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Use conference calls to engage remote employees

We know there are benefits to letting our employees work remote.

They take up no real estate at the office and their electricity and utility costs are their own. It’s also a “green” way of operating because the lack of commute cuts down on environmental impact.

But what about the fears that prevent us from making that leap? Many employers cite the concern the work won’t get done and the employees don’t much care about the company.

Good news! Studies are starting to show that just isn’t true.

A Chinese company, Ctrip, teamed with Stanford University to conduct an experiment, asking half of their employees to work from home. The study revealed the people who worked from home were 13% more productive than the folks assigned to work at the office.

Scott Edinger, a management consultant who writes for the Harvard Business Review, presents an employee survey he and his client conducted, learning that remote employees are more pumped about their work than their teammates who traffic, lineups at the coffee shop and creativity-stifling office spaces.

“While the differences were not enormous (a couple of tenths of a point in both categories,” Edinger writes, “they were enough to provoke some interesting speculations as to why this might be happening.”

Remote workers, he says, are less likely to become complacent and more likely to try harder to connect, making efficient use of the time they have with their teams.

The practice requires leaders of virtual teams to effectively use multiple forms of communication, he adds.

“Because leaders of far-flung teams have to use videoconferencing, instant messaging, email, voicemail and, yes, the telephone to make contact, they become proficient in multiple forms of communication, an advantage in leadership that their traditional counterparts could well develop but not so automatically,” Edinger says.

The ability to lead conference calls and web conferencing becomes a valuable part of your leaders’ skill sets.

That means we need to know how to keep participants engaged and actively involved. Here are some quick tips for leading a conference call or web conference:

  1. Have an agenda and share it in advance of your meeting.
  2. Talk specifically to individuals on your team who are directly impacted by an item on the agenda.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Use multimedia and Video Playback during web conferences.
  5. Leave time for participants to bring up their own topics and ask questions.

Do you have remote employees? How do you keep them engaged?

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