Technology has made it possible, and sometimes necessary, to hire remote team members. Even though more companies are embracing virtual offices, the fact remains that it’s difficult to maintain an effective line of communication with remote team members. It’s even more difficult to engage them.

 

Communications Problems with Remote Teams

Companies with virtual teams aren’t the only ones having a difficult time engaging workers. According to a recent Gallup Study, only 30 percent of American workers are engaged with their work. Disengagement is the equivalent of indifference. Workers who are disengaged underperform in their positions and ultimately lack dedication. With virtual teams, the problem is augmented by the fact that they’re off-site and unable to interact face-to-face, making them feel cut off emotionally as well as physically.

 

Aside from issues with engagement, there’s the problem with communications in general — the day-to-day issues that result from not having direct access to team members. Remote teams rely heavily on email. Despite the speed at which an email travels to an inbox, emails are often poorly written and don’t clearly convey the intended message. This leads, naturally, to more emails.

 

Developing an Engagement Plan

Employee engagement programs fill the large virtual space that exists between on-site and remote teams. Your engagement plan, whether it includes a single form or multiple forms of communication, should have the singular goal of solving your most prevalent communications problems.

 

Newsletters are a simple, cost-efficient way to communicate with remote team members. Your newsletters can be tailored for certain teams, or they can be more generalized to suit all your team members. For example, if you have a team of remote writers, you could write a newsletter that discusses your company’s progress with content projects, spotlights writers, or offers helpful advice to writers.

 

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Social networks like LinkedIn keep remote teams updated about a company’s activities and encourage conversations among team members

Social media can be used to engage remote teams in a variety of ways. You can keep your remote team members constantly in the loop by posting messages about products announcements or ongoing projects, or even curate content that could help them improve their skill-set or advance their careers.

 

A company blog is a great way to both deliver messages and encourage conversations. Like any blog, a company blog should be designed to drive engagements. Internal and remote teams should have the ability to comment on the posts and offer their own insights. A company blog is far more personalized than a newsletter because newsletters don’t invite replies and responses—they’re essentially a one-way conversation.

 

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Online meeting platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts allow remote teams to work together from any location

Online Meetings

From Skype to Live-Meeting, there’s no shortage of ways to communicate face-to-face with remote teams. Google Hangouts, a feature of Google+, is gaining popularity in the remote-meeting space. It’s easy to use, and if you have a Google account (of course you do), you’re already set up with a Google+ account. Because remote teams often work in different time zones, you can record your online meetings for future viewing, allowing remote team members to view meetings they may have missed.

 

Do you work with remote teams? What communications issues present the most challenges for your in-house teams? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.