Having at least a few remote employees, if not an entire remote workforce, is a reality for many companies, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
This guide digs into the benefits of keeping a remote workforce engaged and six high impact strategies that make it happen.
When your workforce is remote, employee engagement doesn’t come as easily as it does with an in-person team. This is because engagement is closely tied to connection; when employees feel connected with their colleagues, they’re more likely to be committed to the mission of the company.
But according to Cigna’s Loneliness and the Workplace 2020 U.S. Report, remote employees are more likely to be lonely than their in-person counterparts.
The same survey found that those who reported feeling lonely were also less productive, contributed lower quality work, and were more likely to leave their position.
But, how you structure your remote work environment can go a long way toward creating a more engaged and positive company culture.
The employee engagement strategies that work best are those that both create opportunities for connection between coworkers and surround them in an uplifting team culture.
Just as employees who work in an office are invited to go on an annual staff retreat, so too should remote workers. This gives them valuable face-to-face time with colleagues and immerses them in the team culture, which they can feel more connected to throughout the year.
While it’s hard to imagine in-person retreats happening anytime soon, many organizations are realizing that virtual retreats are just as useful for nurturing relationships between remote employees. The team at Agorapulse, a social media management tool, found that with careful structuring, a virtual staff retreat was an effective way to get employees engaged and build chemistry with one another.
Connection and communication don’t have to end when the Zoom call does. Try to use another main channel of communication where coworkers can discuss projects, share documents, and ideally hop on to chat.
Tools like Slack and Google Hangouts were built for exactly this sort of collaboration. They streamline crucial communication that would otherwise get lost in email chains and offer an environment where more casual conversations can happen.
Cakes, donuts, and group lunches are the norm for an employee’s birthday or work anniversary in the office. Make sure to put in the same effort for a remote worker.
If the remote worker is part of a team that mostly works in an office, pass a birthday card around for everyone to sign, then mail it to the employee in time for their big day. A digital group card like Kudoboard works well for a fully remote staff. A bouquet of flowers or a gift card to a favorite restaurant on behalf of the team also makes a great gift.
Keeping a checklist on file denoting a remote worker’s birthday, likes, and interests makes this easier. Download this template and fill one out for each employee to get started.
After attending Zoom meetings for work, employees might struggle to stay engaged for yet another virtual happy hour.
According to a BBC article, “Zoom fatigue” is real. Its causes? Awkward silences, people talking over each other, lags in video and audio caused by unstable connections, among others. That said, virtual social events can still help employees unwind and feel more connected. Structuring those events around a theme or game can reduce awkward silences and sidestep “Zoom fatigue.”
There are several classic games that lend themselves well to these sorts of calls, such as trivia, Mafia, Pictionary, or Heads Up!, just to name a few. Consider giving each person an UberEats credit to use for the night, since it’s not possible to have everyone snacking together at the office.
Opening activities and reflections at the end of virtual meetings give remote employees opportunities to contribute to the conversation and share their experiences.
The “one-word” icebreaker opens meetings by asking employees to share one word in response to a question posed by the host, such as “How are you feeling today?” or “How do you feel about the topic of today’s meeting?”
“Rose, bud, thorn” is an exercise that works well at the end of meetings. Employees take turns describing a highlight or successful outcome of the meeting (the rose), an opportunity or something they want to learn more about (the bud), and a challenge or something they could use help with (the thorn).
At the end of the day, employees who work in an office are able to leave their work at work. With employees who aren’t used to being remote, this doesn’t necessarily come as naturally. Working from home can lead to muddled boundaries about when someone is on the clock and when they’re not. This lack of control and boundaries at work has even been linked with health issues like back pain in the workplace. Managers should be mindful of this challenge and think carefully about how they can help their remote workforce maintain a healthy work-life balance.
The first step toward this is for everyone to have clarity on how and when daily communications happen. For example, members of the team could agree that touch base calls take place every day at 10 am. Another agreed-upon expectation could be that no one should try to reach each other via their personal phones after 5 pm when email can suffice. You can log these preferences or agreements in this downloadable engaged employee checklist.
Technology can bring together workers from across the globe and help remote employees feel less lonely.. The key is to use that technology in a way that feels inclusive and respects work-life balance.
Hosting carefully structured social events, setting clear communication expectations, and using software that suits your team’s communication style are just a few of the ways you can honor remote employees’ time while creating opportunities for them to develop stronger connections.