Remote working has become more than just a trend. A Gallup survey in June of 2022 found that 8 in 10 people work in hybrid or remote work setups while only 2 in 10 are on-site. And this development is more likely to continue in the future.
Working remotely has numerous benefits, like higher productivity and increased employee loyalty and retention. But it also comes with many challenges, like keeping employees engaged while working remotely.
Ensuring staff is focused and able to perform to the best of their ability can be tricky without the intuitive social interaction that comes from working in the same place.
Why is remote employee engagement critical?
Many employees lamented that working remotely can be lonely. They’re missing out on the fun, spontaneous moments and social interactions with coworkers that working onsite provides. There are no chats in the hallways or coffee breaks with office besties.
Research from Chargifi (now Kadence) revealed that Millennials and Gen Z employees feel disproportionately isolated since working from home.
They said it negatively impacts their ability to build and develop relationships at work. They think their onsite coworkers are more distant, and prolonged remote working caused them to drift apart.
Loneliness has a significant impact on people’s health and life. If workers feel depressed, they’re less motivated, engaged, and productive. As such, businesses must find ways to ensure that onsite and remote employees remain synchronized and aligned.
Companies must plan and implement team-building activities to empower virtual teams and strengthen collaborations.
How has remote work impacted employee engagement?
A Gallup survey discovered that engagement rises when employees split time between working at home and working in a location with their coworkers, specifically when employees spend 60% -80% of their time working offsite (three to four days a week).
Moreover, employees that work 60%-80% of the time remotely strongly agree that engagement needs are related to development. Perhaps counterintuitively, they’re most likely to agree that someone at work cares about them and encourages their progress.
These findings should comfort employers that their offsite employees won’t suffer from employee engagement and that there are performance improvements with remote work.
The flexibility of remote work encourages employees to work when they are at their best. The time saved on commute allows employees to do other important personal tasks like taking care of kids, doing household chores or simply getting extra sleep, or indulging in hobbies.
In short, remote employees enjoy a satisfying work-life balance. And it's enough reason why employees remain engaged even when not working onsite.
10 ways to improve employee engagement
If you notice a dip in your employee engagement, here are eight strategies you can do to keep your remote employees interested and engaged in their work:
1. Monitor Workloads
Whether the role calls for overseeing salespeople or directing an interdisciplinary team, managers from all walks of life know the importance of not over-stretching their staff. If the employees you’re responsible for are given a workload beyond their capacity.
To monitor employee productivity, use time trackers and project/task management tools to ensure workloads are equally distributed. Or use a task list that focuses on individual tasks assigned to people.
Another approach is to assign employees to send a brief email report to their managers. The email should contain the projects they’re currently working on so managers can see if they’re been used to full capacity or can still accommodate additional tasks.
When managing remotely, it can be harder to know when team members are overworking themselves. Managers must be extra vigilant, ensuring no one is biting off more than they can chew.
2. Have a Consistent Meeting Schedule
It can be tempting when working remotely to delay or cancel routine team meetings, especially if you’re the senior staff member responsible for chairing them.
But with colleagues distributed across multiple locations, these moments of contact create vital connections and encourage camaraderie.
If you need to park calls or delay answering an email for half an hour, it’s a small price to pay for having an informed and up-to-date understanding of what’s happening with your team and their projects.
3. Make Sure People Know Each Other
One of the hardest things to nail regarding your company’s remote employee engagement is encouraging staff bonding. While organizations build professional relationships differently, it’s widely accepted that if no one knows each other, it’s a bad sign for your work culture.
The standards for colleague familiarity will depend mainly on the size of your business. While you might expect everyone to know each other if you work in a small start-up, this becomes unfeasible with medium-sized companies and impossible with large ones.
Instead, focus on in-team and departmental acquaintance and team-building. During meetings, introduce new staff members and consider a remote mentoring program to help forge those all-important employee relationships.
4. Reward Efficiency
Thanks to technology, there are many ways to catapult your company’s efficiency levels into the stratosphere. From time management tools to implementing online payroll software, effective use of the right digital aids can be just the boost to productivity you need.
Lack of appreciation is one of the biggest reasons people leave a company, so an employee recognition program can help retain and encourage workers.
