When it comes to working arrangements, remote shouldn’t mean isolated, inaccessible or uninvolved. Instead, a remote team should be as close-knit, cohesive and functional as an on-site team.
However, improving results and collaboration inside a remote environment isn’t straightforward. Getting your remote employees involved with your company and each other requires a clearly defined approach and a heavy emphasis on employee engagement.
In short, you have to know how to engage remote employees, so they buy into your organization and help you reach your goals. But how? In this article, we’re going to share some top employee engagement initiatives, so you have some insight into engaging remote employees in your workplace.
The benefits: why employee engagement matters
Remote employee engagement is a core performance, satisfaction and business outcome driver. In fact, it’s often the deciding factor in the success or failure of a remote working program. Studies show people who work from home tend to be more productive, focused and happier than employees restricted to working on-site at all times. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore or neglect them.
Feelings of social isolation, disconnection and professional stagnation can quickly emerge for remote workers who don’t get quality interactions with colleagues or employers. And remote workers who are disengaged and dissatisfied with their jobs are quick to leave. That’s one of the reasons engaging remote employees is so important.
In addition, remote employee engagement has a slew of other tangible benefits. Let’s look at some of the biggest ones.
Engaged employees are more focused, interested in, committed to and enthusiastic about their work. As a result, they are also much more productive.
Gallup, a global organizational analytics firm, found that teams with higher levels of employee engagement were 17% more productive than disengaged teams. Interestingly, companies can also improve productivity by switching from on-site to remote or flexible arrangements.
Increases job satisfaction
Our feelings of job satisfaction strongly depend on how closely the work aligns with our values and meets our emotional needs. For example, we’re more likely to feel satisfied with work that slightly challenges us, enables autonomy, creates a sense of belonging and has meaning.
Companies can meet many of these needs through a corporate culture that supports deep, holistic employee engagement.
Improves retention rates
Engaging remote employees is the secret remedy to improving retention rates. Organizations that enact and support employee engagement initiatives see stark drops in workforce turnover. For example, in one evaluation, organizations with high turnover lowered rates by 18% and organizations with low turnover were able to further reduce rates by 43%.
Keep in mind that employees leave for an assortment of reasons. Top reasons often include burnout, boredom, feeling disconnected from upper management, career switches and insufficient pay. Some of these issues are directly related to employee engagement, while others aren’t. But organizations can overcome many of the top problems by successfully engaging remote employees.
Absenteeism rates can see an even more dramatic improvement by engaging remote employees. In fact, Gallup noted an average 81% drop in absenteeism when organizations implemented robust employee engagement initiatives.
Employee absenteeism can occur due to personal issues and severely dysfunctional workplaces. Two other fundamental causes are the lack of work engagement and a lack of organizational commitment. Workers who are not committed to or engaged with their tasks or workplace are more likely to be absent without cause.
When present, they work with less vigor, dedication, focus and task absorption. It’s an all-around poor situation. As a result, organizations experiencing high absentee rates should engage remote employees in ways that concentrate on shared values, purpose-driven work, and team membership.
Improved employee health
Want health-conscious employees? Keep them engaged in their work and the company. Engaged employees are more likely to report participating in healthy lifestyle choices and activities. They eat more fruits and veggies, exercise more and are better at sticking to a healthy diet. On top of that, they’re less likely to have chronic diseases.
A Gallup study determined that these behaviors hold true even when controlling for health conditions, income and varying demographic factors. Healthy employees are always good for business. But healthy and engaged workers are even better. That’s because high engagement and high well-being levels are two of three factors needed to burnout-proof employees. The third is a strengths-based culture. According to Gallup, employees working under these conditions experience virtually zero burnout – even throughout stressful pandemic-related challenges.
Boosted profits and sales
Profitability is an inevitable result of better focus, work attendance, health and productivity. Gallup’s assessments estimate that highly engaged workplaces are 21% to 23% more profitable and can see an 18% boost in sales.
And Taleo Research determined that organizations see 26% higher revenue per employee when employees are highly engaged. Engaged employees aren’t just doing busy work. They’re more attentive and conscientious, delivering higher quality work with fewer mistakes.
9 ways to engage remote employees
We’ve covered the compounding benefits you can experience by engaging remote employees. So, how can you put it into action? Here are nine practical employee engagement ideas.
1. Strengthen your onboarding processes for your remote employees
Engage remote employees right from onboarding. Use a structured approach to create a welcoming and informative onboarding experience to set your employees up for success. For example, remote employee onboarding should always include things like:
- Clear expectations
- Information on who to contact when they need HR or IT support
- What resources are available
- Who their supervisor and team members are
- Information on typical working procedures
- An overview of company culture
- And more
Make it warm and personal and give them a great first impression of their new work life.
2. Bring the team together
Remote workers who aren’t intentionally connecting usually end up feeling isolated. Make combatting these feelings a priority by creating opportunities to connect as people. Here are a few ideas:
- Host virtual coffee breaks: invite all the team members to make their favorite coffee or tea drink at a specific time and hop on a video call to drink it together. (You can even offer gift cards to popular coffee or tea shops to support this)
- Do lunch competitions: see who has the healthiest or most interesting lunch
- Host outfit theme days: invite WFH team members to dress up or dress in costume
- Do a show and tell: what do team members have lying around that’s exciting, interesting, meaningful or funny?
