Businesses and employees alike can benefit significantly from a remote working or hybrid arrangement, where day to day duties are fulfilled from home rather than at the office.
However, it’s not always the perfect solution, and bringing team members who work remotely into your headquarters from time to time makes sense.
The question that needs to be answered is how frequently office visits for remote workers should be scheduled, why this is necessary, and the challenges involved.
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The remote working phenomenon explained
Before the pandemic, remote working was a niche concern, and the general expectation was that if you worked for a business, you’d turn up to the office on a daily basis.
A McKinsey study found that 58 percent of employees are able to choose to work from home on a full or part-time basis.
Moreover, 87 percent of respondents to the survey said that they would jump at the chance to embrace flexible working practices like this.
This means that whether or not employers are eager to offer team members the chance to work remotely, they should do so as part of a strategy to build employee satisfaction.
There are concerns that arise from employees not all sharing the same office space. Not everyone is suited to staying motivated and productive in a home office environment, for instance. It can also be tricky to set up a suitable place to work without distractions in a domestic situation.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s tough to generate a sense of camaraderie, community and culture. That’s why visits to the office are recommended.
The issue of employee location
Of course even if you have a policy about remote workers attending a set number of in-person meetings quarterly or annually, this could be infeasible if they cannot easily reach the office.
For instance, if you’ve recruited someone who is based in a different state, the time and cost involved in getting them in for a tête-à-tête could be prohibitive.
In this case, incentivizing remote workers to complete a coast-to-coast move is an option. Bringing them close enough to come in for a day on occasion, while still sticking with their remote working setup, will give you the best of both worlds.
The benefits of in-person meetings
So what is it about meeting people in the flesh that gives it the edge over virtual conferencing; surely there’s little difference given the advances in video calling technology that have taken place recently?
There are actually quite a few advantages that come with bringing team members together at the office, including:
- Clear and unambiguous communication – so much meaning is conveyed in our tone of voice, our body language and the ineffable vibe that is only detectable when conversing in person. Improving office communication with in-person meetings makes sense in this context.
- Minimal disruption – let’s face it, virtual conferencing isn’t perfect, and if the connection plays up or the hardware falters, the flow of the experience will grind to a halt. A real-world meeting doesn’t suffer from the same snafus, and is more efficient as a result.
- Improving engagement – when people are staring at a screen in a room on their own, there’s a higher likelihood that their attention will drift and they’ll zone out. Conversations in person leave all parties engaged and connected with the other participants to a greater degree.
- Forming social bonds – a business isn’t just about getting the job done; it’s also about community and socializing. It’s hard to forge these links when you’re only ever getting in touch remotely, and so visiting the office is crucial to establishing unity and facilitating collaboration as well.
The importance of striking a balance
Let’s get down to answering the original question; what’s a reasonable policy to settle on for organizing office visits for remote workers? There are a few factors to consider, such as:
- The timing – in-person meetings are more meaningful if they have a clear purpose, rather than feeling arbitrary. Thus scheduling them to coincide with important events in the calendar, whether that’s the onboarding of new hires or the launch of a new product, makes sense.
- The individual significance – another good example of when a face-to-face meeting in the office makes more sense is when the subject being tackled is specific to the individual employee. This could include an annual performance review, or any occasion which is focused on their role and responsibilities.
- The employee’s personality and preferences – as a manager, you need to be familiar with the quirks, needs, likes and dislikes of each team member. So scheduling in-person meet-ups at the office should be done on a case by case basis. Some people require or expect more contact time than others, so you need to be flexible as well.
It’s impossible to give a definitive answer regarding how often your remote team should visit the office, because every business is unique, as are the employees themselves.
There’s no doubt that in-person meetings should be added to your schedule. You just need to make sure that they are purposeful, convenient to attend, and tailored to the people who will participate in them.