For decades, employees dreamed of working from home. That dream has become a reality for millions of people around the world. Over the past decade, the number of telecommuting jobs has increased by 115%.

Telecommuting has created plenty of benefits for employees as well. It minimizes travel costs and companies have found many telecommuting employees are happier and more productive. Unfortunately, they have been forced to pull back a little bit for one big reason – they have had difficulty building a strong company culture with remote employees.

Yahoo! recently required many telecommuting employees to return to their corporate base, despite a lack of performance concerns. Yahoo! CEO Melissa Meyers said it was important to build a strong company culture, which is a challenge among people working from home. The policy was not terminated altogether, but employees were required to spend some time interacting with their colleagues in person.

While Meyers and other CEOs have raised valid points, they can see that telecommuting still has benefits. Employers are looking for new ways to build a strong company culture, while still allowing employees to work from home. Here are some ways they are going about this.

Set clear parameters at the executive level

Every executive discovers that they can’t create the company culture themselves. It will evolve naturally as more employees are brought into the organization. However, executives can clearly define the boundaries that the culture can develop within.

Setting these boundaries is important for any organization, but it is even more important when you are building a remote team. Remote employees bring very different perspectives which can either sweeten or poison the rest of the company. Managers must make sure employees are only brought into the organization after it has been determined that they will fit with the company culture.

Find a positive way to communicate your culture to remote employees

Remote employees tend to feel more distant from people that visit the company on a daily basis. They may feel self-conscious by the lack of direct communication, which may make them feel concerned about their standing in the organization. If managers deliver any messages that could be interpreted as hostile, it could have a debilitating effect on the relationship with those employees.

Managers must be urged to communicate as tactfully as possible with remote employees as they discuss the objectives of the organization and the culture they strive to build. They should be giving incentives to help cultivate the company culture in a positive way.

Promote work-life balance for all employees

Work-life balance is important for all employees. You need to focus on this with your remote employees, by offering them as much flexibility as possible. This has already become a growing trend in the US. In fact, a recent study conducted by Workfront titled “How Email, Meetings & Automation Are Shaping The Future Of Work” found that workers are spending at least 8 hours a week working from home.

However, it is equally important to offer this consideration to onsite employees as well. Otherwise, they may become resentful of the employees that telecommute, which can wreck the company culture. They may become bitter towards remote employees that they perceive to have more flexibility than them.

Make sure that you try to appease everyone as fairly as possible.

Facilitate in person team building meetings

Using Skype and other VoIP tools and team building apps to build relationships with remote employees is very important. However, these tools are not a substitute for interacting with people in person.

You should require remote employees to meet with others from the company on a fairly regular basis. Even meeting twice a year can make a profound difference. Organizing a corporate retreat can be a non-threatening way to strengthen bonds between remote employees and the rest of the team.

Building a strong culture in a remote workplace is an investment

Technology is redefining the workforce as we know. It has created new opportunities for employees that want to telecommute. However, employers are discovering that telecommuting a number of new challenges that they must cope with. Building a strong company culture is the biggest obstacle. It will take time to nurture those relationships with your remote employees, but it will pay off in the long run.

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