Member Blog By: Stephen Kota
Remote employees sometimes feel that their managers are out of touch with their needs. The unique challenges of working online from rural areas can amplify these feelings of disconnect that remote employees have from managers. Here are a few ways you can help your employees in rural areas work effectively from home, either temporarily or permanently.
1. Build an online community that includes remote employees.
When you have both local and remote employees, it can be hard to build a sense of community among remote workers. For example, group messages like “donuts in the break room” or “game night tonight” on communication platforms like Slack can make remote workers feel excluded. Steer the conversation towards more universal topics by, for example, sharing work-related memes, or create a separate group chat to build an online community for remote employees.
2. Take an individual approach to employee workflows.
While task management apps like Asana and Trello make it easy to give employees work without having a two-way conversation about it, a more personal approach to online workflows can yield better outcomes. To decrease the stress and increase the productivity of your remote employees, pay attention to the way they complete tasks and adjust your approach to fit their needs. For example, some people work best when they can plan ahead with a long list of tasks, while others prefer to receive and complete one task at a time.
3. Make sure rural employees have good internet connections.
It isn’t always easy to find a fast and reliable internet connection in rural areas. If you notice that a remote employee in a rural area is struggling to download files, connect to video calls, or use your company’s VPN, ask them about their internet connection. If they’re using satellite or DSL internet, you might want to suggest that they look into fixed wireless internet. Fixed wireless internet has lower latency and faster speeds than satellite and better coverage than DSL.
4. Check in often, and not just about work.
Because remote employees can’t interact with coworkers in person, they may feel lonely or face more interpersonal challenges than other workers. Keep the workplace positive and social by reaching out to remote employees often and on different communication platforms (not just email). If possible, try to schedule occasional voice or video calls so you can have those visual and verbal cues that are so necessary to deepen your relationships with these employees.
5. Host in-person work retreats.
While you can create meaningful communities online, occasional in-person retreats can boost teamwork and collaboration on important projects. If your employees are scattered in rural areas across the country, consider bringing them together for a short work retreat once or twice per year. These retreats help remote employees develop the mutual knowledge that’s so important to effective communication and collaboration, even online. When choosing a location, make sure you take into account travel time and costs from the rural areas where your employees live.