By Jim Wong, CPA | May 16, 2016

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” – Charles Eames

Gone are the days of a loud, crowded office—telecommuting, or working from home, has become one of the most popular new work trends over the past few years. According to a Gallup study, 37 percent of U.S. workers report they have worked from home at some time – up from 30 percent last decade and four times greater than the 9 percent reported in 1995.

The 7 percent increase since the last decade means the look of the typical office culture has changed. Further, the change has likely come with additional areas in need of improvement as employees try and adapt to this changing office environment. That’s why, when I saw an article on called How to Maintain Strong Relationships with Remote Workers, I knew it was something quite timely to share with the accounting, finance and IT community as more and more functions allow for telecommuting.

Here at Brilliant, we’ve even begun to incorporate some of these trends into our own office culture. It’s important for us to build and maintain meaningful connections with all of our colleagues – including those who work from home. Rather than ignoring those who are unseen in the office hallways, it’s key to make sure that all are included—in order to be most effective and productive.

Additionally, according to a 2015 study from the Association for Psychological Science, working remotely can make for happier employees, likely due to the enhanced flexibility that lies within working from home. So, how exactly can you foster relationships in a way that will lead towards happier employees and culture? I’ve taken a few points from the article as well as a few thoughts of my own and listed them out in the 4 Ways to Maintain Relationships with Remote Colleagues below.

1. Be available. 
Establishing your office hours with fellow colleagues is a good first step to developing strong relationships. When you get clear about your schedule—i.e. when you’re available and when you’re not, you show your colleagues that you’re accessible, even when they can’t see you. This team-player attitude will go a long way with your co-workers, and it’ll also help you navigate the tricky line between your own work and personal hours. One easy way of doing this is by sharing your calendar with co-workers and asking them to do the same.

2. Relationships are important. 
Just as it’s important for an employee to build relationships with co-workers and managers in the office, it’s arguably just as important for remote workers to do the same. Though it can be difficult to reach the same level of comradery as it would be reached for two workers who saw each other on a daily basis, doesn’t mean those relationships are any less important than in-person relationships.

3. The little things go a long way. 
It should come as no surprise that little gestures can go a long way. Just as water cooler conversations reveal quirks about your co-workers, working remotely can also allow you to learn about your fellow colleagues. Whether it’s through sending relevant articles or links, or by keeping up informal conversation through instant messaging apps, it’s possible to replicate those quick conversations you’d have in an office environment while telecommuting. Another great way to let people know you want to build relationships is by jotting down birthdays and anniversaries in your calendar—wishing a co-worker well on a special day is one of the quickest and easiest ways to let them know you’re invested in maintaining a relationship.

4. Invest in technology. 
Ever dial into a conference call and not know who is even on the call? Rather than letting this become the norm, try video conferencing—it not only encourages everyone to stay focused but it helps put a face to a name for those remote workers. If you’re new to video conferencing and aren’t sure which one is best for your company yet, try a free service like Skype or Google before using a paid service like Lync or Slack.

These are just some of the ways to build and maintain relationships with telecommuters. Know of any other relationship-builders? Comment below and let us know.

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