If you’re like many American workers, you collaborate with colleagues who work remotely on a regular basis. In the U.S. alone, 3.7 million employees now work from home at least half the time. New data suggests that this scenario will only become more common—80 to 90 percent of the American workforce expresses a desire to telework at least part-time, according to globalworkplaceanalytics.com.
A flexible teleworking policy can be a great way to recruit talent, improve morale and boost employee engagement. However, there are real quality of life challenges to take into account for those looking to implement or improve a work-from-home policy. Teleworkers can experience professional isolation, which is a perception of both social and professional seclusion from the rest of the company. Missing out on workplace camaraderie and being overlooked for input on important decisions can make it difficult for telecommuters to feel heard and involved in their organizations. Here are a few steps you can take to implement a telework policy that works for both your company and your employees.
Make it official. Provide official guidance resources to set remote workers up for success. When implementing a telework policy, it can be tempting to deal with rules and issues on an ad hoc basis. However, legitimizing teleworkers with official and easily accessible policy documents will help them understand their role in the company and empower them to advocate for themselves.
Engage in-office staff. Often, companies don’t teach on-site staff how to effectively work with telecommuters. It can be challenging to manage a direct report that telecommutes, so offer trainings for managers on topics like how to perform a yearly review over the phone. In a conference with both teleworkers and in-person staff, it’s easy to overlook people not in the room. Brief meeting facilitators on how to engage teleworkers during brainstorms and meetings. For major company announcements, remind high-level executives to consider questions and comments gathered from remote employees.
Create a “telecommunity”. Teleworkers can feel especially isolated when the rest of the office is together for a fun event, like an office party. As a general rule, when spending company time or resources on on-site staff, consider how you can provide a similar experience for the teleworking community. For instance, in lieu of an on-site holiday party for remote employees, use a similar per capita investment to deliver a special holiday gift. Then, offer a teleworking-community-exclusive platform to encourage employees to share photos and stories from their holidays at home.
How do you engage teleworkers at your workplace? Tell us in the comments.