By: Lauren Dellarocco
You’ve probably read the statistics that say working from home can lead to a more productive workforce, a greater employee retention rate, and happier, more satisfied employees overall.
Employers are jumping on the remote-workforce bandwagon now more than ever before. This significant growth in a decentralized workforce is likely attributed to the considerable benefits of a remote team with a heavy emphasis on remote employee engagement.
Times are changing, and the statistics are here to prove it.
The number of remote workers in the U.S., not including self-employed employees, has grown by 159% since 2005.
In the last 5 years, the number of U.S. employers offering flexible commuting opportunities for their employees has grown by 40%.
A remote workforce has proven to benefit both employees and employers. Working remotely causes employees to be more productive in their work, more physically active with a healthy work-life balance in their personal lives, and significantly less distracted throughout the work day.
The opportunity to work remotely is actually one of the greatest employee retention strategies. A Stanford University study determined that the rate of employee turnover in a group of work-from-home employees was nearly 50% less than the turnover in a group of in-office employees.
Similarly, an Airtasker survey polled 1,004 U.S. employees, including 502 employees who work remotely. This study found:
- On average, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month (or 16.8 more days every year) compared to employees who worked in-office.
- Remote employees completed 25 more minutes of physical activity each week, than those who worked in-office.
- Employees in office reported an average of 37 minutes of distraction throughout the work day (not including lunch and standard breaks), while employees who worked remotely reported an average of 27 minutes distraction.
Not only do employees’ productivity and physical health improve when they work from home, but employers save money with a remote team.
Nortel, a telecom company, estimates a whopping savings of about $100,000 per employee that they don’t have to relocate to work in-office.
So why isn’t every employer switching to a virtual workplace? The reason is simple: employer trust issues.
Many employers find it difficult to trust that their employees will actually work at home. They wonder how they can ensure that employees are working as productively and efficiently as they would in a physical office.
Some employers worry that communication between management and employees will suffer, leaving employers in the dark.
How can employers ensure that their employees are satisfied with their workloads and projects?
What can employers do to ensure remote employee engagement without frequent in-person interactions?
These are all fears that may stop an employer from transitioning to a decentralized workplace. The bottom line is: switching to a remote team can benefit your entire workforce, including your employees, managers and employers.
So, what are some employee engagement solutions for remote team members?
Techniques to Encourage Remote Employee Engagement
1. Implement a chat tool to keep everyone in the loop.
Communication is important when engaging remote employees. Proper communication between you and your employees can help alleviate fears that remote team members aren’t working during business hours or working to their fullest productivity potential.
A chat app, like Slack, can help you stay in regular communication with remote workers. Remote team members can message with other team members, departments, managers and employers through real-time communication. Create various channels within Slack to promote conversations related to a specific client, event, project, department, or random interest to keep the company culture alive.
Engaging remote employees can be a much smoother process with a tool that encourages fast, back-and-forth communication between team members.
2. Increase the number of calls and video meetings.
Many employers struggle with the idea that in-person communication is more effective. Seeing an employee’s body language, reactions or physical responses may help an employer gain a more authentic understanding of how their team is comprehending their projects, and what their personality is like overall.
Video conferencing can help employers build a personal connection with their employees. Consider scheduling video chats after client meetings or internal meetings as a recap to discuss the outcome and the plan of action moving forward. Regular morning, midday, or end-of-day phone calls or video calls can help employers to stay connected and employees to stay informed.
3. Coordinate in-person meetups every so often.
Organizing team retreats and get-togethers is great for engaging remote employees, encouraging employers to bond with their remote employees, and encouraging employees to bond with their remote coworkers. Employee retreats are a fun way to strengthen the work culture socially, while incorporating team-building exercises that promote interdepartmental and peer-based collaboration.
Team meetups don’t have to be entirely work-based and informational; they can lighten the focus toward developing an inclusive work culture with engaging activities and events. Holiday parties or seasonal get-togethers can be exciting and synergistic for employees and employers to socialize.
Semi-annual or even annual in-person meetups can strengthen a workplace and encourage remote employees to socialize and interact with their in-office peers, who they only communicate with virtually.
4. Utilize task management tools.
Task management tools can help alleviate employers’ worries that remote employees aren’t working as productively as physically-present employees in the office are. The right task management software can aid remote workers in tracking their time, to give employers an accurate depiction of the work being completed.
A number of task management and project management programs also allow team collaboration via messaging, editing and feedback features to streamline task processes in a single location, which is excellent for engaging remote employees.
5. Allow flexibility.
An obvious perk of remote working is the flexibility it allows for employees. Employees who have commitments in their personal lives, like children or pets, can benefit significantly from a flexible, remote schedule.
Some remote workers may start their days earlier or later, depending on their commitments, which allows these employees to be more engaged with their work throughout their day.
Understanding the personal schedules of remote employees may help employers to feel more comfortable knowing that these employees aren’t taking time out of their work days to complete personal tasks.
6. Make the onboarding process memorable.
First impressions are everything when it comes to new employees. It’s extremely important to make a lasting first impression during the onboarding orientation, especially with remote employees who aren’t integrated with the rest of the office daily.
For virtual onboarding, implement remote employee engagement activities to keep the process exciting and engaging. A successful onboarding process will include interactive features to capture remote employees’ interest and curiosity, causing them to be enthusiastic and engaged with their workplace right off the bat.
7. Take interest in their personal lives.
When employers take a personal interest in remote employees’ lives, employers create a personal connection that wouldn’t otherwise be attained without in-office interaction.
It’s easy for remote employees to feel disconnected from the work culture, so take the time to get to know your remote employees. Taking an interest in your remote employees’ personal lives will help employees feel engaged, valued and encouraged by their employers.
8. Offer special perks.
Employees who are physically present in the office get to reap the benefits of working in a communal office. Maybe your office provides free coffee, a complimentary/discounted gym membership or occasional team lunches to congratulate great work.
Remote employees miss out on these perks, so consider offering them their own perks, like a communal WeWork office space where remote employees can meet up and work together, every so often. A home office stipend, or a discounted membership to a gym could help remote employees feel included by employers and engaged with their own virtual office culture.
9. Offer more responsibilities or roles.
A great way to help remote employees feel engaged with their team is by offering them integral roles and responsibilities. Remote employees could have the responsibility of organizing the mid-week, internal meetings or the client recaps. This gives remote employees the opportunity to communicate with their coworkers with a purpose, and to feel valued and vital in their roles.
Delegating essential responsibilities to remote employees will cause them to remain engaged and in-the-know with the rest of their workforce.
10. Ensure that they’re happy.
Simply put, to ensure remote employee engagement, ensure that your remote team is happy. Happy employees will remain with an organization for as long as they’re satisfied.
Conduct remote employee surveys (these can be anonymous) to gain insight on the happiness of remote employees. Include questions about remote employees’ satisfaction with perks and benefits, work schedule flexibility, the effectiveness of tools and programs used, and how well remote employees feel integrated with the work culture.
Although many employers share the fear that a remote workforce can create disengaged employees, there are countless ways to remedy that possibility. Statistics have shown that engaging remote employees isn’t as daunting as it may seem.
Remote employee engagement leads to a more productive workforce, happier employees and greater employee retention rates.
Initiating remote employee engagement activities is key to keeping remote employees engaged and happy, and keeping employers at-ease and comfortable with the communication and productivity of remote team members.