I’m a co-founder at a San Francisco based startup, but I spend most of my time working from Brussels, so I find myself on both sides of this issue.
- Know their time zone, and use it when scheduling things.
This doesn’t mean you as employer/manager need to spend as much time during the middle of the night as they do. It’s their business to accommodate your workday. I’m just saying, know the time difference, and when scheduling things, use their time zone.
- Know their holidays, religious and/or secular.
Beyond acknowledging their time off, say something nice. Let them know their cultural traditions have value to you. Ask questions, you’ll learn something interesting.
- Use more !s in your written communication.
Many folks who use English as a Second Language (ESL) can have difficulty interpreting whether or not you’re joking, being sarcastic, or happy/frustrated without the accompanying punctuation. The difference between “Thanks.” and “Thanks!” can be really important to an ESL employee. Or, when “ok.” to you refers to a positive affirmation, write “ok!” instead.
- Include them on news/discussions that you think only pertains to your local team.
Remote workers are detached from the mothership, and it’s your job to make them feel more connected and valued as team members. Conversational threads that emerge from simple topics such as “I’m going to order some more toilet paper for the office” can turn into significant bonding scenarios as people joke around. Make sure the remote team members can take part in the frivolity.
- Conflicts between remote employees can be difficult to address.
Identify them early and move towards mediation and resolution quickly. It’s much easier for remote employees to be hostile to each other, and for longer than for on-prem employees.
- Go visit them.
Nothing says “you’re an important team member” more than a trip to meet folks in person. Second-best would be to fly them out to visit the mothership on a regular basis — but for many remote workers, travel isn’t a good option for a variety of reasons.
- Talk to them. Socialize.
When a meeting starts, don’t just go straight into business. Get into talking about sick kids, how the weekend/vacation went, the drama of last night’s Eurovision Song Contest, or the latest football/baseball/cricket/quidditch match.
But you knew this, right? What else did I miss?