Over the last two years I’ve witnessed Invoca expand our Santa Barbara campus, open an office in San Francisco and Boulder, and bring on several remote employees in different states across the country. This kind of growth has been incredible to experience, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes staying connected with people who are separated by hundreds of miles is a challenge.
Luckily Invoca is up for the challenge. As a remote employee myself (I work in the Boulder office whenever I’m not on the road at a marketing event), I've learned a lot about communication and how companies can keep their remote employees engaged and in sync.
Here are eight ways to overcome the distance and promote a connected company culture.
1. Regularly communicate company goals and initiatives.
It starts at the top. When you’re in the same building, it’s easy to collaborate, share big ideas, pivot, and change the direction of your business strategy. But what about your remote employees? It’s all too easy to inadvertently shut them out.
Make sure big-picture ideas, company values, goals, and all other high-level communication are shared with everyone early and often. Don't assume your remote employees are in the loop. Over communication is better than too little communication.
At Invoca, we have monthly lunches where our executive team provides an overview of the company and shares how we’re doing, what is coming up in the near future, and other relevant news and information. The remote employees and satellite offices are included thanks to join.me. Executives can easily share slides and live video, and the remote employees are able to participate and ask questions.
2. Embrace an interdepartmental work environment.
I am the only member of the marketing team currently working out of the Invoca Boulder office, which is full of engineers. As a field marketer, there usually aren’t many reasons to interact with the engineering team, but now that I'm surrounded by these technical masters, I’ve been able to experience the ‘magic’ behind our product. I have a greater understanding of what they do and the rockstars they are. It's both inspiring and motivating to see how other departments operate and how we are all moving toward the same ultimate goal. Invoca has put a great effort in encouraging the various departments of the company to mingle. It goes a long way to foster unity.
3. Take advantage of communication tools.
Working remote or in a satellite office is a lot easier thanks to great new communication tools. Email is great, but it’s more formal and lacks the real-time nature of live communication. Invoca is quickly adopting Slack as our central communication hub.
The ability to connect with the whole company, specific departments, or just a few people makes it easy to work together. I also love the ability to quickly get in touch with an individual when I have a question, need feedback, or I just have to share the latest video featured on Mashable. There’s no better way to promote connectivity than to figure out which celebrity is your teammates’ doppelganger. I’ve been told I look like a very classy Snooki (not sure if that was a compliment or if my teammates are hinting at something).
Highfive is another great tool for bringing a team together despite being spread across different locations. We use Highfive for our weekly marketing meeting. It makes a big difference to see your coworkers face to face even when you’re spread out across multiple cities and states.
4. Be aware of time differences.
Not only do I work in a satellite office, I’m often on the road traveling to our next conference or marketing event. While it’s not always convenient to answer questions during standard work hours, I always keep in mind what time it is in the Santa Barbara office.
It’s important to make an effort as a remote employee to be responsive and on a similar schedule as the main headquarters. But it goes both ways. West coast employees, keep in mind that your 4PM PST meeting on a Friday afternoon means 7PM on the east coast!
5. Encourage satellite and remote employees to visit the main office.
When people ask what I like most about Invoca, the answer is always, “the people.” I love visiting the Santa Barbara office to share ideas, have a little fun, enjoy activities outside of the office, and really connect with my coworkers.
Giving your remote and satellite office employees the opportunity to visit the main office can do wonders for morale. You’ll be surprised by the productivity gains from a little collaboration and face-time.
6. Encourage main office employees (and remote employees) to visit satellite offices.
When starting a new satellite office, it is extremely important to focus on building an office culture that is in line with the overall company culture. A great way to do this is by encouraging members from company headquarters to visit the new office and help instill that much-needed culture. Eventually each office will develop their own unique sub-culture, but the main values of the company should be consistent.
7. Include everyone in fun company events.
As the saying goes, happy employees are productive employees. Most companies hold fun competitions for employees like hackathons, Halloween costume contests, and more. Make sure when you are creating these contest to keep satellite offices and remote employees in mind. For our Halloween contest, all employees had to submit a photo of their costume to be entered, and all voting occurred online. This made it easy for satellite offices and remote employees to participate in the contest without being in the Santa Barbara headquarters.
8. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.
All of the communication technology tools in the world can’t replace the convenience of a good old fashioned phone call. As much as I love Slack, it’s not always the easiest way to communicate. Sometimes when you need a quick answer or you have a complex idea you want to walk your coworker through, you need that immediate, voice to voice connection. So don’t forget to pick up the phone to call your satellite offices and remote employees. Also, it’s really helpful if you include the conference call ID and password ahead of time for important meetings. That way everyone can hop on the call right away instead wasting half of meeting trying to get everyone on the conference call.
Do you have any tips for keeping your employees connected despite multiple offices and remote employees? Share your tips in the comments below!