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A New Virtual Reality: 7 Tips to Connect With a Virtual Employee

Nearly 70 percent of people work remotely at least once a week. And nearly 53 percent have worked away from the office half of the week. 

Telecommuting–or working away from the office–is a growing trend for good reason. Technology has made it so that we’re always connected no matter where we’re located. 

This gives employers the opportunity to hire individuals from all around the world. 

If you have remote employees–or you’re thinking of hiring them–here are some tips to build a relationship with them despite the distance. Keep reading for 8 ways to connect with a virtual employee. 

1. Set Goals and Expectations

It’s going to be a different experience working with virtual employees compared to in-house employees. With an in-house worker, you see them every day, and you have a better idea of what projects they’re working on and their progress.

With a virtual employee, you might worry about feeling out of the loop. However, a 2014 study showed a 13.5 percent increase in work for employees who worked remotely.

What’s more, a 2016 survey revealed that 91% of remote workers feel more productive at home than in the office. For some, being at home and away from distractions makes it easier to get things done.

When you hire a new employee, to promote productivity you should set goals and expectations ahead of time. This could be about which projects to complete or dates for deadlines. This way, both you and your employee know what needs to be completed. 

2. Have Check-Ins

In addition to setting expectations, there should be regular check-ins to discuss the status of projects.

The frequency of the check-ins depends on you and your employee. You can do one, quick 10-minute daily check in every morning or a longer weekly check in every Monday. 

Whichever way you do it, make sure to set a regular schedule so that you both know when to expect a meeting. 

You should also have your virtual workers join in on team meetings. This way, they’ll stay up to date on what’s going on in the office and with the company. 

3. Have Video Calls

When you do check-ins, you should have at least some of them through a video call.

It’s not as easy building a professional relationship when you can’t see each other face to face. Video call is more personable than audio calls and is more productive than messaging back and forth. 

4. Avoid Emailing Back and Forth

Speaking of messaging back and forth, avoid the dreaded, neverending email chain. If you’re both working on a project, it can become cumbersome to email about every small detail and update.

Instead, pick up the phone and discuss the project. You can accomplish a project update through the phone much faster than through an email chain.

What’s more, it’s hard to tell the tone of someone’s words through email. You can use all the emojis you want, but sometimes text can come off as unintentionally rude.

5. Don’t Micromanage

You might be tempted to micromanage a virtual employee to make sure they are completing their work. However, micromanaging puts unnecessary stress on both you and your employee. 

It also hinders productivity because your employee will feel like you don’t trust them. 

Instead of worrying about how much work is getting done, focus on the overall picture. Are goals being completed? Are sales being made?

It’s the quality of work that matters–not quantity.

6. Use Technology to Unify Your Team

Technology today makes it easy to work with a virtual employee. There are messaging platforms, video conferencing, collaborative software.

For example, there is Desktop as a Service (DaaS). According to this great post by Eagle Point, DaaS is when all of your computers are connected through a remote server. This way, all your employees can access information and data through a cloud service provider.

Daas is one way you can connect all your employees together. There’s no need to forward important documents and data. All of it is accessible in one place. 

There are also other technological tools that can keep you connected.

7. Build Relationships Through Frequent Contact

In order to build a relationship with a virtual employee, you should maintain frequent contact. The contact doesn’t always have to be about work-related questions and updates.

You can send your employees a company newsletter where you update them on fun things going on in the office that they would normally miss out on. If they live nearby or are traveling near the office, you can set up occasional meetings or lunches.

You can also do a yearly holiday company party so that in-house and remote workers can connect. 

That’s the beauty of remote working. It’s completely flexible. Some workers don’t mind being 100% remote. 

Other individuals would prefer a combination of remote and in-house work depending on their lifestyle. 

8. Remember that Remote Doesn’t Work for Everyone 

Maybe you’re thinking of making your office completely remote. Before you make the big change, remember that remote may not work for every person. 

Some workers need daily face to face contact to stay productive. What you can do is make a remote option on a case by case basis. If someone wants to become remote, you can start by having them telecommute once or twice a week

After you analyze how they do, you can give them more remote time.

Final Advice for Connecting with a Virtual Employee

By following the above tips, you can still have a positive, professional relationship with a virtual employee. These suggestions show that you care about your employee. They’ll feel like they’re a part of the team even if they’re not working in-house.

Want to learn more about hiring someone new? Check out our hiring an employee section.