In 2021, the possibilities for remote employment are more exciting than ever, and new working models are transforming several sectors. There are numerous benefits to working remotely, but it also comes with many challenges.
One aspect of decentralized working that demands attention is remote employee engagement. Making sure staff are 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.
Luckily, there are things you can do. Try these eight tactics if you want 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, standards inevitably start to slip.
When managing remotely, it can be harder to know when team members are overworking themselves. Managers need to be extra vigilant, making sure no one is biting off more than they can chew. Simple gestures like checking in on your colleagues at the end of the day are easy to forget without face-to-face contact, but every effort should be made to transfer the best habits from the office to your remote work setup.
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.
Even if all you do is briefly touch base, maintaining a consistent meeting schedule helps avoid the kind of tunnel vision that working alone can engender, whereby staff becomes so focused on their own work that they lose sight of the bigger picture.
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 going on with your team and their projects.
3. Make Sure People Know Each Other
One of the hardest things to nail when it comes to 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 largely 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. Make time during meetings for introducing new staff members and maybe even 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.
Rewards offered to employees who go above and beyond often depend on company culture, and it’ll take effort to get to know the kind of extra compensation team members would really appreciate. Some companies reward efficiency with free days off, e-retail coupons, and even sponsored remote team dinners for departments that outdo their KPIs. Lack of appreciation is one of the biggest reasons why 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 come up with innovative solutions to the challenges of remote work.
5. Offer a Blend of Working Options
It’s important to recognize that everyone has different preferences regarding how they like to work. And, while many jobs can’t be done remotely, the changes seen in the last months are unlikely to be fully reversed. That’s not to say office space and in-person meetings are relics of the past.
As we emerge from the global pandemic, companies are looking to institute hybrid employment models. This 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.
If employees working from home want to take time off during their day to pick children up from school, for example, allow them to use secure video conferencing software and out-of-office email responses during that period.
Generally, people know under what conditions they’re most productive. Rather than forcing everyone to fit into the same mould, 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, happy in their job and increases productivity, but it’s typically easier to achieve if your team is physically located together. Being able to build connections in real-time is a key aspect of company culture which is difficult to replicate remotely.
Cultivating the kind of 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 who are especially 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 the decision-making processes 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 analysis of ROI 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. Without coffee breaks, work lunches, and after-work drinks, it can be difficult for colleagues to build rapport. To rectify this, your team-building efforts should focus on creating opportunities for the remote work environment.
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. Try virtual coffee breaks or a virtual water cooler as ways to replicate the in-office social experience.
Finally, remember that small talk doesn’t have to be tedious, but it is an important part of any sustained dialogue and shouldn’t be left out of video meetings.
Why not put these eight top tips into practice today?