Since the onset of COVID, the rise of remote employees around the world has dramatically increased. Statistics indicate that 1 in 4 Americans (or about 26% of the American workforce) work remotely. Now, companies need new strategies to engage remote employees.
A report by Owl Lab states that 56% of workers in the United States believe that working from home is better suited for their needs. However, some employees still report that they find themselves lonely and lacking workplace connections.
With COVID-19 protocols tapering out, employers in the US and around the world are looking for new and innovative ways to engage their remote employees.
Many workers enjoy working from home, but do find themselves missing face-to-face connections–especially with their employers, co-workers, managers, leadership, and even the human resources department.
Working from home provides many benefits, including saving time and money on commuting, more flexibility, and the freedom to choose where one lives and works.
Although working from home offers many benefits, some work-from-home employees say they miss the connections with their company, which depend on loyalty, commitment, and emotional safety.
Some businesses choose to have their employees work partially in the office and then work a few days from home, otherwise known as a hybrid model. While other companies, including Goldman Sachs, are requiring certain employees to return to the office 5 days a week. Don’t expect this to be the new normal.
The ongoing popularity of remote work means that top candidates expect some flexibility in their work arrangements. More people than ever before are turning down new roles just because they require commuting to an office.
Engaging remote employees boils down to communication. Have you ever had an employer who didn’t recognize or take the time to sit down and congratulate you on your performance? I’ve had a few. Unfortunately, for me at least, lack of recognition and communication was one the quickest paths towards lower productivity and trust within management. This is especially true for those working remotely.
Although it’s important for employers and managers to give constructive criticism, only focusing on the negative, especially for remote workers, will likely lower their morale. One of the best ways to keep remote employees engaged is to simply take the time to video conference with them every week and discuss how they’re feeling or answer questions. This allows remote employees to stay connected, instead of what often happens: remote employees remain unclear of what their expectations are for the week because they haven't spoken with their manager or team.
Most importantly, you should always take a moment during your weekly meetings to tell them how you’ve noticed their work in a positive light. This keeps remote employees engaged and increases their sense of belonging to the company–even remotely.
Employers who embrace remote work also need to brainstorm productive ways to engage these remote employees that go above and beyond weekly meetings.
Here are 6 tips to help you engage remote employees and foster connections in the work from home environment, including best practices for team building.
Everyone wants to feel good about their job.
Prioritizing remote employees wellness is one the main steps in making sure workers are engaged at work. Don’t make employees feel like they have to work through an illness. Make sure that on top of offering sick days, you are also providing vacation days and paid time off. Some companies even require mandatory days for mental health.
Another great way to encourage employee wellness is to encourage your team to take mindful breaks throughout the day to eat or go outside. Think about starting incentive programs for cooking a healthy meal or starting a wellness program. Yoga, monthly walks, and workout programs are especially popular.
By making health and wellness a focus in remote employees' everyday lives, you are not only encouraging them to take care of themselves, but you are allowing them to be in the best mental state to complete their daily work and tasks.
Have you heard of Zoom fatigue?
Even if you haven’t, it’s probably affecting your employees.
Instead of forcing employees to sit through unnecessary video calls and web conferences, make sure that each of your meetings has an obvious purpose. Most employees know the parameters of their job, so forcing them to sit through meetings that could have been completed through an email will make it harder to focus.
Try to avoid creating a single meeting to solve every minor issue. For instance, only having one-on-one meetings with your employees to discuss performance will make anxiety levels high.
If an employee is doing well, try to set up individual meetings to offer them praise. This makes employees feel less anxious about having their voice heard, empowering them to address any problems or confusion that may arise during their employment.
On top of hosting meetings with a purpose, set up optional digital happy hours or group meetings for your employees that are not work related. This could be as easy as setting up a happy hour after work through Google Hangouts, or even encouraging employees to focus on their wellness through group yoga. You could also try trivia or group games.
Employees need connections together that are non-work related, as it helps them foster their growth and connection to the company. By encouraging your employees to get to know each other outside of work, even in a remote setting, you will make it easier for them to feel comfortable when they need to work together on projects and in groups.
Employees already have a hard time believing that their opinions and ideas are heard in an office setting. However, for remote workers, this can be even more challenging.
Try to remember the little details about them like their birthday or work anniversary. Send them virtual thank you cards, schedule a team call to celebrate their success, or even mail them a simple gift. This will make them feel as though they are more than just another cog in a business machine.
Always leave room for your employees to contact you across communication channels such as email and Slack. Miscommunications leave employees afraid to voice their concerns or pose questions to their employer. Make yourself available to your team, and when they express an issue, take the necessary steps to make sure the problem is resolved.
Try to avoid wasting employees' time with unnecessary busy work in order to fill their entire day. If an employee finishes their work early, don’t try to make them do another task just for the sake of keeping them busy. Give your remote workforce time to think, read, and explore. People need time to step outside the box.
Giving employees the option to be flexible with their schedule allows them to have a proper work/life balance. Encourage them to take lunch or exercise breaks in the afternoon, or to run an errand before they have to be home with their families. If employees are able to finish work at their own pace, they will feel that you are valuing their work/life balance.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, avoid micromanaging every part of your employees’ days. Set up regular one-on-one meetings and be available through email if any concerns arise, but don’t force employees to explain everything that they're doing throughout the day. Have a set purpose in all of your questions and check-ins to make them effective.
Create shared virtual spaces for employees to discuss challenges, such as a daily or weekly standup. In an office setting, employees are able to forge connections between each other in-person and ask simple questions. Collaboration between employees is extremely important and can give new angles to projects.
Creating a safe space for employees to bounce ideas off of one another takes some of the pressure off of you as the employer, and helps your virtual team solve problems together, as well as form new ideas and opinions. In the long term, this fosters opportunities for individual and company growth.
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Some of the best ways to engage remote employees include: focus on health and wellness, host virtual meetings and casual hangouts, make employees feel seen and heard, and ensure that you are flexible with working hours.
Prioritizing remote employee engagement is key. To engage employees in a virtual environment, you need to make sure that they still have some of the same key experiences and connections that they would at a job that is in-office.
To engage remote employees, set aside time to chat with them one-on-one. Fostering collaboration for your remote team. Most importantly, allow your employees to adapt and grow.
Remote employee engagement is important because it helps with enhancing company culture, especially for companies with hybrid models and distributed teams. Employees that feel engaged while they work remotely feel connected to their company’s values and want to perform the best.