The following is a guest post by Tricia Sciortino. Her bio follows.

Many of us can now appreciate the benefits of being part of a remote workforce. There’s the daytime flexibility to help employees negotiate work and home life. There’s the ability to have a true lunchtime or mid-day break that includes a jaunt at the local coffeehouse or a 30-minute whirlwind of cardio around the neighborhood. Then, of course, there’s the autonomy of structuring your own workday, to a reasonable extent, based on the priorities and needs of the business. But there are risks of going remote. One of the major ones is the potential for isolation. Keeping those who work from home engaged is essential. Gallup identified employee engagement as fuel for productivity, profitability, customer service and retention, among others. And ADP acknowledges that “working remotely could leave an employee disengaged, which in turn could serve as a detriment to the company.” So, it’s clear that keeping home-based workers involved is fundamental to an organization’s success. But what can employers do to mold — and meld together — physically distant teams?

Pow Wow with Technology.

Technology is so much of what enables virtual workplaces to exist in the first place. So we’d be remiss not to tout it as a key tool that builds togetherness within remote teams. Sure, there are conference calls, emails, instant messaging, project management dashboards and even text messages. But I am a big believer in the benefits of pow-wowing via visual technology. This calls for introducing and deploying those technologies that actually allow team members to see and hear each other. No matter what provider you use or which platform you select, video meetings that make use of webcams and live audio really do add to the experience of off-site workers. It helps to put a face with a name, or even to associate a voice with the personality you’ve seen shine through in written communications. We become reminded to know that our colleagues — be they miles, states or entire regions away — are real people. And this helps us to re-engage with them in more personal, meaningful ways — and they do the same for us.

Make Time for Actual Facetime.

Though I’m an advocate for virtual work and the many positives it brings — flexibility, employee commitment, organizational trust, access to greater talent, geographical breadth — I still understand the benefits of in-person contact. There are just some things technology cannot mimic, though it’s come a long way in trying to mirror real-life engagement. One of those things is the experience of face-to-face encounters. Many companies with a dispersed employee base do set aside time just for such gatherings. For some, it’s an annual retreat. For others, it’s a series of quarterly conferences. Whatever the format or timing, having co-workers periodically meet in person is a beneficial practice. Speaking from experience, seeing someone you email each day or speaking with someone you usually only engage with sporadically via conference calls does something positive for the company community. It really builds synergies and connects the dots between processes and people.

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Connect How It Counts.

People grow together, forge connections and achieve that unique sense of true closeness when they experience life together. This goes for the good times and the not-so-great times. When you know you can count on your coworkers to be there when the chips fall — and to celebrate with you in times of success — it makes a difference in the emotional and social closeness you feel for the company. This can be achieved through transparent, employee-only social networking opportunities, from private Facebook groups to proprietary intranet sites. The point is to create a platform where people can share and feel like they can be themselves. Another and more official way this sensibility can be instituted is through employee assistance programs and other outreach mechanisms that build goodwill and opportunities to give back. For example, some companies (like mine) have a voluntary, employee-funded program that provides monetary donations to employees adversely impacted by unforeseen life circumstances, from illness or the loss of a spouse’s job to the recovery and rebuilding in the aftermath of from natural disasters like floods or tornadoes. It’s important to show workers they are cared for in ways beyond the business of the day. From an employee’s perspective, touchpoints like these strike a positive note for professional happiness and true work-life integration. For employers, it boosts performance, deepens retention and adds to so many of the business imperatives surrounding employee engagement.

About Tricia Sciortino

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Tricia Sciortino is the COO for BELAY, a company whose mission is to glorify God by providing solutions that equip clients with the confidence to climb higher. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter. . Images via Pexels http://www.mscareergirl.com/2017/02/24/achieving-unity-within-a-remote-workforce/

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