While not as potentially isolated as work-at-home employees, satellite offices still have a high risk of being partially cut-off from the home office's people, culture, and communications, destroying both morale and productivity. To maintain coherence in the company, the higher-ups need to understand and emphasize with the unique problems faced by satellite office employees, carefully guard the company culture with frequent interaction and visits, treat all of their employees the same, schedule regular updates and feedback, maintain channels of communication and transparency about the company's condition and direction, and include satellite locations in company events — remotely when necessary, but in-person as often as possible.
MANAGERS AND EXECS NEED TO EMPHASIZE
- Maintaining an emphatic connection to those working away from the main office is critical to the success of satellite offices and requires managers and even executives to regularly visit those locations.
- Hubspot, for example, maintains that empathy among their higher-ups with a "remote week," in which everyone worked off-site.
- "This exercise helped them learn more about the experiences and challenges of working as a remote employee or in a satellite office."
GUARD THE COMPANY CULTURE
- Satellite locations tend to develop their own office cultures, and if left unchecked, these can diverge from and operate counter to the overall company culture.
- Invoca has a similar approach to Hubspot's (above), encouraging staff from their main office to visit satellite offices, particularly when they are new, to help instill the office culture with the overall company culture.
- Gireesh Sonnad, CEO of Silverline, goes one step further, personally visiting each of Silverline's satellite offices in a "Vision and Values Tour."
TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME
- Policies and procedures "should be the same no matter what office an employee is in."
- This means that those working in satellite offices, or even remotely, should be measured by the same metrics to those in the home office, e.g., goals reached, work completed, etc.
- Likewise, all employees, regardless of location, should be using "a single source of truth," for managing workflows, documenting problems and procedures, etc.
- This extends to how even informal communication is handled. For example, when including satellite locations in company meeting via video conferencing (see below), either everyone should have their webcams off or everyone should have them on.
- As noted by HRDive, "This puts all the meeting participants on a more equal playing field, rather than remote employees feeling put on the spot because their in-office counterparts can see them, even though they can't see anyone else."
SCHEDULE UPDATES AND FEEDBACK
- One habit that needs to be broken even in the home office is creating a culture of distraction, where employees are constantly stopping by or phoning for status updates instead of emailing.
- These not only waste valuable time but put additional pressure on employees, especially remote ones, to work longer hours to "catch up," contributing to burnout.
- Instead, every employee should stick to agreed-upon feedback points, allowing them "to problem-solve with calm and creativity."
COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPARENCY
- Zendesk notes that while satellite office workers still have the advantage of "the buzz and bustle of an office," they still experience a degree of isolation from the greater organization which can cause them to micro-focus on their own location's particular silo.
- The Globalization Partners 2019 Global Employee Survey found that employees working from satellite offices were 11% less likely to believe that their voices matter to those at the home office.
- Satellite employees must be updated on company goals, financial status, and how their office specifically contributes towards them so that they recognize that they are part of a larger whole and that their work matters.
- Managers who are not in the same office as some of their staff need regular check-ins with those in satellite offices just as they do for those in the home office.
INCLUDE SATELLITES IN COMPANY EVENTS
- Invoca has monthly lunches in which the executive team updates its employees about the company's status and direction. Both remote team members and satellite offices are included via video conferencing, letting them participate in the discussion and ask their questions.
- Likewise, satellite offices are encouraged to participate in company team-building events, even if remotely. For example, at Halloween, satellite offices were encouraged to send in pictures of their staff's costumes, which were rated alongside those at the main office in a company-wide contest.
- Invoca also ensures that satellite staff have the opportunity to visit the main office for collaboration and face-time, which they report does wonders for both their morale and productivity.
- Sometimes its best that people meet on neutral ground, so to speak. Having some company meetings offsite is a benefit to not only those in the home office due to the change of pace but can let those working remotely or in satellite office "connect in-person" in a "mutually convenient space," where they don't feel like guests or intruders.
This was one of those projects in which there was no difficulty in finding a wealth of information and advice about keeping employees in satellite offices and even remote employees engaged. Of course, much of the advice in this area amounted to self-serving ad copy for this or that HR solution, and we set these aside as unsuitable. On the other hand, we held onto an insightful blog post by Zendesk, as it was not focused on directly on their product and cited a useful case study by Hubspot.
Most of the literature folds employees who work from home and those who work in satellite offices together, noting that they face similar, though not identical, challenges:
- A Zendesk editorial notes that there are similar challenges to engaging remote employees and those in satellite offices.
- Likewise, Panasonic folds working from home, working remotely, and working from satellite offices, aka "Spot Offices," collectively into the term, "e-Work."
- Zendesk notes that satellite employees still have the advantage of "the buzz and bustle of an office," they still experience a degree of isolation from the greater organization which can cause them to micro-focus on their own location's particular silo.
Consequently, we have drawn very useful best practices from several sources which primarily refer to "remote employees," but which from context refer to both at-home and satellite office employees.
Note that despite the US focus, we have included one source with a global scope. However, as this source is used only to provide quantitative proof of one of the common problems with satellite offices, we do not believe that this will undermine the integrity or focus of this brief.