Do you work with an unseen group of developers based in a foreign country? A pod of mystery sales folks in San Fran? A cadre of freelance writers scattered throughout the U.S.? Well, they probably feel left out sometimes. Here are some ways to bring those satellite co-workers into the fold of your company's day-to-day operations.
1. Include Your Long-Distance Employees in Office Pools, Email Chains, and Virtual Happy Hours
Inside jokes are great because they foster a sense of private shared knowledge. But if you're not in on the joke, nothing can be more alienating. In order to foster a positive working relationship with your satellites-of-love, add them to that string of silly .gifs, that "Greet the New Girl" welcome note, and the circulation of the flickr link containing all the photos from last night's company pub crawl. Not only will the absentees feel included, they'll get to add their two cents, which will help everyone remember that "Hey, that Noah kid's pretty funny," thereby taking him from one of a roster of random freelancers to an integral part of the day-to-day operations. Once in a while, fire up the webcams and have a toast across the miles.
2. Use join.me for Meetings
Obviously, using the simplest tool for meetings is a great way to share, collaborate, get face time, or just enjoy some hi-jinks with your remote workers. join.me is that ridiculously simple tool. There's nothing to download. Just invite up to 250 participants by sending them a little code. They visit join.me, plug it in, and your screen sharing is happening. While the meeting rolls along, use the chat feature to reach one or all of the participants (inside jokes factor in quite a bit here).
If you need to share your monitor—or one of your monitors—join.me lets you choose which to share and which to keep private. You can also send files during the meeting and they'll be protected with 356-bit encryption, the same security used by online banks. There are even mobile apps for iOS and Android so you can conduct or participate in a meeting at the coffee shop, on the train, or from a gondola.
And if you upgrade to join.me pro, you get all of the features in the basic version plus some international conference lines, a desktop app, and a meeting scheduler. There's also customizable links and backgrounds that you can get all personalize-y with.
At least twice a year, plan face-to-face, IRL interaction with members of your team. Despite the tremendous value of join.me, nothing builds friendship, loyalty, and breeds inside jokes quite like spending time in someone's actual presence. And springing for a few plane tickets and a decent hotel is worth creating a lasting environment of collaboration, inspiration, and, consequently, increased productivity.
4. Send Each Other Stuff
When you can't see each other in person, keep the spark alive by sending trinkets. In NYC but your crack team of developers are in London? Send them a box of fresh bagels and schmear every Friday. And hopefully they'll reciprocate with a sack full of Malteasers and Curly Wurly bars.