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.
How To Improve Morale at Work: Groundswell Feature in Lifehack
When workplace morale is high, it affects employee engagement and productivity in positive ways. Yet as companies pursue increasingly remote and decentralized operating models, the happiness quotient can be difficult to maintain. That may leave many leaders wondering how to improve morale at work.
According to the article “11 Ways To Boost Workplace Morale,” published on Lifehack, there are many ways to boost morale and help employees feel more connected to the organization and its core principles and values. For many employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, it’s not just a matter of phoning it in and collecting a paycheck. They want to feel that what they do matters and that the companies they work for care about making the world a better place.
That’s why corporate giving programs are so important. In fact, Groundswell was mentioned in the Lifehack article as a platform that allows companies to turn donor-advised funds (DAFs) into an employee benefit.
Following, we’ve provided a brief rundown of some of the highlights from the article:
It’s important to gather feedback so that you understand what’s working and what’s not. Provide open-ended questions and allow anonymous responses to invite candid responses. Exit interviews are a good way to get constructive criticism.
With more people working from remote locations, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page or that they feel connected. Take extra steps to ensure that employees are not isolated and lonely.
Trust employees to do things on their own to meet the deadlines and objectives established. Empowerment goes a step further, as well. Lift employee morale by inviting them to the table. Asking for input in brainstorming sessions helps employees feel included.
Use praise generously and ensure that it is, at least most of the time, unconditional. This means that it comes without counterpoints or corrections. Everyone has something you can praise. Praise does not always have to be verbal; it can come through other forms of recognition like a promotion.
Although leaders must be prudent about sensitive information, it never hurts to give employees the information they need to know. In fact, this will help them feel like valuable members of the team.
Bond through team building activities that allow employees to get to know each other beyond water cooler chitchat. These activities needn’t be elaborate or expensive. Meeting icebreakers and trivia questions can work as well as an escape room outing. There are also virtual team building activities for teams that are not co-located.
Bring teams together outside of work to help the community. Platforms such as Groundswell, which can turn corporate giving into an employee benefit, can be used to facilitate employees working together toward charitable goals.
Trust teams to get the work done. Leaders who can do this without excessive input or monitoring will find that morale increases.
Motivate employees using small incentives. Praise works well, as does a premium parking space or small spot bonus.
Oftentimes, workers feel that they can never stop working. As a leader, encourage employees to take sufficient breaks. Even short periods of time, like 30 seconds, can boost productivity by 13%.
The competitive environment, particularly technology, is changing rapidly. Offer ongoing training to let employees know that you are willing to invest in them for the long haul.
Clearly, there are many ways to bolster morale. Start by measuring, then determine the steps needed to keep your employees engaged and productive. To read the full article, visit Lifehack. Need help with boosting morale and increasing employee engagement? Groundswell can help you reimagine your approach to employee benefits. It’s easy to add Groundswell to your existing benefits package and create a program that employees can be passionate about. Contact us for more information.
Employee Engagement: 8 Ways To Support and Excite Your Team
For many executives, improving employee engagement is a top global business strategy, and for good reason. Employee engagement is critically important in today’s competitive marketplace. Engaged employees are more productive and committed to their companies, generating shareholder value and improving organizational performance. They exhibit lower levels of attrition and absenteeism. Plus, they have fewer on-the-job accidents, foster loyalty among customers and enhance the company’s reputation.
The Reality of Engagement on the Job
Gallup polls indicate that just 36% of employees are engaged on the job. Does that mean that nearly two-thirds of workers are just putting in the hours? Pretty much. According to the research, the number of actively disengaged stands at 15% through June 2021. That leaves another half of all employees who are simply showing up. Not a comforting thought. But it does show that many U.S. companies are nowhere near their potential when it comes to performance.
What Does Employee Engagement Really Look Like?
Employees can be satisfied with their jobs but not actually vested in the company. They may enjoy the work and look forward to the paycheck without being terribly interested in the company’s vision. This is not engagement. These employees would be just as comfortable collecting their paychecks from another firm.
Engagement means that employees are a key component of your overall strategy and are committed to advancing the company’s goals. It happens when companies create a culture that invites emotional connection, genuine involvement and contagious enthusiasm about the purpose and mission.
How To Improve Engagement
There are a number of programs aimed at getting employees more excited about coming to work each day. Employee engagement ideas are a dime a dozen with blog articles touting 15, 25, 50 ways to engage your workforce. But unless these programs are thoughtfully conceived, they will just be noise.
