Help Make Remote Employees a Part of the Home Team

By November 16, 2010HR Advisor

Dear Kathleen:
Our company realized the need to change with the times. We are reaching farther and farther for qualified employees, and we’ve allowed some of our employees to move away and work from home. We have found ourselves with quite a few employees who telecommute. At this time, we can’t afford to fly everyone to headquarters for each meeting or event, but want to find a cost-effective way to integrate them into our culture and make them feel part of the team. How do we do this?

Betsy K.

Dear Betsy:

I am all too familiar with this problem and it can be a daunting task to make remote employees feel part of the team. It’s also difficult from the employee’s perspective to feel engaged with their co-workers. It’s more difficult to “connect” to a faceless person on the end of a phone line than it is speaking with someone face to face. Employee engagement has a direct correlation to an employee’s productivity, whether they are in the office or working remotely.

An employee should be made to feel that they are an integral part of the company when they are first hired. I’d suggest bringing the person to your main office, at least once, to meet everyone on the team and get a feel for your company’s culture. This will also give you a chance to see what the employee is really like and how they interact with others.

This is an appropriate time for the employee to meet with as many other employees as possible, while scheduling other meetings by phone to take place when the employee returns to their home office. Meeting with other employees helps your remote employee understand how things work in your company, the personalities involved and the responsibilities of other team members. It also enables the employee to interact on a more personal level.

With technology progressing at the speed of light and becoming more cost effective, I suggest that you try one of the new video conferencing software programs. The one-on-one service that’s most widely known is Skype. Skype not only allows you to easily communicate face to face with your employees, but also saves money on your phone bill because the call is handled over the Internet. Just pick up an inexpensive webcam and you’re all set!

For group meetings, where you may have many people in a room and want to include those employees working from home, there are other services that offer remote meeting access for very little money. The one we’ve used is WebEx Meeting. We found that there is a host of functionality to this software that includes: video conferencing for up to 25 people at a time, a shared whiteboard, screen sharing and recording, as well as conference calling or VoIP. This service has far too many features to list here, but I can say that it’s very affordable and productive.

Finally, if you have decided to jump into the newest technology of video conferencing, why not try a few team building activities with all of your employees, both onsite and remote? Here’s one as easy as ABC to get you started:

Select one person to start the game. That person has to form a sentence that starts with the letter “A,” describe something great about your company and include your company’s name. For example:
Joe – “A” client is the most important asset to Brown Paper Company.
Joe then calls out another employee’s name.
Sally – “B”oxes and boxes of paper being shipped to our satisfied clients is what Brown Paper Company likes to see.
Sally then calls out another employee’s name and so on.

This type of team building event can easily include all those attending the meeting by video conference. It really makes your employees put their thinking caps on because they never know who will be called next, while reminding them of all the good things about your company. Plus, you’ll have a few laughs in the process.

Good luck to you!

“Dear Kathleen” is a monthly Human Resources advice column written by Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, Human Resources Manager for SWK Technologies, Inc.

SWK’s HR Advisor services provide cost-effective human resources solutions to small businesses. If you want more information on how to change your current vacation and sick policy to a PTO policy, or have an outdated employee handbook that needs to be revised, please contact Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, at 973-758-6122, e-mail or visit

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Disclaimer: Information provided is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advice. As always, please consult your attorney regarding your company’s legal matters.

SWK Technologies, Inc.