Admit it. Working from home one day, you’ve called into a meeting. After a total of five minutes, you gave up guessing when it was a good time for you to talk, and realized that teammate of yours most skilled in sarcasm might as well be speaking a different language when you aren’t there to read his facial expressions. You spend the rest of the call resorting to an occasional “mhm” or errant laugh.
If you’ve ever felt like you’re on a deserted island as a remote employee (referred to here as an RE), you’re not alone. Luckily, everyone – from HR and IT departments to tech and communications companies – is beginning to empathize with your “remoteness.” And they’re stepping up to deliver solutions that will better integrate employees working far from company headquarters around the virtual water cooler.
Take this recent AT&T ad spot, “Working Together,” where a company director steps into her office to find an ocean scene, with all of her employees stranded on their own individual islands. The commercial concludes with, “Sometimes, we forget the importance of working together. With the tools and networking abilities of AT&T, you can make collaboration easier than ever and focus on what matters most.”
A company that is definitely focused on this is my own, C Space. In fact, I first became attuned to the movement towards better connecting REs through the goals and plans implemented at C Space during 2015. Our company recognizes that it’s not only the typical tech woes that make REs feel isolated, it’s the “what matters most” that AT&T hinted at.
Company culture is such an integral part of C Space, and missing out on the fun with co-workers can often be the hardest part of maintaining our company values away from HQ. This year, C Space formed a committee to better connect REs to the culture of the home office and alleviate the #FOMO.
“[We] are creating an interactive microsite with all of the Americas regional employees and their offices,” says Ali Wallace, who tackles the RE problem with both her HR-expertise and passion for C Space Culture. “The long-term goal of the site is that it would contain all of the remote resources and info we currently have that lives in a million different places. In essence, it would be the ultimate remote employee resource.” This “Ultimate RE Resource” would serve a dual purpose: better acquaint those at HQ with their RE co-workers and ease the transition for new C Space REs.
As a consultant who works with customer communities for CDW, I’ve witnessed an increase in conversations among IT professionals on how to best employ technology to relieve RE desolation. These folks exchange solution ideas and experiences with different products daily. While some look to streamline the present confusion by consolidating their VPNs or relying on Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), others hope to get a head start on future technologies like Enterprise App Stores. An IT Manager at a large manufacturing company forecasts, “Simple bold statement here – app stores will replace things like your SCCM infrastructures. You should invest into them now, because players like AirWatch and MobileIron will be moving into managing the desktop/laptop environment shortly and people will flock to it over their bulky and expensive SCCM infrastructures.”
So while we’ll unfortunately never be able to whisper at the water cooler with our favorite RE, companies might soon have the tech tools and cultural practices in place to prevent employees from folding their laundry during the next conference call (which REs may or may not appreciate). Video conferencing into the next happy hour, however, would perhaps be greeted with more welcome. Regardless, when the infrastructure is in place so that REs don’t miss a beat, the spirit of a company — the “what matters most” — strengthens. It can spread like infectious, passionate, energetic wildfire from HQ out into the world via your RE ambassadors. And that, in turn, translates to growth in the marketplace.