Often, the best ideas for maximizing efficiency don’t come from senior management or HR gurus but are the brainchild of employees carrying out their day-to-day tasks, who can spot streamlining opportunities.
Transitioning to a more remote employment structure offers you the perfect chance to encourage a culture of experimentation. Reward employees who show initiative and contribute innovative solutions to the challenges of remote work.
5. Offer a Blend of Working Options
It’s crucial to recognize that everyone has different preferences regarding how they like to work. And while not all jobs can be done remotely, HR should develop workplace policies that satisfy employees' work style choices without sacrificing business operations and company goals.
As mentioned in earlier studies, companies should look to implementing hybrid employment models. It means offering staff the option to work from home when they want but also accepting that job flexibility is something people desire across the board.
Generally, people know under what conditions they’re most productive. Rather than forcing everyone to fit into the same mold, offering a variety to work prevents boredom and leads to a happier workforce.
6. Cultivate a Healthy Remote Work Culture
Even if it only affects a fraction of your organization’s staff, your company culture must accommodate the requirements of remote employment.
A healthy work culture keeps everyone stimulated and happy in their jobs. However, it’s much easier to achieve if all employees work in one place. Building connections in real-time is a vital aspect of a company culture that is hard to replicate remotely.
Cultivating the culture that sustains a decentralized workforce starts with hiring for a remote culture fit. This means positioning your business as inclusive and outward-looking to attract younger and international candidates, especially those drawn to remote work.
Make sure your public-facing company profiles mention your work model. Emphasize the importance of remote working to your company culture by including content that gets people excited about the prospect of working wherever they want.
7. Make Tech Decisions Based on Employee Feedback
If your business has employees working across distributed locations, your tech stack likely reflects this. And, if you’re looking to implement more remote working among your staff, choosing a CRM, a communication platform, or a productivity tool can be one of the most important decisions you face.
Sometimes, despite the best intentions of their employer, workers can feel compelled to use a specific digital tool, and if they use it at all, they do so begrudgingly.
Avoid frustrated employees and wasted service expenditure by including your colleagues in decision-making that will impact the tools they use during their remote workday.
Don’t forget to include a feedback process that features a cross-section of relevant staff members in your ROI analysis for software products.
There’s no reason to continue paying for a product or service people don’t like or use in a competitive marketplace, and the best way to gauge opinions is to ask.
8. Encourage Virtual Socializing
As we’ve already touched on, remote team building is one of the biggest challenges of having a team that doesn’t work in the same place.
It can be challenging for colleagues to build rapport without face-to-face interaction, like spending time together during coffee breaks, work lunches, and after-work drinks. Your team-building efforts should create opportunities to foster employee interaction between virtual and on-site teams.
There are many creative answers to the question of socializing over a screen; you just have to find a solution that works for your company.
Finally, remember that small talk doesn’t have to be tedious but is integral to any sustained dialogue and shouldn’t be left out of video meetings.
9. Provide learning and development opportunities
In a research by Amazon and Workplace Intelligence, 89% of employees surveyed are motivated to improve their skills in 2023. They believe they lack the skills and education required to advance in their careers.
As such, managers and HR department should work together to cultivate a work environment where upskilling is available to all employees, whether working remotely or not.
Ensuring that career development opportunities are based on merit rather than visibility gives remote workers the feeling of being valued and will continue to have a future within your organization.
10. Redesign your salary and benefits package
Managers and HR should design compensation and benefits packages that motivate and encourage their people to stay, whether they work remotely or on-site.
Retaining valuable talent is critical to success, so salary increases and performance bonuses are vital to a workforce that is happy to continue working. Prioritizing employee well-being is an important HR trend for 2023, so focusing on their mental health is key to retaining them.
If you have the resources, incorporate mental health services in your health insurance coverage for no or low out-of-pocket costs like medications, clinical screenings, and mental health counseling.
Remote work is here to stay and will only grow and evolve in the coming years.
Hence, organizations should employ strategies to engage remote employees to maximize the benefits of remote work. By following the steps outlined above, you can ensure a remote workforce that is productive, happy, and highly engaged.