To get true engagement, employees need to feel that their work is valued, their opinions are heard and supported, and they are respected. These are the beliefs that underpin trust. Employees can have the best perks, but if trust is lacking, they will not be engaged. This trust comes from the following areas:
- Trust and respectful communications
- Open dialogues
- Exchange of thoughts and opinions
- Intentional and Positive Company Culture
- Management accountability
8 Employee Engagement Ideas
If your engagement levels aren’t as high as you’d like, there is no silver bullet. One teambuilding event or corporate baseball tournament is not going to fix it. However, there are employee engagement ideas and programs you can implement that will help you get started:
1. Onboard With a Buddy
Match new employees with someone who can help them navigate and understand the company culture. Ideally, it will be an individual outside of their workgroup, allowing them to meet people from other departments. This person can help them become adept at finding resources with the company and answer questions they may not feel comfortable asking their immediate bosses or co-workers.
2. Create Social Spaces
It is important to have social connections and work relationships. These relationships increase collaboration and job satisfaction. Ensure that employees have a place to interact and have a little downtime. You don’t need a foosball table or a trendy office playroom. If all you have is a breakroom, make the space inviting and encourage people to go there. Better yet, solicit the executive team to model the behavior by occasionally making themselves accessible and available in the employee lounge. If some of your employees are remote, you can create virtual meeting spots.
3. Take an Executive to Work
Employees are thrilled when they know that the top leaders in the company understand their day-to-day challenges. That’s the spirit behind Hilton’s innovative Senior Leadership Business Immersion program. The program has senior leaders and board members spend three days doing customer-facing work. This means that executives are making beds and preparing room service trays right alongside the staff. They leave the experience with a greater appreciation of the challenges and opportunities the business is facing and the improvements that could be made. Perhaps the greatest benefits, however, are the boost it provides to employee morale and the feeling of solidarity it generates.
4. Golden Globe Award
Competing priorities can sometimes make teams believe that they aren’t all working toward the same ends. It may help to introduce a fun ritual that doesn’t require much time. You don’t actually need a golden globe, or even a globe. Any symbolic object will work.
Each week, the object is awarded, with a bit of celebratory fanfare, from one team to another. The award is given in recognition for assistance provided, an expedited request, information shared or simply being helpful colleagues. The next week, the award is passed from the former recipients to another team. The idea is to encourage inter-team collaboration and goodwill.
5. Partners, Not Employees
London-based company John Lewis calls its 80,000 employees partners. It’s an interesting choice of words because the vast majority of the people who work there are not true partners according to the legal definition. Rather, they share responsibility for the company, its customers and its outcomes. The word partner evokes a sense of empowerment. The company stated, in their words, as “an experiment in industrial democracy.”
6. Driven by Purpose
According to Gartner researchers, 65% of those surveyed say that the pandemic has made them rethink the place work should have in their lives. Increasingly, employees want to work for a company that aligns with a purpose that they can believe in.
Southwest Airlines is a company that differentiates itself beyond being a transporter of people. They consider themselves an enabler that helps people get to the people or places they care about. It’s not a huge difference, but it does help define a strong purpose and an emotional connection with its employees and an important responsibility to the customers they serve. That’s not the end of the story, though. Southwest encourages its employees to create a superior experience for the customers and give them the support and the trust they need to accomplish this goal.
7. Help Employees Give Back
People love to donate to a good cause and in 2020, charitable giving topped $471 billion. Companies give to nonprofit organizations, as well. But those organizations may not be the ones that capture the hearts and minds of their employees. Everyone has a favorite charity or two. Groundswell allows employees to pick the problems and the solutions they want to address, supporting them with matching donations of up to $5,000 and time off to volunteer. It makes managing employee giving programs effortless.
Further, Groundswell provides data that gives employers insight into the issues their employees care about. It’s great information to have as you consider how to design your HR practices and plan your strategic initiatives to deepen employee engagement.
8. Take a Stand
Beyond simply sending a check to a select group of nonprofits, companies can take a stand on causes that employees care deeply about. Many corporations have adopted K-12 schools and invested time and resources to bring about higher-quality educational experiences in underserved communities. Employees at SDN Communications in Sioux Falls have an opportunity to make an impact and bond with colleagues as they engage in activities such as a winter clothing drive and volunteering for the Read Across America program.
The Bottom Line
It’s no coincidence that some of the most profitable companies today are those with the most engaged workforces. It’s the companies that summit on “the best places to work” lists. Their employees don’t flock to the company because they have a cool game room and free snacks. They aren’t drawn in by catchy slogans and nice placards on the wall. They are excited by the vision and energized by the empowerment they feel when they come to work each day.
Employee engagement is all about building your brand internally. It will take some work, but the rewards will determine how your company will fare against the competition in the years to come. When you consider engagement statistics, the reality is that engaged employees help companies win.
If you’d like more information on the benefits of a donor-advised fund, contact Groundswell today.