Keeping a Telecommuting Workforce Part of the Team

How do firms with telecommuters maintain a sense of company culture and keep telecommuting employees working productively as a team? We've got some great telecommuting advice for employers that will help retain your team's collaborative mojo intact, even when employees are working offsite.

Out of sight, out of mind.

That's the default attitude that happens in a lot of telecommuting arrangements. But from an employer standpoint one of the more troublesome aspects of telecommuting is that it hobbles your ability to maintain a vibrant team dynamic.

Is it impossible to maintain cohesion among a team of telecommuters? No–and with telecommuting becoming more popular than ever, you're going to have to find a way to keep the team together whether you like it or not.

As a small business employer, you're going to have to be the one who takes a proactive steps to balance the needs of the team with the interests of your telecommuters. Here's what you can do to keep everyone happy and on the same page.

  • Establish clear expectations. Fuzzy expectations are at the heart of most telecommuting fiascoes. Before any of your employees are allowed to engage in a work-from-home situation, you need to carefully consider and define what you expect from telecommuters, with special attention given to how often you expect telecommuters to communicate with you and their coworkers.
  • Maintain team meetings. In a typical 9-to-5 office environment, daily or weekly team meetings are the norm. There is no reason why that should end when some or all of your team becomes a telecommuter. Technology makes it easy to conduct virtual team meetings in either an audio, video, or online format.
  • Require face time. A telecommuting arrangement that doesn't require a certain amount of face time is doomed for failure. Whether it's an hour a week, a day a month, or a few days a year it's important to make sure your team engages in face-to-face interactions from time to time.
  • Leverage technology. There are scores of technologies designed to keep people and teams in regular contact with each other. Telecommuting scenarios work best when they leverage critical technologies like instant messaging, e-mail, audio conferencing, videoconferencing, and multi-user online project solutions.
  • Relationship building. Most folks don't realize how much relationship building takes place at the office until they are no longer required to report to the office on a daily basis. Work is never just about work -- it's also about creating vital connections among team members. As your team's ringleader, you will need to look for creative ways to continue the process of relationship building after your team has embraced a telecommuting lifestyle.

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