- Create random contests: throw spur-of-the-moment competitions, like photo captioning, trivia or interactive brackets (akin to March Madness) competitions
- Invite employees to home office tours: let employees show each other their workspaces.
- Host multi-player games: keep it clean, light and inoffensive. Some fun games include scrabble, sudoku or crosswords. You can even host championships if the team gets into it.
- Have employees introduce their pets: there’s nothing quite like cute animals to bring people together.
Be creative and unique, but always keep things light and voluntary. Avoid forcing anyone into social interactions that make them feel uncomfortable or overly awkward.
3. Provide mentoring and coaching
Mentoring, coaching and other professional support programs are terrific options for engaging remote employees. You can use this to close skill gaps, boost strengths, prepare employees for future roles or offer general support. Mentoring and coaching can happen via online meeting tools or over the phone on an as-needed basis or for ongoing assistance.
Corporate mentoring is highly effective and well worth doing. It improves employee performance, loyalty, cultural fit, retention and attendance.
4. Offer career advancement opportunities
Career stagnation seems to be a theme in poorly run remote working programs. For example, one study found remote workers are 38% less likely to receive bonuses and less likely to advance than in-person employees. These concerns are completely avoidable.
Create an internal structure with remote learning, growth and advancement opportunities. Enable remote employees to take on new projects, shadow more advanced colleagues and network. Organizations can also sponsor relevant industry growth opportunities for remote workers, such as conferences, workshops and certification programs. Your remote workers will be more engaged and loyal when you consistently nurture and provide them with growth opportunities.
5. Focus on communication
Organizational communication can always be a challenge. But remote workers lose the benefits of face-to-face and in-person connections. So make it easy for remote workers to communicate and collaborate with peers and supervisors with tools.
Do your remote workers have a way to pull a colleague aside for a quick chat? Can they check in with team members as easily as employees working in the same room? If not, you’ll need some tools and processes to make these things possible. Keep in mind clear and organized digital communication will likely require several tools. Take the time to designate specific platforms for updates, work briefs, chats, project management, collaboration, etc.
6. Recognition and rewards
Make your remote employees feel noticed, appreciated and valued with recognition and rewards. Recognizing the contributions of remote workers helps create a stronger sense of belonging and purpose. It also boosts morale, motivation, engagement, productivity and corporate loyalty.
Here are a few ideas for rewarding your remote employees:
- Send out emails recognizing work well done
- Offer bonuses or raises
- Reward employees with a paid vacation day or two
- Praise them on social media
- Create an internal or public employee wall of fame
- Blog about their work
- Celebrate employee birthdays
7. Emphasize the work-life balance
Remote arrangements are a great way to reduce unnecessary travel time, routine stress and unhealthy habits. But this also has the potential to blur the lines between work hours and personal time. There are two policies that can help your organization support a healthier work-life balance: flexible work and a “Right to Disconnect” policy.
Flexible work arrangements allow employees to set or alter their work schedules. This arrangement is perfect for employees with other commitments, like parents and students, or employees who simply want to break up their day. Flex work can be used in a limited or comprehensive scope and on a temporary or permanent basis. Determine what hours are necessary for employees to work, then give them the leeway to set the rest of their schedule.
Right-to-disconnect policies ensure that work doesn’t take over a remote employee’s life. Team members working from home still need a clear sense of boundaries, breaks and working hours. Recognize and enforce their right to stop working and disconnect from communication channels after work.
8. Invest in employee well-being initiatives
Put well-being initiatives high on your list of employee engagement ideas. Brainstorm for anything that can help employees tackle feelings of isolation and stress, improve coping skills and develop resiliency. Here are a few ideas.
- Well-being, Resilience, and Mental Health Training: host lectures, workshops or other learning sessions on meditation, mindfulness and stress management.
- Allot Mini Wellness Breaks: give employees short wellness breaks throughout the day for wellness-related activities and encourage workers to take them! They should feel comfortable taking breathers, meditating, drinking water or even taking a brief walk when needed.
- Mental Health Benefits: consider extending mental health support to employees with benefits. These programs offer more robust and clinical help to workers experiencing poor mental health or going through serious stressors or challenges.
9. Ask them what they want
Don’t waste time or resources on employee engagement initiatives nobody wants, needs or values. Touch base with your remote workers to discover how they’re doing, what support is needed and how they want to be engaged.
Get their feedback before and after implementing new ideas. To do this, create a safe, open and dialogue-friendly environment. Additionally, consider the following:
- Using anonymous survey tools periodically
- Incentivizing feedback with rewards (gift cards, time off, etc.)
- Provide a channel for ongoing feedback, suggestions and open discussion
As an added benefit, considering your employees’ opinions will deepen their sense of engagement and occupational commitment.
Engaging remote employees with better tech, processes and support
Many people fantasize about a remote working lifestyle. But many organizations struggle with providing a fulfilling and rewarding WFH experience. That’s where we can help.
From onboarding to 24/7 support, at Outstaffer.com, we help companies find, hire, pay and equip the best global talent. With our Managed Devices, Attendance and Time Tracking, VR Workplaces and Workforce Monitoring, we give your remote employees the tools they need to feel engaged and ready to work. Want to learn more? Contact us today for a demo.