Bridging the Remote Gap—Even When You Have an Office

Years ago, the idea of a remote work environment was a little off the wall. But as technology continues to pervade our world, workplaces are increasingly finding unique ways to make it work. In fact, some companies have figured out how to function effectively with both remote and office-based employees.

Leading a hybrid company like Formstack—which has an Indianapolis office for local employees as well as several employees across the globe—is a bit of a best-of-both-worlds scenario. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. To see any sort of success, you have to be intentional about creating a culture of community no matter where your employees are logging in.

Bridging the gap between remote employees and those who work out of the company headquarters boils down to 3 key focus areas: resources, relationships, and reunions (the 3 R’s of a remote work environment, if you will).

Resources

You can communicate a lot about how much you value your employees by providing them with the tools to work from anywhere.  Whether they live five minutes from the office or five hours, employees should have access to the resources they need to get the job done.

And make sure you aren’t playing favorites. You don’t want your remote employees to feel like they are getting the shaft when it comes to equipment. If you’ve given local workers wireless keyboards and track pads, make sure those things are provided for remote employees as well. Everyone should have the necessary resources to do his or her job well, regardless of location.

Relationships

Another way to bridge the remote gap is to foster relationships between remote and local employees. This, of course, requires great communication. If your team is struggling with communication, you may need to work on it. Our communication skills training resource should help quite a bit if this is the case.

At Formstack, we use video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangout to connect face-to-face for team and one-on-one meetings. We also use a robust instant messaging service, HipChat, to check in and chat throughout the day (as a bonus, HipChat allows our team to exchange entertaining gifs and emoticons that keep everyone laughing). This is a great way to make sure all employees (whether remote or local) are involved in conversations and decisions.

It’s also a good idea to make use of online calendars and daily update software like Flock so everyone can easily see who’s available for the day and what others are working on. And don’t forget to plan some fun virtual meetups to stay socially connected to remote workers. This could be as simple as planning a remote lunch where everyone hops on a video chat to catch up during a meal.

Reunions

Perhaps the most important way to bridge the gap between remote and local employees is to plan occasional in-person gatherings. Even if it’s just once or twice a year, getting all your employees into one room can help build deeper connections and a stronger sense of team. It’s nice to bring your remote employees into your physical headquarters at some point as well so they can get to know the space your company calls home.

At Formstack, we plan a company-wide “All-Hands” gathering each year, where all employees join forces for a few days to bond and collaborate. Past All-Hands reunions have included a field day of sorts (think tug of war and blindfolded competitions), scavenger hunts around downtown Indianapolis, department bonding through special activities like cooking classes, and improv team building challenges. Formstack also has several smaller-team meetups throughout the year that bring remote and local employees together for a larger cooperative project and more fun!

Bridge the remote gap with the 3 R’s

Focus on resources, relationships, and reunions, and your remote work environment will flourish. All employees will feel valued and engaged, and you will have a happy, healthy, productive team!

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