Technology makes working with far-away employees easier than ever, but it’s only part of the solution for integrating them into your company’s culture. “The more remote workers feel they’re part of the team, the more productive and collaborative they’ll be,” says Debbie Guild, PNC Financial Services Group’s executive vice president and chief security officer. Guild learned this reality firsthand having worked from home before joining PNC. She recommends these strategies to help you and your remote employees work well together:
- Invest in the right tech tools. That means virtual desktops, videoconferencing, project management software and more. Make high quality a key criterion: “Remote employees are depending on getting their voices heard,” Guild says. “There should be no choppiness on the video. Spend on quality headsets.”
- Encourage employees to maintain professionalism. Guild recommends that remote workers create a dedicated professional workspace at home and dress the part. “You wouldn’t go into the corporate office in your pajamas, so avoid lounging when working remotely as well,” she advises. “Be available for impromptu video conferences. That means no conference calls from the powder room. You’d be surprised how often it happens!”
- Monitor performance. Working remotely shouldn’t thwart career advancement, Guild advises. Evaluate remote employees by the same criteria used for those in the main office. Avoid favoring team members you see every day, and provide remote employees with similar opportunities for stretch tasks and advancement.
- Allow for banter. Casual interaction builds camaraderie, Guild explains, so take advantage of technology such as instant-messaging software that lets everyone know who is currently available online. “If co-workers can’t physically pop into your office, you want them to be able to do so virtually,” Guild says. Ensure that far-off employees also enjoy team perks, such as birthday celebrations or casual Fridays.
In the end, Guild acknowledges, it may take a bit more effort to bring remote workers into the fold. Yet once they make the transition, these employees can be among the strongest members of your team. “The ability to work at home can be a great opportunity for employees who need that additional flexibility,” she says, adding that she is grateful for her own telecommuting experience. “But it’s important to realize that there are real cultural differences that have to be addressed. I went from managing no people in a home office to managing 2,000 at PNC. Through that experience, I’ve become a champion for remote employees.”