The number of mobile workers is predicted to reach upwards of 1.3 billion within a year.
According to Stacy Crook, senior research analyst for IDC’s Mobile Enterprise Research program, “Our forecast shows that the worldwide mobile worker population will increase from just over 1 billion in 2010 to more than 1.3 billion by 2015.”
Given that on October 31, 2011 the population of the earth passed the 7 billion mark, this means that by 2015, from 17 to 18 percent of the world’s total population will consist of mobile workers.
This growth is especially strong in the financial, tech, and science sectors, where “having remote and virtual employees is not only a way to get things done around the clock, without commuting, and with hard-to-find skill sets, but is also a way to meet the needs of employees who don’t want to or can’t live near the mother ship.”
How can remote workers feel more like team members?
Remote workers have many apparent advantages: flexible schedules, more time for their families, less time and money spent on commuting. But there’s a downside, and it’s an important one: remote workers miss out on daily interactions with their co-workers, and can often feel isolated and disconnected from the group – and the group can feel the same way about remote workers.
As an employer, how can you help your off-site workers feel more like they’re part of the team? The experts agree that daily interaction is essential.
Here are six proven strategies for keeping remote workers engaged and in the loop:
- Give remote workers a formal introduction to their new team members
- Set up video chats and forums between remote and on-site employees
- Include them in emails, newsletters, and video conferences
- Offer them support, from mentoring and counselling to proposing a “buddy” system
- Invite them to real-life events whenever possible to build closer employee relationships
- Ask for their feedback, and let them know you’re listening by responding to their needs
The tools to keep your remote workers engaged
Technology is key to keeping remote workers engaged. It’s especially important for employers to provide high-quality teleconferencing and video conferencing capabilities to mobile workers to enable easy communication across different locations and time zones.
It’s also vital that your remote team has access to the same tools your on-site team uses, from high-speed Internet connections to standardized tools such as Unified Communications and desktop interfaces.
And don’t forget “low-tech” tools: business cards, email signatures and corporate stationery templates should be part of their equipment too.
Working hard – wish you were here
Keeping remote workers in the loop is critical to their productivity, engagement, and loyalty to your company.
You can help them by setting clear objectives. Ensure that your remote workers are clear about their responsibilities, goals, and deliverables – not just on a day-to-day basis, but with regard to the bigger corporate picture. If both in-office and remote employees share the same objectives, their results will be better and more consistent with your overall strategy.
Organize weekly calls or video conferences to share performance expectations and outcomes. Offer incentives or benefits for outstanding performers, and share their successes with the rest of the team.
But don’t neglect the fun side of business: make it a point to share not just corporate information, but informal news, gossip and goings-on as well. Even remote workers need a “water-cooler moment” now and then.