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Building a Work Culture for Your Virtual Workforce: Strong Business Leadership Required

Virtual employees have obvious benefits, but they often feel disconnected from the rest of the team.

Virtual employees have obvious benefits, but they often feel disconnected from the rest of the team.

Why does remote employment work well in some companies, and not in others?

Telecommuting seems to be the ideal scenario for many Americans. It allows them to avoid the morning and evening commutes, and even be able to watch the kids at home rather than sending them to daycare.

Regardless of what the reasons are for choosing to work virtually, an increasing number of people are choosing the remote route. In fact, 3.7 million employees now work remotely at least part of the time, a number that’s risen by 103% since 2005.

But creating an all-inclusive and high-morale company culture can be a real challenge when many employees aren’t working face-to-face. Many feel disconnected from their colleagues, and often feel as if they’re out of the loop when it comes to office happenings and business decisions.

According to a recent poll by Gallup, only 35 percent of those who spend at least part of their work time remotely are engaged in their work and with their company.

Considering this number, it’s critical for management to establish strong leadership roles and take steps to boost the morale and level of engagement of their virtual workforce. Leadership skills sometimes come naturally to some people, however with others, they may require coaching to take on a leadership role in the workplace. Opportunities such as virtual leadership coaching are always open to those who are interested in taking on managerial or other types of leadership roles.

So how can a business develop a work culture that satisfies the needs of a virtual workforce?

It’s All About Business Leadership

Upstanding leaders are a critical component to creating a positive culture for virtual workers, even if physical space isn’t shared. The fact that your company has remote personnel just means you’ll have to be a little more creative in ensuring that they feel included and appreciated within the team.

What does your business stand for?

Perhaps the first task in order is to establish principles and touchstones that you want your business to operate within, and point back to them every so often so they’re not left in the dust.

Just because employees have foregone actual office space doesn’t mean that company ethics and policies need to be thrown out the window.

Come up with a set of standards and goals of the company, and involve all employees – including those working from home. Encourage feedback, and measure each principle to make sure they’re efficient and functional. Actively referring to these principles will help ensure that you maintain the culture that you’ve worked hard to build, which includes those who work on a virtual platform.

Advocate teamwork among all employees.

Smart leaders will find effective ways to ensure remote employees are always plugged in to the happenings of the company.

Smart leaders will find effective ways to ensure remote employees are always plugged in to the happenings of the company.

It can be easy to retreat to oneself when working in a remote location far from the rest of the team members. But a virtual workforce doesn’t mean that each remote employee should always be working alone.

Each and every one of these employees needs to be regularly reminded and encouraged to chime in with their opinions and be a part of the decision-making process. Regardless if you’re dealing with your average day-to-day tasks or more pressing business decisions that will affect the company’s bottom line, virtual employees need to be aware that they’re encouraged to be a part of these processes.

Use online tools to facilitate clear communication.

While shooting a virtual employee an email or setting up a Skype chat may work in many situations, it’s not very effective if these efforts aren’t properly organized. It’s important to be able to find a useful way to communicate everyone’s progress and expectations throughout specific projects, rather than just randomly communicating this information.

Creating a close-knit team and recognizing work among virtual employees can be more easily accomplished using an online tool that provides everyone involved with a quick synopsis of what’s happening in the company and what stages specific projects are at. This makes updating easy and streamlined, while reiterating the goal that everyone is diligently working towards reaching.

Set up regular one-on-one virtual meetings to communicate progress and expectations.

While it’s important for virtual employees to be a part of team-oriented projects and communications, it’s also necessary to have some one-on-one time with each employee to provide you with the opportunity to discuss their progress in their positions, and communicate any expectations that you might have for them in the near future. This will also give virtual employees the chance to provide their feedback in an environment where they’re free to discuss issues that they might not necessarily have been comfortable doing in the presence of others.

It is important that any issues are communicated to your employer so they are able to have a better understanding of how you are doing with working remotely in order to make any necessary improvements. The changes could involve setting up a registered office that you will be able to go to and work should you find that it is hard to make decisions solely by yourself. A registered office address benefits not only your employees, but it can showcase to potential clients that you a professional business and are able to work together when needed. But it is important that this gets pointed out to your manager.

Establish casual connections among team members.

Not all communications necessarily have to be work-related. Sometimes a little frivolous chit-chat can help to take a step back from the work at hand and establish some friendly connections between colleagues. Again, an online tool designed specifically for this purpose can work wonders at keeping things in the virtual office professional yet friendly at the same time.

Creating a healthy company culture is important when you’re dealing with virtual personnel. It can be pretty easy for remote workers to feel unplugged from the brick-and-mortar company, which is why specific steps need to be taken by management to counter this effect. Strong business leadership can ensure that virtual employees still feel as much a part of the team as those who take up physical real estate.