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 min read
February 13, 2020

8 Ways to Engage Your Remote Workforce

Better scheduling and digital tools can help any business avoid the communication pitfalls of remote working and give flexibility to employers and employees.

Better scheduling and digital tools can help any business avoid the communication pitfalls of remote working and ensure that the flexibility it offers can be embraced by employers and employees alike.

Remote work options are becoming an attractive benefit for any company to offer in today's HR environment. With changing dynamics in the ways we work and raise our families, the need for greater flexibility at work is becoming inherently more critical.

Several different aspects comprise the way we define remote work. Some employees work full-time from their home, which may be located in a different city, state, or even country than the primary office, while others choose to take a day to work remotely here and there. The latter of these trends is particularly gaining traction as a study has revealed that 70% of the global workforce now works remotely at least once per week.

There are many benefits to investing in remote work offerings for your employees. These benefits tend to include reduced absences, as employees will feel less pressure to have to miss work for family emergencies or other pressing matters that could keep them at home. It could also attract a larger talent pool for recruitment, as remote work is an attractive benefit for prospective candidates today. Remote work can also help increase employee satisfaction levels by providing more flexibility and a more favorable work-life balance.

While there are many benefits of remote work, there is often a disconnect in engagement across teams when some members are in the office and others are thousands of miles away. Finding ways to engage your remote workforce is critical for retention, employee satisfaction, and overall company progression. It's also important that your team feels like they all operate as a united front.Here are eight ways that you can increase engagement in your remote workforce:

1.   Encourage consistent communication

Communication across your entire team, regardless of their locations, needs to be consistent, not widespread. The same practices must be used for everyone on the team.Start this process by ensuring that everyone is using the same communication channels. It can cause misalignment and miscommunication when too many (or too few) are involved. Slack is an excellent option for teams with remote employees to utilize. This program can integrate with other applications, and it makes it easy to see communication with all employees and quickly identify when team members are out of office, working remotely, or in a meeting.As is true of any, it's important to remember that there are varying communication styles on every team, i.e., introverts and extroverts. Also consider varying cultures and time zones. If it is already late on your time zone, consider waiting until the next day to message your employee in a different zone. Always be mindful of the tone you're using when communicating via Slack, email, or other message-based communication channels. Tones can often come off differently in messages than intended. If something is better said than written - pick up the phone.

2.   Schedule regular office visits

Remote employees want to feel that their presence is valued just as much as their in-office colleagues. Create a schedule that includes a minimum amount of times remote employees should be brought in to the office. This can help with engaging them in ongoing events and projects. Particularly for company-wide meetings, task sprints, or holiday parties when their presence adds value.Innovative ideas often happen through casual face-to-face conversation that occurs in more informal settings. Bringing your remote employees to the office every so often can help fuel these innovations. Some companies are even beginning to host company-wide retreats, where all team members can gather in fun locations for team bonding or training. This is a beneficial time for everyone to be together.

3.   Invest in the right technology

Investing in technology that will help your remote workforce excel is beneficial for both you and your company. Work with your IT department to research the most reliable options that fit best with your goals and budget.Cloud technology is helping fuel the digital transformation for businesses and giving remote employees and their managers more collaborative workspaces. Popular examples such as Google Drive, Trello, and Dropbox allow employees to store information, manage workflow, and collaborate on projects in the cloud. With this software, files can be accessed anywhere at any time. Other tools such as cloud HCM software allow for oversight on time and project management, and even business travel expenses. This can be a useful tool for team monitoring purposes.IT departments will need to make sure remote workers have the proper hardware and equipment for their roles as well. Supply them with laptops or desktops if required, as well as any necessary software programs. Make sure to walk them through the installation process. Don't forget to check that all of the necessary cybersecurity precautions are being taken, like using the most secure VPN, as employees working on unsecured networks can often be susceptible to data breaches and cyberattacks.

4.   Always set clear expectations

Visibility into the performance of in-office employees is often easier to see than it can be for remote employees. However, your remote employees must be held to the same expectations as everyone else is. For example, if your office has a dress code, ask remote employees to adhere to this as well for any video communications. Also, ask that they work the same set hours as other members of the team, unless you offer flexible hours or they are in a different time zone.Regardless of where they live or how they work, all employees must adhere to project deadlines. This is vital to the success of your company and its clients. Set a precedent that meeting attendance is mandatory unless there is an emergency with prior authorization from their supervisor.

5.   Be as transparent as you can be

You must build a culture of trust with all of your employees, but especially your remote employees who are out on their own most of the time. That trust needs to be given as much as it's received. Be sure always to involve them and inform them of company-wide decisions that are made. When essential meetings occur, send notes that detail what was discussed or allow the remote team members to dial in via conference call. Additionally, keep them up to date with company goal progressions and any sales and earnings reports that can be shared. This information will help motivate them and give them a clear picture of why their role is vital to the company.

6.   Establish goals they can work towards

All employees need goals that they can work towards. Host regular performance and career conversations with your remote workforce members, as well as your in-office employees. Help them to set goals that are reflective of what they want to achieve in their professional and work growth. Make sure they are set up for success to achieve these goals by having the proper resources, equipment, and support.

7.   Reward all employees equally

Don't forget to include remote employees for participation in any MVP awards or other recognition efforts. Their work is just as valuable to the team effort, even if it's not as visible. Creating a virtual recognition center on an online platform is an easy way for people to recognize each other and saying "great job!" As a manager, sending a handwritten and personalized note can go a long way to saying "thank you" or even "happy birthday."Off-site employees aren't always able to be a part of many of the fun culture-building activities. Activities such as happy hour, catered lunches, and participation in national days may look fun in photos, but remote workforce members will be bummed to miss out on them. Try to do little things to show your appreciation for them, such as sending them a lunch certificate or coffee gift card. Be sure to also include them by mailing out any company promotional items or apparel that employees receive.

8.   Build a working rapport

Building a rapport with your remote team members through small talk and check-ins is important for a healthy manager-employee working relationship. Message them on a consistent basis just to simply check in on how they’re doing. Make sure to ask what they are up to in their personal time, to get to know who they are when they are not at work. You just might find that you have a shared passion or hobby. Finding common ground with your employees can make it easier to communicate with team members.Use a reliable video chat software when meeting with them so it feels like they are in the same room as you. Dial them into the call a few minutes before the scheduled start time and don’t hang up until everyone is ready to leave the room. The few minutes before and after a meeting agenda are when casual conversation often happens. This is a critical time for building a rapport, so it’s important to make sure remote employees are there for that.Regardless of their location, remote workers are an integral part of a modern organization. Engaging them in the celebrations, culture, and goals of the company is just as important as ensuring they’re doing their job.Connecting with employees who are geographically far away can seem like a challenging task. However, with advancements in modern tools and technology, a whole new world of opportunities is now available to make the process easier. Your remote employees will be appreciative of your efforts, and you will have a more productive and engaged workforce; it's a win for all.

Laura is our Product Marketing Manager.

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