How do you engage remote workers? Let me count the ways.

Last week, Bernie Dyme CEO of Perspectives, tweeted a question – “How can U engage remote workers?” and it truly hit home for me. So much so that with a retweet began a conversation that included Jennifer Brogee CIO of myStaffingPro. As with other playground situations, this one escalated into words and finally with a challenge of ideas "bring it to a blog" and then came the “Duel”. I want to include all the blogs on HRmarketer Blog for you to read, or just go to: Bernie's Working World Cafe and Jennifer’s myStaffingPro blog.

You see, I am a remote worker and I “Lead” a team that is also remote from me as well as the home office; and I often wonder if I am engaging the team that I am responsible for. I realize that many people say that the simplest way to determine if the employee is engaged is seen in output of work, completion of tasks and accomplishments – but are they happy? Heck! if an employee can do all that without being engaged, imagine what they can do if they were!

I did some research with the members of my team, as well as other remote workers that work at (which is about 60% of them) and the overwhelming thing that engages those that I connected with is:
1/ continuous clear and concise communication. OKAY this is so very important with any employee BUT how much more difficult is it if the worker is not physically in the office all the time. How many conversations happen in the lunch-room, or at the water-cooler, or “Hey could you just step in my office for a minute, I need to discuss something with you”. Remote workers miss this, unless there is a consistent effort to do it virtually. How brilliant does Skype look right now – easy, cheap and very good way to just touch base. Of course you can email, text, IM but I have to admit, voice is best.

2/ Feeling like they are part of the BIGGER picture and that their contribution is essential to the common goal – I guess that is communication again, because all of these things have to be articulated, discussed, understood, laid out and always need feedback, Feedback, FEEDBACK. Easy to see if you are in the environment of the office, seeing the energy change when something wonderful happens to move the company to the goals – or even if a roadblock comes up and the team needs to overcome it.

3/ To still feel to be part of the company community and culture. This is so easy for a worker who is at the office all the time – not so much for those remote. So what about weekly team call? Company wide home office visits? Localized visits? Company news streamed through FaceBook, Twitter, or other. We often start our weekly sales/marketing calls with a picture of one of the team members, who just had a baby. Once a week we see Julia grow up!
I have also taken my team members to lunch, bringing them into one location and having an all day strategy meeting in a home and another time, discussing work concerns while getting a pedicure.

4/ Generally, the remote workers that I work with – well, remotely – like it that way. They appreciate the flexibility of working from home, or sometimes the local coffee shop or library, it is the way they “roll”. They do have some valuable strategies and tactics to keep themselves on task and motivated, and I would like to think that my “spidey senses” can still detect when there is something wrong.

The next question for a management team might be: Is it worth it to have remote workers? I would hope that my CEO would say YES absolutely, or I have not performed as well as I think. Let me count the ways:
1/ being able to get the BEST person for the job/position. It opens up the whole hiring window, cross/multiple country, if your company is willing to hire remotely.
2/ offers very strong work/life balance for many people
3/ cost savings many cases
4/ having a team/office close to some priority clients

Interestingly, not one remote worker I connected with indicated that they felt that rewards/incentives would engage them. Hmmmm, let’s see what Jennifer and Bernie says about that!!!

Duel done – and I am spent.

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