5 Ways To Collaborate Better With Your Remote Employees

Do your remote employees really feel like they are part of the team?

Articles published September 25, 2017 by Jack Kapustka

working on a laptop with a coffee mug outside

The following is from a Microsoft Business Blog. In addition to Microsoft’s four ways to collaborate with remote employees, I added a fifth option about voice communications.  

Remote employees have come a long way since the days when trying to work while away from the workplace was like a sentence in solitary confinement. Thanks to the cloud, they no longer have to use cumbersome methods to access office computer files or receive access codes from special devices just to make a phone call. But, do your remote employees really feel like they are part of the team?

There’s a lot to be said for the sense of community formed by team members who are all in the same physical location. Here are five pitfalls of working remotely and how Microsoft tools can help employees from San Francisco to South Beach collaborate as if they are all sitting around the same table.

1. Access to files and software

When attending meetings, the people in the office conference room have an advantage over remote employees. As discussions shift from one document to another, remote attendees have to scramble to locate those files and get them on their screens. Too often, the discussion shifts to something else by the time they get a first glance at the previous file.

Microsoft Office 365 provides the same access to files in the Cloud regardless of location, and it offers a number of tools that make real-time collaboration easy, regardless of your location. Everyone’s on the same page at the same time.

2. Staying attuned to unexpected changes

Individuals who work in close proximity to each other benefit from informal conversations or even the rumor mill to learn quickly when clients change the specs or when a suddenly broken supply chain threatens the timing of every future task in a project.

Remote workers can lose out while waiting for a local team member to inform them. A glance at the Microsoft Teams workspace lets them proactively monitor up-to-date news for their projects.

With Teams, you can review email history for a project, chat, share content and more seamlessly amongst your team collaborators, so there’s never an unexpected surprise.

3. Fighting multiple time zones

Work hours can overlap when employees work in different time zones, but shared time can become limited, especially if a British worker has to get out of bed at 10:30 p.m. to attend a 4:30 p.m. meeting called by someone in Chicago.

Since Skype for Business is part of the Office 365 toolkit, that employee can sleep through that meeting, knowing that it will be recorded and available for viewing the next morning. A quick Microsoft Teams chat with other team members after viewing the meeting can add the employee’s questions and contributions to the conversation.

4. Isolation from the company culture

A clearly stated company culture is essential in keeping employees informed about how things are done, what is expected of them in terms of their work—and even how to behave. But, small business owners are often too busy to communicate their expectations on a regular basis.

Observation and overheard informal conversations provide in-office employees with a means to remain updated on cultural shifts. Remote employees do not benefit from the informal communication stream, and they can lose out.

One of the many benefits of Microsoft Teams is an environment that lets remote employees gain this same type of connection. Small business owners only need to create one company-wide team to ensure that employees in or out of the workplace have a single source where they can stay attuned to all company happenings.

The cloud has only become common within the last decade, largely due to the apps and services introduced by Microsoft. File sharing and other tools have increased the attractiveness of off-site work, but a truly personal connection remained the missing ingredient. Microsoft Teams helps bring remote employees into the workplace, no matter where they actually reside.

5. Voice communications

In order for remote employees to effectively work away from the office, they need more than their personal cell phone. They need an “office” phone that will allow them to communicate with customers and co-workers throughout all working hours.

A unified communications service can provide a variety of integrated features to simplify and enhance communications for remote and office-based employees. Examples include:

  • Mobility: Place and receive calls from an alternate phone as if it was your office line complete with Caller ID.
  • Find-me, Follow-me: Call forwarding and simultaneous/sequential ring options that allow you to receive calls on alternative phone(s).
  • Voicemail to Email: Receive voicemail on your phone through an email, WAV file, or both.
  • Application Integration: Access personal and group calling lists, along with other features, conveniently from an integrated toolbar in Outlook or Internet Explorer.
  • Online Voice Feature Portal: Access and modify phone features at any time with the secure online voice portal.
  • Smartphone App, Texting, IM and Presence Integration: All of these additional features further enhance collaboration and access.

Aureon has been helping bridge the gap between technology and people by providing end-to-end technologies that connect remote employees and keep organizations up and running. This “gap” may seem impossible to shorten, but with the right technology and processes, your remote employees and your office employees can both benefit.

What would make your remote employees’ experience smoother?

Read our case study: YMCA Outsources Technology, Increases Efficiency