Remote work has become the new normal – it’s no longer dismissed as just another modern trend. According to Zapier’s 2019 Remote Work Report, 74 percent of US employees are willing to quit their jobs to work remotely. This shows that this work model is here to stay.
Many companies are also now realizing the benefits of working from home. Apart from accessing a wider talent pool, businesses save millions of dollars that could otherwise be spent on infrastructure and other expenses. A Global Workplace Analytics study found that a typical business saves around $11,000 annually per person, just by embracing the remote work model.
Remote employees, on the other hand, save time and money on commutes, enjoy a better work-life balance, and have flexible work schedules. It’s no surprise that most people would prefer working from home post-COVID.
However, there’s a downside to working from home:
● Distractions are all over, and workers find it hard to stay focused and motivated.
● With no people to interact with, remote workers can feel disconnected from their co-workers, and even company vision and goals.
● There’s no drive and direction due to lack of direct management.
● Unplugging from work can be difficult for workers.
These, among other challenges, can affect employee engagement.
How to Engage Remote Employees During the Coronavirus Pandemic
How do you encourage remote engagement among your distributed teams? A survey by Gallup found that 70 percent of remote employee engagement is fully dependent on leadership. This means that, as a manager, the duty of keeping your workers engaged fully rests on your shoulders.
When teams work remotely, it takes extra attention and approaches to overcome the challenges of engagement. Below, we share the best strategies on how to engage remote employees, so you can boost team productivity, collaboration, and morale.
Set Clear Expectations for Remote Teams
The success of any business is driven by the set goals, objectives, or targets. Without expectations, remote workers can easily lose track of what they should focus on. It’s what guides the employees and shows them the path to follow.
That’s why it’s crucial to share your expectations with them and ensure they understand the steps to take. When you set clear, measurable goals, and show them how to reach them, you’ll have an engaged workforce.
Think of establishing short, medium, and long-term goals for each individual, related to their career progress. In the end, you’ll have a distributed team that has a sense of drive and direction when doing their jobs.
Put Importance on Communication
When starting out, remote workers may be filled with uncertainty. When do you contact your boss? Do you call, send an email, or chat? To avoid such confusion, be sure to let them know which channels to use.
Each company has its own way of communicating, such as Slack, Trello, or email. However, workers rarely get facetime, which is the basis of meaningful connections. So, consider the most effective channels to communicate with team members.
A weekly video conference, for example, will bring your entire team together. This can help build trust and rapport with each team player. Be careful, though, not to go overboard with your meetings. Set agendas so that meetings don’t stretch for hours.
One more another thing—don’t let your meetings be just about business. It’s important to organize virtual get-togethers for non-work-related talks. Engaging in casual conversations helps employees feel relaxed and excited, and is likely to lift their spirits up and reduce loneliness.
Have Regular Check-Ins
Keep in mind that remote workers are still human. They have bad and good days, as well as personal issues to deal with, just like everyone else. To understand their daily struggles, try to check in frequently with each team member. If possible, make it a routine, so they know when to expect your calls.
Holding regular one-on-one’s helps you learn about your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. You also get a better understanding of issues that may affect their performance. As a manager, you need to be proactive and find ways to address employee issues and concerns.
By looking out for your remote staff, you’ll identify a change in behavior pattern and pursue the matter.
Show Appreciation for Good Work
While 65 percent of remote workers say they feel more productive working from home (according to FlexJobs), few receive the recognition they deserve.
With that in mind, it’s best practice to acknowledge and appreciate employees for their efforts and contributions. It can have a huge impact on remote engagement levels, motivation, and morale. Whatever method you employ for employee recognition, make it highly visible to put great work in the spotlight.
Not only will colleagues be inspired to emulate the good trends, but it will also give teams an extra boost in their engagement. Plus, employees are more likely to stick around knowing their efforts will be worthwhile.
Keep Remote Workers Happy
Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report found that remote workers are happier than their office counterparts, mostly because of better work-life balance. Happy employees are more motivated, creative, and engaged. Plus, chances of them quitting are slim.
However, the trick is keeping them happy. The good news is that it’s not overly complicated, and it doesn’t have to be about a pay raise. The simplest approach is to ask what they need. You can conduct periodic surveys to get into the minds of your employees.
You’ll know details like what motivates them, how they want to be rewarded, and what they feel about culture change in the workplace.
Some will request training or upgraded hardware. Others will simply ask for a change in their routine. Here are more ideas to keep your workers happy:
● Send them gifts to celebrate events like Christmas or birthdays. Simple cards would do, or you can check out sites that offer gifts specifically designed for employees.
● Organize virtual games like Coworker Feud and other team-building games for remote employees.
