Remote workers have been shown to be more productive--no time wasted at the water cooler, chit-chatting, or with impromptu meetings. However, these time-wasters build a rapport between your local team.

How do you integrate telecommuting jobs when these employees don’t have the option of short breaks at an office worker’s desk or a quick stop in your office for a question?

 

Communication

Honestly, the article could stop here. Interpersonal communication is massively important for keeping remote developers integrated with your local team. Almost every tip for engaging these employees is either directly or indirectly related to effective communication.

Let’s start with the most obvious: you need a good way to communicate. Yes, there’s email, but if you’re trying to fully integrate a remote employee, you should take a look at some other options. Slack, for example, is a popular application for this.

While some employees feel forced to be formal in emails through habit, even when it’s not necessarily required, messaging apps give them a bit more freedom. Not only can you joke around a bit and send GIFs to coworkers on Slack, you can make sure that all employees are in the loop about what’s going on.

Sometimes, it’s possible to forget to inform your remote developers about small updates that are relevant to them--out of sight, out of mind. Instead, if they are already joined on you company’s messaging application or business communication solutions, they’ll be updated at the same time as the other employees.

Luckily for the remote employees (but not so much for those social, office workers), many companies are moving towards communicating via these messaging services more than in-person anyways, even in small offices.

So, make sure you have a good business communication tool that keeps both your remote and local employees on the same page about work tasks, while still allowing them to communicate more casually to form better relationships.

 

Happy birthday to the working nomads!

Do you have any traditions in your office, such as bringing in a cake for each birthday or celebrating certain work anniversaries? Don’t leave your remote workers out of this!

While, of course, it is much more simple to bring a cake in to your office than order and ship one in a different state or country, there are other options that will help your telecommuting workers feel like part of the team.

For example, you can get the office to sign a birthday card and send it to the remote employee. While this isn’t quite as delicious as a cake, it will make that distant worker feel a sense of comradery with his or her fellow employees.

They will certainly appreciate the gesture, feel like they’re more integrated with your team, and know that even if they’re remote, they aren’t left out of office traditions.

 

Regularly check in

I told you almost everything was related to interpersonal communication, didn’t I? This is also true with your local employees, but it is much more simple to quickly catch up and check in on those people you see everyday.

If local and remote team members are communicating only via slack or HipChat, it’s important that you still regularly check in with them as their boss, preferably face-to-face.

If your remote employee isn’t simply located in the next town over, chat with them via video call for 5-10 minutes every other week, for example. This doesn’t have to last long or put any pressure on the remote developer.

Instead, simply ask them how it’s going, if they feel the team members are all communicating well, and if there’s anything they’d like to tell you. This short chat helps more than you would think.

Additionally, try to video chat them into any meetings that are relevant. If there is a weekly meeting, make sure the time is established at the beginning and they are always ready to join the discussion. With today’s technology, there truly isn’t much difference between being in a meeting via Skype for video conferencing or in-person.

Instead, if you have any impromptu meetings, let them know via email or messaging service what’s going on. If they can join, it’s great to help them feel like they’re a part of the team and not forgotten. However, as a remote worker, make it clear that they won’t be penalized for not joining these impromptu meetings unless an ‘on-call’ time is preestablished.

 

Set rules

First, establish the default timezone you’ll be using. If you have multiple remote employees from around the world, keeping track of everyone’s different time can be very difficult. Instead, establish that you’ll be using the local time of the main office (e.g. Pacific Standard Time).

This will help mitigate any potential problems with deadlines, meetings, or acceptable message times. On that note, discuss when it is acceptable to message or email other employees and when it is required to reply.

If you don’t care when your remote workers actually work (as long it is in by the deadline), but you need them to be available to their team members in case anyone has questions between, for example, 1pm-3pm, Monday through Friday, make this clear.

If, instead, a quick response isn’t important the majority of the time, but you need them to be available 9am-5pm the week before you push out an application, tell them this at the beginning. If these times aren’t possible because of incredibly diverse time zones, work this out from the start.

Essentially, you just have to be clear with exactly what you need from your remote employees. If this is discussed in the beginning, you’ll avoid any potential arguments or negative feelings between workers.

 

Find your remote worker

It seems pretty simple, right? Once again, I repeat: communication, communication, communication. Integrating your remote workers with local ones just takes a bit of planning and due diligence on your part.

After these tips are implemented, it’s smooth sailing, with telecommuting employees found to be happier and more productive, not to mention that they save you money.

While these tips are simple, don’t underestimate their importance. To understand more about how company culture is vital for retaining remote developers, check out our ebook.