The hurdles in engaging a remote workforce
In our new normal of hybrid and remote work, flexibility and autonomy rank supreme. Despite the struggles of the last couple of years, many employees agree that their work-life balance has improved since making the switch to remote.
However, there are still some downsides to consider. According to the latest surveys, 70% of remote employees struggle with feelings of isolation. Further, 63% feel less engaged with their colleagues. The reality is that humans need connection, and many people get that connection from work. Ensuring your team maintains that connectivity can be quite challenging when working remotely, especially if those workers have never met in person.
When workers feel disconnected, it can be hard for them to feel invested in the company culture. They can also feel excluded from advancement opportunities and disengaged overall. Pre-2020, these hurdles were only prevalent in the occasional distributed team or forward-thinking startup. Now, companies everywhere have to figure out the ins and outs of engaging a remote workforce.
Thankfully, there are lots of proven tools and techniques to help keep your remote employees engaged and feeling connected. Let’s take a look.
9 best practices for keeping your remote employees engaged
1. Keep people in the loop
You have to keep your employees in the loop. Things can change quickly, and it’s your responsibility to ensure your remote employees feel like they know what’s going on. Take time to fill them in on company news before posting it on social media or releasing a press release. Good communication is a key component of employee engagement strategies, and it’s especially important in remote environments.
2. Support total wellbeing
Issues in professional and personal wellbeing can be challenging to spot. That’s why it’s important to look for signs that your remote workers might be struggling. Early indicators of stress and burnout can include skipping meetings, calling in sick, keeping their cameras off during video calls, not talking much on the company chat boards and more.
Consider providing training opportunities to support your employees’ professional and personal wellbeing. Furter, encourage your employees to have hobbies outside of work and share those outside interests with the team. Doing so helps show your employees you care about them as a person.
3. Empower your people
Flexibility and autonomy are the names of the game. The more you can empower your employees to take charge, the more empowered and engaged they’ll feel. Consider allowing them to choose their own hours or allow some wiggle room in the schedule. Even giving your employees small choices like whether to do meetings via phone or video chat can go a long way.
4. Help them feel part of the company culture
Company culture isn’t easily defined. In hybrid environments, it can be even trickier. However, company culture differentiates today’s best brands, so it’s essential to find a way to make sure your remote employees feel included.
If you’re feeling lost about how to bring your remote employees into the fold – ask them! Encourage your remote workers to talk about how they feel the company culture translates in the remote environment. When everyone is working in person, it’s easy to rely on the intangible feeling of company culture. But when everyone isn’t in the office, you might need to get a little clearer and define those values and create action plans to ensure your remote workers get to feel them.
For example, if the in-office team grabs lunch together every Tuesday on the company’s dime, consider giving your remote employees a stipend for lunch on Tuesdays, too. Then, encourage your remote team to eat with each other on a video call to replicate the in-person culture experience.
5. Encourage your remote employees to chat with each other
Encourage your remote employees to talk with each other outside the regular meetings. Things like virtual coffee breaks, 1:1 chat channels and shared break times are terrific opportunities to encourage your remote employees to bond with each other. Smaller groups are better for building trust, so really encourage those smaller group meetups.
Conversations with managers are important, too. Consider having an open-door policy (or an open chat policy) so your remote employees feel like they always have the opportunity to talk with their supervisors. Additionally, be sure the supervisors initiate some of these informal check-ins, too.
6. Take time to hear everyone
It’s essential to think about inclusion for remote employees. While your office workers can easily engage via chat channels, email and Zoom, your deskless remote workers might feel left out. Find ways to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to engage and be a part of the team.
If you aren’t sure how to do this, things like employee surveys and mobile social platforms are a terrific way to get the whole team’s input. The most important thing is that when your employees provide feedback or offer input, you listen to what they have to say. Whether it’s an email, chat, call or survey, it’s a company’s responsibility to ensure their employees feel heard.
7. Don’t forget about the fun activities with remote workers
Remote workers like to have fun too. Informal activities are some of the best ways to encourage connection and communication between team members. It also helps make employees feel more loyal to the company and happier overall. As a result, it’s crucial to plan and budget for some fun and informal activities for the team. It could be anything from low-stakes quizzes and book clubs to once a month karaoke night, sports brackets and more.
