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How Included Do Your Remote Employees Feel?

The question posed by the title of this article is not an idle one.  It is, in fact, an essential question and one that’s vitally important.

Too often, managers and business owners have an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy regarding their remote workers.  Unfortunately, these days, that kind of thinking can really come back to haunt you, given that the ongoing pandemic has sent the vast majority of employees home to work as best they can.

The problem is, while it’s relatively easy to overcome the technical and technological hurdles involved with working from home, there are a number of other issues that are much more difficult to address. 

Of these, the biggest problem is the feeling of isolation and disconnectedness that home work combined with quarantine or social distancing can bring, and sadly, the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy we mentioned above can only heighten those feelings.

The reason that’s a problem is because those feelings of isolation and disconnectedness inevitably reduce morale and job satisfaction, which in turn, has a negative impact on productivity.

The good news is that there are a number of things that you, as a manager or business owner can do to remedy that situation and make sure your remote workers feel appreciated and connected to both your company and to the work they’re doing.  Granted, it takes time and a concerted, conscious effort on your part, but that effort pays big dividends, and as such, is well worth the time spent.

The first, easiest, and lest time intensive thing you can do is to set up some mechanism that will allow your employees working from home to communicate with each other.  Two common approaches here are some type of company message board or an employee chat room.  Ultimately, the form doesn’t matter as much as its use.

“Water cooler conversations” are a thing of the past, and this is a viable replacement for it.  The simple truth is that those casual conversations serve as glue that helps to bind your employees together.  Without that glue, those bonds weaken, and your organization as a whole weakens too.

If you set something like this up, don’t be a stickler and don’t moderate or monitor the conversations too closely.  The point and purpose of this channel of communication is primarily social, so don’t lose sleep over the fact that the conversations occurring there have little to do with the actual work your employees are performing.

In a related vein, you should also take steps to reach out to your remote employees on a regular basis for casual conversations.  Check in.  Share funny stories or memes you find online. Again, you probably already probably do plenty of communication relating to the business of your business.  This is something altogether different.  This is about human connection and is every bit as important.

If you can find the time to do those two simple things, you’ll find that the morale of your remote employees increases markedly, and you’ll note an uptick in productivity as a result.