5 Ways to Communicate with Remote Workers

If your team is determined to work from home, or from outside the office, how will you communicate with them? There are a number of ways to do it. Here are five communication options for remote workforces.

BY: BRIE WEILER REYNOLDS ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2013
5 Ways to Communicate with Remote Workers

One of the biggest concerns of a telecommuting workforce held by managers is the ability to communicate. If an employee isn’t in the same building, or at least an ANY office building related to your company, how will you be able to communicate effectively with them? Some of the benefits of working in the same building include the impromptu stop-in to run an idea by a colleague, or the serendipitous meeting in the break room where conversations can start.

The truth is that most employees actually dread those drop-in, off-the-cuff, unexpected conversations because they disrupt them from other tasks, throw them off course, and generally make them unproductive. A 2012 survey of 800 people looking for telecommuting jobs found that the number one reason people want to work from home rather than from an office is to avoid interruptions from coworkers.

So, if your team is determined to work from home, or from outside the office, how will you communicate with them? There are a number of ways to do it. Here are five communication options for remote workforces.

5. Instant Messenger

A number of free instant messaging programs exist, including Yahoo! Messenger, Google Chat, and AIM. There are also several created for enterprise usage as well. Instant messenger programs work to replace the impromptu cubicle drop-bys. They’re best used for quick questions and approvals, bouncing ideas around, water cooler banter, to see if someone is free for a phone call, and to schedule a more formalized meeting.

4. Message Boards

These are great ways to build and maintain communities among your coworkers. Yammer is a message board that acts a lot like Facebook, but for your own company or specific department. You can create sub-boards for different types of chatter, and employees can best utilize message boards as sounding boards for ideas, to garner feedback from multiple coworkers, to share company and professional news, and other group discussions.

3. Email and Phone

Let’s be honest - these are probably the two most common forms of communication in the office today, so even if you have employees working from home, not all that much is going to change in terms of communication.

2. Web Conferencing

Great for groups of two or more people, web conferencing can be used to hold regular staff meetings, to present pitches to clients, or to show another colleague an idea you’ve created. This tool combines the ability to speak to one another with the ability to view the same computer screen or even each other’s faces, bringing multiple forms of communication together for maximum collaboration.

1. The Local Coffee Shop

If you have a team of people who used to work in the same office, but have gradually shifted to working from home, you can probably still get together in person on a regular basis. Unlike all the other types of communication listed here, face-to-face, in-person communication provides necessary intangibles like body language and facial expression that, unless you’re a big fan of computer-generated emoticons, simply can’t be recreated in the virtual realm. Gather your team or individuals together for a casual chat over coffee to catch up and rekindle some team spirit.

About the Author

Brie Weiler Reynolds

Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Director of Content and Social Media at FlexJobs.com, the award-winning site for telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time, and freelance job listings. With a background in human resources and career advising, Brie has over 8 years of experience working with job seekers and employers, and she offers career and hiring advice on the FlexJobs Blog and social media.

Full Biography