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7 guidelines for great meetings with remote workers

What would happen if owners, CEOs, managers and supervisors started to let go a little bit?

What if they started to trust their employees to do their jobs, accomplish business goals and meet deadlines even if they didn’t work at the office?

Or if they worked outside the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. paradigm?

Those employees, much research shows, are happier, more engaged with their companies and more productive.

ATB Financial, one of Alberta’s largest employers, instituted a pilot program that lets more staff work from home or in small “neighbourhood” offices.

The goal was employee retention, president of investor services Sheldon Dyck told the Metro News recently.

The results, Dyck says, show employees equate the new world order with a 40 or 50 per cent raise.

After all, they’re spending less money on gas and lunches, maybe even dry cleaning of their office clothes. They may even be lowering their insurance premiums by reducing their commute.

Dyck also estimates the flexible work schedules has reduced ATB’s “physical” footprint by 35 to 40 per cent.

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By letting people work from home and sending fewer commuters onto the road, ATB is easing the office world’s impact on the environment.

And lightening the strain of traffic jams for employees of companies who haven’t latched onto the practice of flexible work.

“That has massive societal benefit besides just the nice improvement to our bottom line,” Dyck said.

Stay connected to telecommuting employees

ATB uses the gifts of technology to maintain open lines of communication with the 400 employees participating in the flexible work program.

OnConference conference calling system and Presents!, a web conferencing tool with video capability, allow similar companies to stay connected.

With video capabilities, you gain the ability to meet “face to face” and establish a more personal relationship with your telecommuting employees.

Here are some guidelines to making sure you use conference call and web conferences effectively:

✓ Don’t use the tools in an ad hoc manner, unless there’s an emergency. Schedule your meetings well in advance.

✓ Maintain a weekly or biweekly meeting so everyone is kept up-to-date on projects and deadlines.

✓ Create an agenda for the meeting — even if it’s only a few bullet points — so everyone is prepared to discuss the correct issues.

✓ Introduce any new team members and allow your employees a chance to share any personal news that might get missed when they’re not chatting at the water cooler every morning.

✓ Give everyone the opportunity to share their progress since the last meeting. This also gives managers the chance to identify — and break down — obstacles their employees encounter.

✓ Keep your meetings brief. Remember that meetings are a pain point for employees who want to get their work done for you. Reconnect and send them back on their productive way.

✓ Encourage your employees to stay connected with their colleagues throughout the work week. Telecommuting can be a lonely pursuit and their co-workers are the best ones to identify with those challenges.

Above all, don’t miss opportunities to bring your teams together for team-building or social activities.

Your turn

How do you use your conference call and web conferencing technology to stay connected with your remote employees?

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