How Remote Workers Affect Company Culture

Summary: Freelancing is on the rise, and many Millennials, in particular, are choosing this route in order to have more control over their careers. All too often, companies place remote workers on the outskirts of an organization, but with today's technology, that is not only unnecessary, it could be a costly mistake.

Within the past few years, Millennials have surpassed Gen X as the largest generation in the workforce. Why is this important? Because Millennials (ages 22-40) are shaping the way we work. Work/life balance is of utmost importance to this group of workers, and they are showing it with demands for flexibility, including remote work opportunities. But work-from-home employees aren't separate from the office staff any longer. Thanks to technological advances, remote workers are not only involved in meetings and decisions, they are part of the workplace culture. Or at least they should be.

The Benefits of Remote Workers

Sure, working from home is beneficial for the employee, who has the flexibility to work when he wants and can work from his backyard or from his bed. But is it worth it for the employer?

Studies show that remote workers are happier, and therefore, more productive. An experiment chronicled in The Harvard Business Review revealed that remote workers not only saved the company in office space and furniture, it produced employees that reported being more satisfied in their roles. The work-from-home staff were also 13.5% more productive, providing the equivalent of an extra day of work each week, and were less likely to quit.

Creating a Culture for Remote Employees

The two biggest downfalls that employers find with remote workers is lack of communication and a disjointed culture. The best option is to approach these potential issues head on and address them before they become problems.

Thanks to advances in technology, communication with remote workers no longer needs to be an issue. Innovations in workplace tech have been helpful in drawing employees together, regardless of where in the world they live and work. Below is a short list of helpful technology for companies embracing flexibility and work-from-home opportunities.

Slack: An integrated workforce tool that allows for fewer meetings, less internal emails, and increased productivity. Share files, create groups, and chat just like at a digital water cooler.

Google Hangouts: Video meetings to bring remote staff face-to-face.

Trello: A pinboard-style online workflow system to keep track of what needs done and who is doing it.

[Bench]: A physical space that allows groups to share links, documents, and screenshots, in addition to a whiteboard for jotting down meeting notes.

Take advantage of programs like these in order to include remote workers in staff meetings and regular get-togethers.

Organizations should consciously make remote workers a part of company culture. Take these steps to make an effort to include remote employees within the culture of the company:

  • Write a goal statement that clearly articulates the ideals and expectations for managers, employees, and the company in general.
  • Introduce new employees, even remote employees, to the entire team.
  • Schedule several one-on-one "meet and greets" between office workers and remote employees to strengthen business relationships.
  • Encourage everyone to speak at meetings through five-minute weekly activity updates or question and answer sessions.

Conclusion

Remote workers can be an effective part of a company's culture and can increase productivity and employee satisfaction while decreasing costs. The challenge is determining which technology is most effective for your company's particular situation and making an active effort to include all workers within the corporate culture.  The other challenge is determining which workers can work remotely on an extended basis; studies have shown that only about 15 - 20% of the nation's workforce can successfully work remotely on an extended basis.