More and more companies are increasing the number of remote employees on their payroll, hiring members of their workforce on a full-time or part-time remote basis. With the recent onset of COVID-19, the number of remote workers in the US has only risen. 95% of employees want to work from home to some degree, and companies can save up to $11,000 per person by embracing remote working practices. However, how do you keep remote workers engaged when they’re not there in person? Here we look at different ways to improve the motivation and experience of your remote workforce, from video conferencing to water cooler chat and software tools.
How to Keep Remote Employees Engaged
Here are 10 ways to engage remote employees easily and effectively:
1. Use the best software collaboration tools
When a substantial amount of your team works from home, it’s crucial to have the best software for communication and collaboration on group projects that require multiple team members. By using software to your advantage, you keep remote employees as informed as people working in the same building.
Slack (Communication channels)
When it comes to communication channels, it doesn’t get much better than Slack. Famously used for communication in organizations all over the world, Slack allows you to create different “channels” for different projects and/or teams in your company. It’s very convenient. As well as helping remote teams to stay in the loop, Slack helps remote employees feel included by facilitating direct messages too. This way, remote workers can DM other workers (whether in-office or remote) to ask questions about projects or just have casual chats for fun.
Google Hangouts (Video calling)
If you want to organize video meetings in the modern world, Google Hangouts is usually the best place to start. Available on all popular browsers and operating systems, Hangouts is easy to use as it allows you to invite people via email and even syncs up with their Google calendar across various time zones. Hangouts is undoubtedly the best program for video meetings with remote staff.
Asana (Work Management)
Asana is a brilliant project management tool that can be used by both in-office and remote workers alike. Designed to help divide projects up into tasks and sub-tasks, Asana makes it easy to delegate jobs to different team members. It doesn’t matter if you work from home or not, Asana is a great way to track the progress of team projects.
ClickUp (For Multiple Remote Team Members)
A new program that’s gaining traction recently is ClickUp. Based on project management systems like Asana, ClickUp is specifically designed for disparate teams where there is a mix of a remote employee workforce and in-office workforce. It’s a very interesting concept! Once a worker completes their task on ClickUp, the person who the next step is assigned to will be automatically notified. This helps to move projects along without remote employees and workplace employees needing to pester one another.
2. Hold regular check-ins
Part of improving the employee engagement and experience is holding regular check-ins with your teams to see how each employee is getting on with their work and whether they have any issues to raise. Encourage weekly check-ins with employees who work remotely, preferably via video call. You’ll make remote employees feel more like part of the team. This can help you to establish a human connection with your remote workforce while also allowing you to convey company goals for the month, quarter, or year. In real life, you might have a quick chat to check up on people, so make sure you find a digital equivalent to this.
3. Make your remote workforce feel appreciated
When you work remotely and you don’t see your bosses in person, it can feel a little bit like you’re a digital robot churning out work for other people to use. Be sure to recognize the achievements of your employees who work from home just as you would with regular team members. Multiple studies have shown that employee happiness and engagement goes down when an employee doesn’t feel appreciated or remembered… no matter their office environment.
Remember birthdays & special occasions
Managers should try their best to keep track of employee birthdays, work anniversaries, and any other special occasions that should be celebrated. Consider sending out care packages, birthday cards, or simply well wishes on special occasions.
Check your inbox regularly
It’s easy for a manager to lose track of communication when they’ve got a lot on their plate, but try to keep on top of your Slack threads and email inbox regularly. Those working remotely only have limited ways to keep in touch with you. A remote employee can’t knock on your office door when you ignore them! For example, if you accidentally forget to reply to a thread from someone working from home, it can be tricky for them to know whether you’ve read their message and ignored it or whether you’ve just forgotten to open it and reply.
4. Consider a “water cooler” channel for casual chat
20% of remote employee workers experience loneliness and isolation, with many more simply feeling periods of intense boredom. Everyday office chit-chat may seem menial, but this casual social interaction can be essential to mental health and happiness. Water cooler talk is important, it turns out. For this reason, many companies now consider a “water cooler” channel on Slack or a similar communication app where employees can share ideas, talk casually, and discuss the latest sports game or TV show that everyone’s talking about. Whether you use a tool like this depends on your company culture, but it’s a great way to engage remote workers and foster a sense of camaraderie between teams.
