6 Strategies on How to Engage Remote Employees
A mere 6% of Americans worked mostly from home in 2019. By 2021, that number had tripled according to the American Community Survey. Depending on who’s talking, that’s good news, right?
On the one hand, employees reported higher productivity, increased morale, and better communication.
But then there is the reality. Once the honeymoon period is over, how do you engage remote employees to keep them happily employed in your company? Beyond that, how can your company continue to reap the benefits that accrue from a productive remote workforce?
Pew Research reported in 2022 that when the pandemic was over 60% of workers in jobs that can be done remotely say that they would prefer to work from home all or most of the time. On the plus side, they are enjoying a greater work-life balance and feel more capable of getting the job done. Then there’s the 40% who don’t want to work from home, and even for those who do, there are downsides.
The Inherent Risk in the Remote Model
Harvard Business Review reports that while businesses have seized the opportunity to broaden their talent pool and increase their flexibility, there are social risks that companies can’t afford to ignore.
Among them are increased levels of loneliness, and isolation. Burnout is no small issue, either. Yes, work-from-home employees have greater control over when they work. However, this can be a double-edged sword with today’s always-on technologies.
In fact, remote employees find themselves working longer and harder without the rewards that come from office camaraderie and over-the-cubicle chats with co-workers. They don’t even have a decompression time afforded by a commute.
When workers feel overworked, this can lead to disengagement. It’s the last thing you want for any employee, but it’s even more detrimental for remote workers since, without that face-to-face contact, it can go undetected. There are fewer opportunities to pick up on the visual cues that employees offer when you ask “how’s it going?” Indeed, remote workers may not feel the same sense of loyalty as they would if they worked in the office.
Yet, remote work isn’t going to go away. Today, the challenge is how to engage remote employees and keep them productive for the long haul.
Strategies on How to Engage Remote Employees
All employees, whether they are office-based, hybrid, or remote, can benefit from well-designed retention strategies.
Check out our top 10 here. In addition, your remote workforce may need additional strategies to address issues that, although perhaps not unique to them, impact them more.
Here are six strategies to ensure that your remote employees stick around.
1. Enforce Sustainable Work Habits
The highly touted increase in productivity was a hallmark of remote work during the pandemic. But this could actually be a warning sign that employees are on the fast track toward burnout.
A Microsoft survey indicates that in the year following the start of Covid-19, meeting times have increased by 148%, emails by 40.6 billion, and the number of people working on collaborative documents by 66%.
Sure, some of this frenetic activity has to do with remote work, but “doing stuff” does not always equal greater output. In fact, it could be a sign of inefficiency. At the very least, it’s what happens as workers try to do more to prove their worth by being always on and always available. It may take some creativity, but companies can and should respect and enforce breaks and sensible work habits. GitLab, for example, uses virtual coffee breaks which allow employees to chat together on a video call.
2. Provide Opportunities to Network
When workers are remote, they may miss out on opportunities to network across the company. Those chance meetings and hallway encounters no longer happen. Consequently, networks are getting smaller and the move toward dismantling silos that we saw in the previous decade is all but disappearing.
Some employees will seek networking opportunities beyond the workplace by joining LinkedIn or alma mater groups, pursuing community and volunteer activities, or even spending time in co-working spaces. Still, it’s important for companies to provide remote teams with more opportunities within the organization to keep them engaged. The company can do this through virtual affinity groups, classes, cross-functional teams, and coordinated volunteer activities in the community.
3. Make the Physical Office Space More Enticing
Most remote workers need to come into the office from time to time, particularly if they work a hybrid schedule. The office should be an inviting space with plenty of areas for collaboration.
It’s good to include comfortable rest areas and accommodate nursing moms, exercise, power naps, and more. Every office is different, of course, and not every company has expansive facilities, but a facilities planner can help optimize the space and make it a welcoming place.
4. Supercharge Your Onboarding Processes
A lackluster onboarding experience gets remote employees off to a shaky start. In addition to equipment and software, onboarding employees need support using the technology effectively, finding the right resourcing, accessing documents, and understanding the quirks of the culture.
Don’t assume that just because you have a Gen Z employee, you can plug them into the platform and walk away. While they may fully understand the technology and be fully functional when it comes to performing the job, they may also need the human connection that is missing from a Zoom meeting.
Find ways to facilitate the establishment of personal relationships in person.
5. Keep the Virtual Doors Wide Open
There are plenty of creative ways to collaborate and work together via technology. Every encounter shouldn’t necessarily be about work. Plan virtual coffee breaks, happy hours, games, birthday celebrations, or even non-work-related classes.
It’s not just about peer-to-peer contact. Remote employees need to feel included by their managers. This is particularly important when their managers aren’t physically available.
In-office employees can always talk to their manager even if it’s just a five-minute chat in the hallway. These chance encounters are important because they afford employees and managers an opportunity to connect and air concerns. Make an open-door policy a deliberate and demonstrated part of your communication strategy.
6. Get Interested in Your Employees
It takes very little time and energy to get to know more about other employees. What are their passions? What do they do in their time off? What do they value? What causes do they support?
When employees know that you’re interested in who they are as people, they feel more engaged and committed to you and to the mission of the company.
One way to open up a value-based dialogue with employees is by providing a corporate giving platform like Groundswell.
Groundswell makes it easy for your company to embrace the causes that are important to them. The platform provides a tax-advantaged personal giving account to employees. Your company can contribute matching funds or even sponsor employee volunteers. It establishes charitable giving as an employee benefit, attracting and retaining values-driven talent with a perk that matters.
To learn more, contact Groundswell.
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