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How to help remote workers feel like part of the team: tips for startup founders

Joe Mitchell
Chief Marketing Officer

Remote employment is a fantastic opportunity for companies to find the most talented professionals, and for employees to expand their job opportunity pool beyond the town they living in.

Harvard Business Review reports that the number of remote employees went up by an astonishing 115% compared to a decade ago. This is clearly not a fad but a cultural shift that is here to stay. Yet this work format comes with its own challenges, and not feeling like a part of the team is something many remote employees bring up. 

The same study by HBR found that two-thirds of the 2000 respondents don’t feel engaged or on the same page with the rest of the team. Needless to say, this is a worrying statistic as less employee engagement often translates into higher staff turnover or people doing only the bare minimum.

For startups, losing an employee is twice as risky compared to an established business because most startups have limited resources. That’s why today we’ll share the best tips for startup owners to help them make their remote employees feel like a part of the team. 

Tip 1: Change the management’s mindset 

One of the key concerns that remote employees share is that they’re not being treated as equals when they’re not in the office with everyone else. It may seem that those who work side by side with you are more diligent and professional, but it’s not always the case. More often than not, team members will watch the manager and mimic their behavioural patterns. 

If you want to make remote employees comfortable, seen, and appreciated just like everyone else, leadership needs to initiate the conversations and set the examples that will shift the company mindset.

Tip 2: Make sure remote employees are a part of every meeting and communication 

This tip is more applicable to hybrid workplaces, but it also happens with fully remote companies in that part of the team is left out of conversations, brainstorming sessions, and even regular team meetings. It’s relatively easy to forget about someone based in a distant location or decide to fill them in later and just host a quick catch-up with everyone in the office instead. 

With the current technology available, such behaviour is unacceptable. There are apps and tools that allow virtual workers to connect easily to see and hear what’s going on in the meeting room. And as they join, don’t let them stay on mute the entire time but engage them in the conversation by asking them to share opinions and thoughts. And if you’re doing a pizza Friday or Happy Hour, make sure the remote team gets invited and send them snacks and drinks for a fully immersive experience. It will take a bit more work on the hosts’ end, but it will pay off. 

Tip 3: Add digital gamification to the working process

Creating digital challenges and contests can bring the team closer together and make everyone seen, no matter where they are. Bonus points if you add custom memes, emojis, or stickers with inside jokes and industry- or team-specific phrases. Seeing how everyone is doing on a single dashboard will be a fun way to maintain the friendly competition going and keep all your remote employees in mind. 

Tip 4: Promote conferencing with video 

Often employees are reluctant to use their cameras during 1-on-1 and team meetings. Sometimes they’re shy, other times they want to do something else during the call, so video conferencing for them is not ideal. Yet even people who are most against cameras tend to ease up and get used to them after a few times. 

As a leader, promote the use of cameras and explain that the main goal is not to police someone and make sure they’re actively engaged but rather to create a more intimate, friendlier atmosphere where team members have a chance to see one another and bond. At Emphasoft, we are huge promoters of face-to-face communication, especially when we’re outstaffing team members. You can always see the difference in how quickly and easily they are integrated when video conferencing is used on a regular basis. 

Tip 5: Implement regular online team buildings 

If you have the budget to arrange physical meet-ups – great! If not, virtual alternatives can be just as fun and beneficial. Here is what the Emphasoft team has tried and loved in the past:

  • Non-work virtual reviews. This can be a monthly or bi-weekly activity where everyone comes together (ideally in the final hours of the working day) and shares their latest life updates, favourite TV shows, books, and anything else they’ve been up to. 
  • Fun chat in the company’s messenger. A chat where employees can discuss non-work-related things on a daily basis is a must. They’ll do it anyway, so don’t worry about them wasting working hours. Create a chat where people will be able to share links, memes, agree on team lunches, and whatever else. 
  • Funny presentation day. Schedule a day when every team member presents themselves in a non-formal way and shares whatever they like. 

The goal of every team building exercise is to break the ice and help employees find things in common that bring them closer together, resulting in a more cohesive team. Investing time and other resources in such activities and practices will pay off tenfold, so don’t hesitate to experiment and try new things. 

Read next:
Remote work: how to organise it in your company
How to hire the right person fast?
Why startups should stop hiring people


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