As someone that works from a home office 95% of the time, one of my pet peeves is office parties. When you work remotely and many of your coworkers are co-located in an office someplace, it can be annoying to receive the department-wide emails announcing some get together to celebrate John’s 10 years with the company or Jane’s baby shower in the conference room. Sure, I’m a little jealous. Remote workers or teleworkers are usually forgotten in workplace festivities. I want my cake too. But more than that, perceptions of inequality can arise over time if virtual workers are consistently left out.
Before abandoning all special events for fear of offending anyone, think creatively how you can create an atmosphere of inclusion. One great idea I heard came while attending a Telework Exchange event last fall. Full credit goes to Donna Gilmore, telework program manager for the US Air Force Adjudication Facility. Donna mentioned that one of the managers within her organization arranged a team pizza party even though the team members were dispersed across several home office locations. The manager coordinated the event so that local pizzerias delivered a pizza to each of the member’s home at exactly the same time. Then, the team met via videoconference to continue their virtual pizza party.
Sure, this requires a little more effort than your normal in-person party. But don’t think that extra effort is lost on your employees. You’ll get more commitment and respect in the end. Finding a way to include all your team members can become just as important as the celebratory event itself.
What’s your best practice? Have you come up with a creative way include remote or virtual team members with their in-office counterparts?