How to Keep Remote Employees Engaged
Remote work is here to stay, causing a radical shift in how companies approach many different facets of their operations, from the boardroom to the breakroom. It is not an exaggeration to say that the successful transition to an all-remote or hybrid workforce requires a total reconsideration of company culture.
This transition should not be scary or concerning; at FIT HR, we see big shifts as opportunities to act with the intention to reimagine existing policies or craft new ones altogether. One such opportunity regarding remote work is how to keep remote employees engaged.
Engagement vs Experience
First, let’s clarify what “employee engagement” means and identify why it matters. The employee experience is the perception or emotional reaction to everything that goes on during their employment at a business — from applying to joining to onboarding to working to separation. It stands to reason that a positive employee experience will lead to increased employee engagement, which happens when an employee has clear expectations set and feels a sense of purpose. This can be a little tricky when some of your employees don’t experience the traditional in-office sense of belonging.
Remote Employee Engagement: Why it’s Important
Let’s assume you’ve done the basics when setting up a functional remote workplace. You’ve instituted specific policies and procedures for remote workers to avoid confusion. You’ve equipped your workforce with tools and technology to perform their job duties. You’ve set up a communications system such as Slack or Microsoft Teams so folks can get questions asked and answered.
While you may think that putting this in place means your team can go forth and work remotely with high productivity and great success, you still need to include a critical piece of the puzzle: remote employee engagement.
Keeping remote employees engaged is vital for employee retention, productivity, work-life balance, lowered stress, and general happiness. Studies have shown that when remote team engagement is high, employees experience higher job satisfaction, work more hours, and are more motivated. When remote workers are engaged, they’re happier, the company is healthier and everyone shares in the benefits of greater success.
Ways to Engage Remote Employees
Great remote employee engagement doesn’t just happen. Like any successful program or project, engaging a remote workforce requires clear thought and intention. Here are some strategies for how to keep remote employees engaged.
Do not micromanage. When the workforce is scattered and not in the same office, it is tempting to micromanage them. However, micromanagement can have a measurable negative impact on remote worker engagement. Workplace surveys and studies have shown a correlation between greater autonomy and increased remote team engagement. Set clear expectations, engineer remote-work structure where needed, and alter how performance is assessed—and then let your remote team go to work. An empowered remote workforce is an engaged remote workforce.
Acknowledge stellar work. Speaking of altering performance assessment, one often-overlooked area of remote employee engagement is acknowledging and rewarding good work. In the in-office environment, it is simple to walk over to an employee’s desk and let them know they’re doing a great job. Buying a team lunch or taking them on an outing for completing a big project is also easy when everyone is under the same roof. In a remote environment, rewarding good work can be more complicated. But not doing so can erode remote worker engagement. However, acknowledging a job well done doesn’t have to be challenging when viewed through a similar lens to setting up your remote workplace. In other words, digitize your rewards program. For employees who bask in public praise, send a company-wide email about their accomplishments. For those who enjoy gifts, send gift cards that can be used online. For those who crave social connection, set up a virtual happy hour or lunch break. No matter what rewards system you decide on, it’s important for it to be public to foster team connection, be frequent and timely so that workers feel seen, and that the expectations are clear so that employees know when they will be rewarded. Do all of this, and your team will feel appreciated and remote employee engagement will stay high.
Encourage work-life balance. As anyone who works remotely is well aware, it is easy to blur the lines between the workday and downtime when the home and office become one. This is especially true if you follow another piece of our remote-worker-engagement advice: to be flexible in your work practices to encourage people to clock in when they feel most effective. However, nothing is more detrimental to remote employee engagement than burnout. When working to keep remote employees engaged, emphasizing proper work-life balance is crucial. Make sure people take lunch breaks. Work to create an environment where people feel comfortable taking time off and actually use their allotted vacation and PTO days. Set clear limits around availability—discourage your team from answering emails outside their designated work hours and encourage them to log off of Slack or other communication programs. And don’t be afraid to offer incentives such as gym or yoga studio memberships, mental health resources or other enticements that will help prioritize health and wellbeing.
Encouraging remote employee engagement is an HR situation that truly reflects the time in which we live. But with these strategies for keeping remote employees engaged, your company can be both a thought leader in this area and a desirable workplace. For more ideas about engaging a remote workforce, contact our team of human resource experts today.