While remote employees don't have to deal with the pressures of commuting and have a more flexible work schedule, they face their own unique challenges each day. Remote office workers often feel disconnected, out of the decision-making loop and passed over during promotion times. "Particularly discouraging to the remote worker is spending hours on a task only to find out that in-office discussion has changed the task description or deemed the task unnecessary," says Cole.
An employer must do what's necessary to make everyone feel included. Perlman says a crucial part of his job is to recognize the subtle clues employees give when feeling this way and then to address them in a positive way with the employee.
To avoid the most common problems, Perlman says, "we communicate a lot, sometimes it's IM, sometimes we'll just get on video chat and talk about anything other than work. As a manager, I look for signs that someone is under a lot of stress. If I see that, I bring it up to them and we talk about it."
Face-to face time is also important, "When you have teams you do need to get them together physically. There is a big benefit to that," says Perlman. "Each year we get our teams together. We'll do planning and strategy meetings, but we'll also have fun together."
This type of team-building can play an important role in fostering company culture and employee bonding. Having meetings at restaurants or coffee shops are another way to get that face-to-face time.
Having the right strategy in place can keep your employees happy and productive. Our attrition rate is lower now, says Perlman, "because before there was more of a desire to move people to Austin. People would move because they wanted the job but they were leaving behind friends, family... ."
To Build a Remote Office or Not?
Remote office employees may not be for every industry, but the dollars and cents are starting to add up in favor of it. Not being constrained by a physical office can offer employers a much larger group of IT professionals to enlist, allowing companies that are willing to take the plunge to build a stronger team than ever.
Does your company employ remote offices? What are the major issues you face? Thank you for your feedback.