● Surprise them with coffee, snacks, or sweet treats delivered to their doorsteps.
● Take advantage of gamification to make work more fun and engaging. Gamification plays a huge role in increasing employee engagement at work. It also enhances teamwork and boosts your organization’s image, which in turn, helps you retain and attract the best talents.
Remember, happiness is infectious and tends to bring positive energy. So, when it spreads to the entire team, work performance is maximized. Ultimately, your business will enjoy increased profits.
Introduce Wellness Programs to the Team
The health and wellbeing of your entire team should be given top priority. After all, sick employees don’t perform well, and absenteeism will hurt productivity.
Kevin Sheridan, the New York Times best-selling author of Building a Magnetic Culture, shares some words of advice:
“The bottom line is that anyone who knows about employee engagement is also a firm believer in instituting health and wellness programs.”
Bearing that in mind, here are some wellness program ideas for remote workers:
● Offer free online meditations and yoga sessions.
● Encourage people in leadership to talk openly about mental illness. This will make the staff comfortable talking about it.
● Offer counseling support.
● Provide your team with a virtual platform for social interactions.
● Ensure employees take some time from work to relax and recharge.
Individuals have different levels of stress, and it would mean a lot to consider and address their health and wellbeing.
Automate Time Management and Activity Tracking
Time management can be challenging for remote workers. They have so much to undertake, like house chores, childcare, doctor appointments, and so on. And because of that, most may struggle with scheduling focused work time into their busy days.
That’s why relying on self-reported data is an inaccurate way to measure employee effectiveness.
The best approach is to adopt an application that automatically tracks time and records employee activity. If you don’t already use one, you can take advantage of a free time tracking app for Mac and Windows. A time tracker lets you track time spent on each task and measure the activity levels of each individual or the group.
A great tool integrates many useful features, including timesheets, detailed reports and analytics, alerts, offline time tracking, and so on. Productivity apps ensure you stay on top of your schedule and work hours are logged accurately.
Plus, it pushes teams to focus on work to meet deadlines.
Offer Support for Equipment and Other Necessities
Do your remote workers have all the right tools at their disposal? Usually, on-site personnel has access to state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. Their counterparts who work from home, on the other hand, may not have the resources to stock up on such tools.
In most cases, it’s the remote employees who bear the cost of purchasing hardware, software, and work equipment.
Keep in mind that just because they are working remotely, it doesn’t mean they won’t be requiring the right tools. Therefore, where possible, provide the necessary resources, like laptops, to remote workers.
If such a scenario is not feasible, consider offering compensation or discount plans for your team members.
Foster Personal and Professional Development
Organizations that offer learning opportunities to employees are more likely to attract top talent than those that don’t. That explains why many companies nowadays invest in Learning Management Systems (LMS) to help train or upskill their workers.
Offering your staff the chance to acquire new skills is not only beneficial to them but to your business growth. It makes them feel valued and a part of the organization. As a result, it leads to an increase in employee engagement.
However, you don’t have to force employees to take only work-related courses. Let them choose what they want to pursue at the moment – be it music, self-defense, or creative arts, to mention a few.
Ask for Feedback and Act on It
It’s not enough to ask for feedback frequently – acting on it shows you value employee input. Besides, it offers the best platform for both management and workers to discuss problems and share constructive feedback.
For example, someone may not be happy with some parts of the company culture due to their background or ethnicity. By giving employees the space to air their concerns, it creates an inclusive environment where they all feel heard and respected.
Remember to always communicate any changes or actions you’re planning to take. Even if it was a suggestion from one of the team members, you don’t want to take others by surprise. So, before implementing it, discuss it with the entire team first.
Be More Understanding
On-site employees have a more conducive working environment. For remote workers, things are quite different and not as controlled as in an office. The employee may have to take frequent breaks to tend to kids, deal with kitchen emergencies, and so on.
While working from home helps people balance the demands for work and family attention, consider letting them control their work schedules. Perhaps they can work better from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. after the kids go to sleep. If so, let them create a schedule that makes them productive.
Focus on their achievements rather than when they are getting the work done. Giving them more control over their time will result in more engaged and happier employees.
Lead Your Company to Success
Working remotely can pose several challenges to some employees. The lack of a physical office can make them feel disconnected and lonely. These factors, among others, can affect their productivity.
Give some of these tips a try and see if you can boost remote engagement among your employees. Not everything will work for you. So, find what’s best for you, your teams, and your business and implement them.
Lastly, never allow your workers to wander alone. Apart from setting clear expectations, guide them as they strive to do their best work. Increased engagement levels will also reduce staff turnover and keep things running smoothly.