Some employees walk out the door and there’s a collective sigh of relief; but that’s not always the case. Even if it’s true that no one is irreplaceable, some people are a tough act to follow. When they leave, it can take quite a while to fill the void.  So when a valued employee tells you that they are relocating for personal reasons, the solution is not to offer a raise or promotion.  The Washington Post points this in in “You’re Quitting? No Way! How one small business kept a valued staffer from leaving.”

In this particular situation, a New York architectural firm was not about to give up on a prized architect who gave notice he was moving to North Carolina to be with his girlfriend. The firm was willing to pull out all the stops, which meant setting up a satellite office in Durham, an expensive proposition.

You may not be in a position to set up a satellite office hundreds or thousands of miles way to accommodate someone.  However, it’s not unlikely that at some time, if not already, one or several individuals on your team will live out of the commute area and work at home or in one of the newly emerging co-shared office environments.

Fortunately, cloud, mobile and virtual PBX technology, video and web conferencing and more make it possible for us to work anywhere and have access to each other and critical corporate resources. Still people who are remote can feel out of the loop, which over time can lead to a loss of motivation and in turn productivity.

Here are some ways to help those who are working remotely remain motivated, collaborative and productive – all the things necessary to keep your business moving ahead.

  • Understand the needs of each employee:  Establish early on what will work best and stick with it, whether it’s frequent messaging or a weekly or even daily phone call.
  • Have regular staff meetings: Hold web or video conferences to make sure that everyone is up to date and in the loop on the latest news affecting the company. Don’t avoid sharing bad news either. You don’t want someone who works remotely to find out bad news from someone outside the company or via the news media or Web.
  • Create a team spirit: Make sure that remote employees feel part of the team by enabling them to participate in fun office functions as well as business meetings. Schedule a video or audio conference so they can participate in an office birthday celebration, for example.
  • Be clear about your expectations and desired results: After a meeting, especially where a lot of information is exchanged, send a meeting wrap-up with clearly stated action items and objectives so that there is no misunderstanding about next steps.
  • Set ground rules: Make sure everyone understands what you consider acceptable performance and behavior. This may include setting hours you expect people to work and establishing what meetings are necessary to attend, whether they are web, phone or in person.
  • Get feedback: Check in frequently to find out what is and what isn’t working, whether it’s the frequency of communication, the technology support or a feeling of engagement. Deal with issues early on before someone loses motivation and productivity declines.

Your employees are probably the biggest factor in your success. With today’s technology and good management, distance is just a state of mind.