As you finalize strategy and launch new initiatives during the early months of 2017, it’s particularly important to make remote workers feel part of the company. Because although there are many obvious benefits to working remotely — fewer distractions, increased productivity, no long commutes, more time to sleep, work out and spend time with family — there are also several challenges, including feeling isolated and disconnected from coworkers.

Here are four ways you can keep remote workers in the loop:

1) Help them create personal connections with you and other employees. Remote workers aren’t there for the daily small talk that happens between coworkers. The only time remote workers get to interact with colleagues is on a conference call. Because I am a remote myself, it's easy for me to remember to make time for “virtual water cooler talk” — I call my direct reports, who are also remote employees, to just catch up on whatever is on their mind.

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2) Include remote workers in all-company events and activities. Does your company have an annual party? Make sure remote workers are invited and it’s easy for them to attend. Do you have company meetings? Don’t forget to set up a video chat or call-in number so that remote workers can participate. What about other activities? My company has a wellness committee that does fitness challenges for employees, and there is always an option for remote workers. These are small but important elements of making remote workers feel part of the company family.

3) Give them tools to be successful. There is so much technology available these days to help remote workers communicate and engage more effectively with coworkers. The most critical thing, especially for those of us who spend lots of time on conference calls, is quality audio. It may sound basic, but if the connection doesn’t pick up quiet or low talkers, it’s a real struggle to follow conversations and remain an active participant. Another tool that may be helpful is video conferencing. When someone can see you and you can see them, you are automatically going to be more engaged and invested in the conversation.

4) Encourage them to embrace the flexibility of working remotely. I have been able to prioritize my health so much more now that I work remotely and don’t have a long commute. I can ride my bike after work and still get home with time to make dinner and be with my family. This, along with the ability to get a little extra sleep in the mornings, is an invaluable benefit to me and also to my employer, because I am a more energetic and productive employee.

The popularity of working remotely is only going to increase in coming years, particularly with millennials — a group that values flexibility, control and a good work-life balance. Having remote workers can be incredibly powerful when you do it right and make sure they feel like they are an integral part of the company.

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