People and culture pros are committed to building and fostering a supportive and inclusive company culture through the best means possible — investing in the best talent to integrate into your team. However, when it comes to integrating remote employees into your team culture, challenges can arise.

Within the next decade, businesses expect to see 38% of their full-time staff working remotely. As companies hire remote workers more and more and distributed teams continue to grow, it’s important to not allow distance to be a barrier and make it known to your team members — from full-time and part-time employees to contractors and freelancers — that they are invaluable to your organization.

Related reading: 6 Recommended Approaches for Remote Hiring

Here are some ideas for involving virtual and remote employees in your team culture and making them feel right at home at your company, no matter how many miles away from your office headquarters they may be.

Put unified and connected work systems in place

Just as technological advancements have allowed for the opportunity to employ remote workers, technology will also help sustain the presence of remote employees in the workforce. To help your virtual and remote team members feel connected to and prepared to work alongside their team, ensure they have all of the necessary communication and productivity tools at their disposal, from team collaboration systems (like the Google Suite) to project management systems (like Asana and Trello). Seeing as communication, from weekly email updates to Slack channel discussion, sets the tone for a team’s unique culture, utilize digital communications systems as your virtual office to allow for all team members to collaborate and converse with one another.

Establish regular check-ins with team members

The face-to-face element, and even the voice-to-voice element is crucial to helping your remote employees feel visible and included within your team. As much as possible, invite your remote and virtual workers to team meetings via video conferencing, so that they can stay synchronized with team updates as well as have that sense of personal contact on a regular basis. In team-wide company meetings, it can be easy to overlook the presence of virtual members who are dialing in to listen in on the meeting. During the Q&A portion of those meetings, make sure to check in with any employee calling in so that they have the opportunity to ask any questions or ask for any clarification.

Set managers up for leadership success

As managers work to master the art of managing and motivating in-office workers, having the added responsibility of managing and motivating off-site workers can present an additional challenge. Make sure your company leaders are prepared to lead effectively through comprehensive leadership development programs, including offering strategies for managing remote workers, providing access to a full range of tools and resources for connecting with virtual employees and encouraging ongoing check-ins and conversations between managers and employees.

Related reading: 5 No-Fail Tips for Managing Remote Employees

Recognize and reward good work on a regular basis

The more that recognition for the accomplishments and achievements of team members is sung, the more that sense of company community grows. There are many creative ways to give your virtual and remote workers the kudos they earn (and deserve). In emails in which a team member’s contributions are praised, regularly bring attention to your remote colleagues’ outstanding work. A simple shoutout will make that employee feel like an essential part of the team. As well, do not underestimate the gesture of sending mail to your remote workers, including company swag, birthday gifts, and thank you cards. The thoughtfulness of receiving a gift in the mail will make your employee feel appreciated.

Organize in-person events as much as possible

Nothing can compare to the energy brought through in-person experiences when meeting, collaborating, and connecting with your fellow team members person-to-person. As much as your resources allow, plan to bring your employees together to convene for face-to-face meetings once a year, a couple times a year, or if you’re fortunate enough, quarterly. These events can range from your company’s annual retreat, as well as other learning and development, team-building, and community services events.

For remote employees within your region, arrange for team members to attend professional events, such as workshops and conferences, together. This way, they can both bond over what they’re learning together as well as bring back the knowledge and skills to the work they do for your company.

Over to you

With these ideas in mind, you can continue to be open and flexible in hiring the best people for the roles for your teams, while still providing a strong and lasting company culture experience both inside and outside of the office walls.

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