8. Schedule some cross over hours
Flexibility is important; however, loneliness and disconnection can wreak havoc on remote teams. To remedy this, consider having a small number of set working hours, where everyone hops on and works together for specific hours during the day. This is a terrific way to allow flexibility while still giving employees plenty of time to connect.
Additionally, if it’s feasible for your team, having a physical workspace or co-working space is still a great idea. For some companies, a once-a-week required in-person day works great. For others, a monthly day of co-working is the way to go. Then, sometimes just having the option to co-work is enough to allow your employees who need a little extra connection to have the means to do so.
9. Utilize communication tools
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in terms of working together from anywhere. Communication tools are invaluable to keeping your whole team engaged and communicating. So take the time to find the tech stack to keep all your employees communicating from wherever they are.
How can remote workers stay engaged while working from home?
We’ve already talked about things employers can do to boost engagement, but what about remote employees? Here are a few tips for how employees can be proactive about staying engaged with their work.
Create a dedicated workspace.
Even if you don’t have the space for a home office, you should still take some time to create a space specifically for working. This will help you transition from work to home life easier and help keep your work and life balanced while working from home.
Set boundaries for home and work
When you work from home, it can be really challenging to exit work mode. (Conversely, it can be challenging to exit home mode, too). It’s essential for you to set clear boundaries between your work life and your home life, so you don’t burn out.
There are several tricks for making this easier. For example, some people get dressed and ready for work as they would for an office. Then, they get back in their comfortable clothes once they’re off for the day. This little trick can help keep the lines from getting blurred. Another big one is turning your notifications off when your working day is done. Do whatever you need to do to help yourself transition out of work mode to avoid getting burnt out.
Deal with distractions
Approximately 80% of remote workers get distracted while working from home. From children, partners and pets to Netflix, video games and smartphones, there’s no shortage of distractions when working from home. That’s why you have to set up a routine and plan to minimize your distractions.
Small choices, like turning off your phone notification, using noise-canceling headphones and preparing your meals in advance are some excellent ways to fight distraction during the day. Be sure to set a regular work schedule and devise a plan for busting distractions during your chosen working hours.
Take care of yourself
More than half of workers admit to struggling with burnout. So it’s important to take care of yourself to avoid the same fate. Take time to go for a walk, meditate, take breaks and step away when you need to.
Additionally, make sure your work-from-home setup isn’t hurting your physical health. For example, consider using an ergonomic chair and be sure to take plenty of eye breaks to avoid eye strain.
Take charge of your time
One benefit to working remotely is that you have more flexibility with your day. Think about when your energy levels are higher and lower, and stack your schedule to fit with those ebbs and flows.
For instance, maybe you have more energy in the morning and feel more fatigued by midafternoon. You can stack your workload to handle the higher demand tasks first and lower demand activities like email and admin tasks in the afternoon. Find ways to work smarter and make the most of your time.
Take time to check in with your co-workers and bosses. If you’re already feeling isolated, it can be challenging to take the initiative to reach out. However, doing so can make all the difference. Even a ten-minute chat with a co-worker can help boost your mood and make you feel more connected with your team.
The pervasiveness of loneliness
Even before the pandemic started, remote workers struggled with isolation and loneliness. However, if we can recognize loneliness as a societal problem and not just one facing workplaces, we can rethink our approach.
As a whole, our society is becoming increasingly disconnected. Even before lockdowns and pandemic woes, our collective participation in social activities has declined for years. That’s why companies have to take a holistic approach to help their remote employees tackle loneliness. In-house initiatives aren’t enough.
Instead, in addition to in-house strategies, companies should encourage their employees to do things like checking in with their neighbors and participating in community events. Companies have to take a proactive approach and be creative to combat loneliness.
As the remote work landscape continues to evolve, it’s critical to keep remote employee engagement on the front burner, and tackling loneliness is one of the best strategies for engaging a remote workforce.
Need help engaging your remote employees? Our managed technology gives your remote team all the tools they need to battle loneliness, connect and work.