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Employees off-site? Stay in Touch With These 5 Tips

Clearly defined goals and the right tools help ensure communication success

In a small company, keeping the lines of communication open with your employees might seem like a no-brainer. But if some or all of your team works remotely—in a branch office, on the road, or at home—staying in touch can seem like a full-time job. It doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and attitude, remote employees can stay productive and in touch with each other and their clients.

Here are five tips to improve communications with mobile workers:

  • Define work goals. Unreasonable expectations on either side can quickly torpedo a telecommuting arrangement. Recognize that flex time is part of the attraction for employees and don’t expect them to necessarily keep rigid office hours. Instead, experts advise that you get employee buy-in on a clear plan that requires certain results by agreed-upon deadlines.
  • Cultivate a climate of acceptance. According to a Citrix Online survey, employees value the ability to telecommute more highly than stock options. This trend will only become more common with technologies like virtual private networks (VPNs) within reach for small businesses. If telecommuting is new to your company, it might take some time to make the mental shift. That’s only natural. However, unless you have reason to believe work isn’t getting done, keep your growing pains to yourself. Remote employees will rightfully resent unwarranted second guessing.
  • Make help available. Give employees access to the company server and, if at all possible, make  technical expertise available to remote workers. The latter is crucial to keeping most off-site employees happy and productive. One option might be to set up a remote support solution like Cisco WebEx so an expert in the office can troubleshoot off-site computers and step users through new applications. Another option: look to the cloud for easy access to files and applications.

Invest in collaboration tools. Gone are the days of sporadic communications with remote workers by email and conference calls. Today, with the right solution, there’s no reason why anyone has to feel out of the loop. Myriad collaboration tools let you can conduct online meetings, face-to-face web conferences, and even track projects via Facebooklike internal social networks with built-in instant messaging.

  • Consider a single-number-reach solution. For team members who must be reachable at all times, you can install a voice system, such as Cisco Smart Business Communication System, that seamlessly routes calls to one mobile number. Whether someone calls the employee’s desk phone, home number, or the company’s main office number, the recipient will get the call on the mobile number.

What tips do you have for improving communications with remote employees?

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