5. Use video calls to humanize each other
Over 50% of human communication is now non-verbal, meaning that we’re reading words on a screen rather than having a normal conversation with each other. This is against our biology – we’re designed to see and speak to each other in real life, picking up on body language and tone of voice. Video meetings are the best alternative we have for remote employees. Holding video meetings is one of the best ways to keep remote employees engaged and make them feel like they know you and their other team members better. Rather than a Slack profile behind a screen, other team members suddenly become living, breathing people. As well as helping to visually engage remote employees, video meetings make communication much easier because people are able to detect nuance, intonation and body language when talking to each other, making it easier to understand the finer details of a team member’s point. Text just isn’t the same.
6. Encourage remote team building activities
If you want to know how to engage remote employees, team-building activities are a great place to start. While you can’t always get in-office and remote employees together in the same place, you can hold virtual team sessions through apps like Zoom and Hangouts. Team sessions encourage employee engagement, creativity, camaraderie, and new ideas, just like your team is all together in one place.
Simplified role-playing games are a brilliant way to help remote employees and regular employees have fun, bond, share ideas, and get a feel for one another’s personalities. Whether the games are work-based or purely for fun, they can be a great tool in your employee engagement arsenal.
Storytelling workshops are a great tool for bringing together your employees working remotely and in your workplace. Teaching employees how to tell interesting stories is a fun team activity that also translates into the business world when it comes to holding meetings and pitching ideas etc.
7. Build and establish trust with remote employees
If you want to know how to engage remote employees, you must first build a sense of trust between you and them. It’s reported that 82% of employees don’t trust their boss, and this can be even worse for remote work situations where employees don’t even physically interact with their manager. Building trust with a remote work team is even more difficult than it is with a physical work team, so don’t underestimate the importance of this task. Make sure to talk to remote employees regularly, informing people working from home about the details of projects, upcoming ideas, and maybe even a little office gossip depending on your company culture and your relationship with them.
Trust your employees too
While it’s crucial for remote employees to trust their managers, it’s also important for managers to trust their employees too. Trust goes both ways and requires consistent engagement and work on both parties to keep it strong. Do you trust your employees? It can be tempting to nag remote work employees. You’re not there in person, so you cannot easily check up on their progress and see how their work is going. Try to let go of this and trust your remote teams to get the job done without you nagging them 24/7. The remote employee experience will be much worse if you don’t trust them to do their job.
8. Provider regular feedback
45% of highly-engaged employees receive regular feedback on their work at least once per week. Similarly, 69% of employees in the US said that they would work harder for a company that recognized their achievements more often. Managers should always give employees feedback, no matter the work environment. Regular feedback allows you to touch base with remote employees and make sure they have everything they need to work from home efficiently. Make sure that you recognize their achievements while also bringing up any negatives and critiques to help the employee improve.
Receive regular feedback too
Just like trust and communication, feedback is a two-way street! Or at least, it should be. Managers aren’t perfect, so be sure to ask for feedback on your own performance from employees working remotely. They might tell you that you don’t check your inbox often enough, you don’t give them enough details to start projects, or you don’t explain tasks clearly enough over text. Remote worker engagement requires different skills on your part too, so make sure you allow your remote workers to critique you.
9. Tell remote workers about positive results
If a remote work employee gets a positive customer review or some great client feedback, be sure to relay this to them in a message. This also applies for team achievements – if your team met its target for the quarter, be sure to inform remote staff if they helped with the efforts. This is especially true for back-end data that employees can’t access in their home office. As well as improving remote employee engagement and happiness, this helps to make people feel like one of the team by staying in the loop with the latest office developments and achievements.
10. Improve work-life balance to boost engagement levels
If you’ve got people who work remotely on your team, one of the reasons they like working remotely is probably due to a better work-life balance. However, some companies have Draconian policies regarding breaks and working hours that might make remote workers feel restricted despite their distance. Step into the 21st century! Remote employee engagement could be improved by allowing them to work flexible hours if it suits the company. This can free up time for remote workers to work on side projects and freelancing… or maybe just having fun and being happy.
We hope you enjoyed these remote employee engagement ideas! Engaging remote employees is one of the most difficult tasks for a company, especially if it’s used to dealing with in-person employees. From video calling to two-way feedback, there are so many ways that a company can improve engagement with remote workers. Whichever form of remote employee engagement you try, we hope you find the one that works for you!