needs to balance its remote employees with its onsite work. And with communication comes the need for patience. Bad connections, dropped calls, and meetings that run late can offset a day.

At Quietly, we use a variety of services to keep in touch with one another including Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime Audio, something called a “landline,” etc. For bigger conference calls with clients and employees spanning the continent, Quietly prefers to use UberConference, which is more reliable in terms of connectivity and audio reception.

Communication is key. But it gets complicated when you…

Factor in time zone differences

Time zones are such a headache. They make you feel groggy when you travel, screw with your sleep schedule, and make it difficult to organize a simple meeting.

When you’re writing emails, be sure to clarify any time-related issues by prefacing the timezone (e.g. let’s have a quick chat tomorrow at 1 p.m. PST). For contractors, freelancers, or remote employees who live outside the time zone, use the company headquarters’ time zone to avoid confusion. The Quietly crew is exceptionally considerate of this difference. I rarely have meetings at 6 p.m. EST or later (thank you), so work with your remote employees to figure out what times work best for everyone. Part of the give and taking of being a remote employee is sacrificing rigid hours for greater freedom and a short commute.

If you really want to be cool, adjust to military time; 2 p.m. becomes 14:00, 5 p.m. becomes 17:00—you get the idea. It’s much easier to add or subtract time differences this way, and it’s easier to communicate with international clients and workers, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Email etiquette

The standard work day is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., give or take, but that applies to tangible offices. If you have workers living not only time zones apart but countries—and ones who keep “odd” hours—you’ll need to establish some rules about email etiquette. The same goes if your company prefers to use messaging platforms like Slack.

For example, if someone from Quietly sends me an email at 4 p.m. PST, I’ll get that email at 7 p.m. EST. That’s when I’m in the middle of doing whatever it is I do in the evening—gym, movie, shopping, other boring stuff. Does company culture (more on that later) dictate that I need to respond right away? Should I be “on-call” for my emails during the standard work day?

It’s up to the employer (and to some extent the remote worker). Some will prefer the “on-call” method, others will ask remote employees to adjust their hours altogether. I personally try and keep my phone on me at these hours and turn on push notifications for my email and chat app.

A final note on email: stop sending them late at night. Research shows that late-night emails hurt productivity and company culture as some people feel obligated to drop their downtime in favor of answering emails. It’s proven that people perform best when they have ample amount of down time after work to recharge for the next day.

On-board online

New remote hires won’t have the pleasure of meeting with you in person for company training. Companies thus have a responsibility to give as much “literature” about the company as possible and make sure all training material is available online. It’s also important that remote workers know who is who and who does what; introduce new hires via email or through a weekly catch-up meeting, so they feel welcomed.

Company culture

Defining a company culture is tricky—literally, what’s the definition of company culture? Let’s break it down. A company is a business. A culture is the values and practices shared by members of a group. Thus, company culture is the shared values and practices of a company.

That still feels like a vague definition, but you know a company culture when you see it. Cubicles vs. open-floor plans, rigid vs. loose—you get the idea. Culture at a company is how a company collectively prefers to operate. Quietly’s motto is to “ask for forgiveness, not permission” whereas other companies may believe it is imperative to ask permission.

It’s also more than just a ping-pong table or an impromptu conversation around the water cooler, since those things are harder to do virtually. At Quietly, the culture amounts to weird reactionary GIFs, weekend updates at Scrum meetings, birthday presents, and general optimism and passion for what we do. No matter the company, its culture will develop in its own time and its own way.

For more about remote workers, freelancers, and Quietly’s industry insights, follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Image: Jeshu John/DesignersPics

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