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Out of sight, but not out of mind: 6 ways to reach remote employees

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Virgin founder Richard Branson believes that offices will eventually be a thing of the past. The notorious multi-disciplinary visionary may indeed have his finger on the remote worker pulse, as telecommuting increased 80% between 2005 and 2012.

And while remote working is a positive development in many ways – resulting in greater productivity and job satisfaction for employees, as well as reduced costs across many variables for employers – it can be a challenge to get telecommuters on board with wellness. But we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve that’ll ensure your out-of-sight employees adopt a wellness state of mind:

1. Make it flexible

If a significant chunk of your workforce is remote, your wellness program has to reflect that. If you require biometric screenings, don’t just offer them on-site – allow remote workers to be screened at their doctor, a local clinic or even at home. If you provide on-site fitness classes, consider streaming them (check out services like UStream) so off-site employees can participate as well.

2. Anytime/anywhere activities

Be sure there are aspects of the program that are accessible to all employees – like online health improvement programs and telephonic coaching. And consider providing equipment – such as activity trackers – to all employees, then tie rewards to associated outcomes (like 10,000 steps a day).

3. Remote workers cannot live on email alone

It’s tempting to just fling messages into the ether and hope they land where (and how) you want them. But keep in mind that remote workers are reliant on email more than office-based employees, so it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. It’s also less personal, so embrace multiple channels with these folks. Home mailings, Skype calls just for telecommuters, IM, social media and the good old phone should all be worked into your communication strategy as well.

4. Watch your words

Since most of your communication with remote workers won’t be face-to-face, your wellness program messaging should be especially warm and supportive. Have someone review your key messages to ensure they’re inclusive (no “red-headed stepchildren” treatment, please) and encouraging. Also, make sure there’s a clear call to action, since follow-up – and clarifying water cooler conversation – is more challenging for this audience.

5. Think corporate, act local

Yes, this is a company-wide wellness program, but what can you do to make some “offline” aspects available to employees not in the HQ vicinity? We’re talking local gym memberships, promoting fun runs and walks in their cities (and rewarding participants with points), even forming teams of remote employees in the same area so they can enjoy the camaraderie AND competition.

6. Gather together

Even the most productive remote workers enjoy bonding with their colleagues (there’s nothing like quality matching-name-with-face time). At Limeade, 25% of our workforce is remote, so we encourage remote employees to drop by our headquarters on a regular basis – to both work and hang out. Consider setting aside budget to get everyone together on a quarterly basis. If you can swing this at your company, think about how to incorporate wellness into this company time (feel free to snag ideas from our Employee Health & Fitness Day celebration, as well as our Frozen Fridays). We can say from experience that it’s both incredibly fun and very effective at keeping all of us Limemates fit, healthy…and connected!