How To Engage Remote Employees: Overcoming The Challenge
Are you wondering how to engage remote employees?
All companies–remote or otherwise–are defined by the work culture they create. It’s unfortunate how easy it is for remote workers to feel alienated from their organization because of the distance factor. This can take a negative toll on employee engagement and productivity.
Is there hope? Well of course! In this NoHQ article, we’re going to guide you through how you can overcome the challenges of engaging your remote employees so they can bring out the best in themselves and your company.
What is Remote Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is a concept originating from human resources (HR) that refers to the dedication and enthusiasm an employee feels for their job. So more specifically, remote employee engagement determines how much employees working remotely feel connected with their work and the company overall.
Google is a great example of a company that found an effective way to foster employee engagement at a personal level. In 2004, the company launched a “20% Rule” which encouraged employees to spend 20% of their paid working time on projects that interested them personally and had potential benefit to the company.
Such skill empowerment allowed Google employees to be more creative and innovative to showcase their value. It clearly worked because AdSense and Google News were developed as a result of this initiative.
The Challenges of Keeping Remote Employees Engaged
It’s no surprise that engaging remote employees can be a bit more difficult than engaging those who work on-site. This is mainly because by working from various locations, it can be harder to develop a strong team culture. However, it’s not impossible. So, before we take a look at how your organization can encourage positive employee engagement, it’s essential that we look at the specific hurdles you need to overcome to keep your remote employees engaged.
In-person Employee Interactions Can’t be Replicated
A 2018 Slack study discovered that 85% of employees desire to feel closer to their colleagues because it contributes to feelings of belonging. This may be daunting since the first major challenge when it comes to managing a global team is the fact that you can’t easily replicate the usual day-to-day office interactions online. However, doing this is not impossible, it just takes a little extra effort.
Little to no Recognition
Depending on the size of your remote company, employees may often experience little to no recognition for their efforts, which can lead to higher demotivation and job dissatisfaction. This is particularly true for larger remote companies with over 100 employees. While it’s quite difficult to keep track of the progress of every single employee remotely, an effort needs to be made.
While remote work has its perks, it can be isolating for staff and make them feel detached from their job. Isolation can have a negative impact on individual and team well-being and performance, as well as employee retention. This can only be helped by making sure your employees feel involved as essential parts of your organization.
Why is Remote Employee Engagement Important?
In a hybrid working environment, it’s quite common for remote employees to feel less included in the team culture. This can have an adverse effect on how your workforce collaborates and communicates. Therefore, prioritizing remote employee engagement is crucial to keep your team thriving.
Let’s look at a few more reasons why you should be engaging your remote employees:
It Keeps Employees More Productive and Innovative
Engaged remote employees are motivated enough to continuously work towards ensuring the success of their team and company. As they’re invested in the success, they’re more likely to make a greater effort to provide beneficial and innovative ideas to push the company forward.
It Ensures High Retention
Particularly because of its links to job satisfaction and employee morale, effective employee engagement motivates employees to feel a greater sense of loyalty to the company. When a remote employee is engaged, they genuinely care about the quality of their work and how their efforts impact the success of the company. They see themselves as an integral part of the organization even while separated through distance.
Engaged employees are not just in it to get paid and will most likely link their well-being with their performance. This makes fostering employee engagement quite beneficial for remote companies that desire a higher success rate.
Improved Employer Branding
Engaged employees are both mentally and emotionally connected to their company. This makes them more likely to speak positively about their employer, team, and organization to a wide range of people including customers and potential job candidates.
How to Engage Remote Employees
At NoHQ, we’re passionate about helping company founders navigate remote work by using the best remote strategies. In addition to our actionable remote employee engagement strategies, you can feel free to download our remote-first checklist to set you on the right track to transitioning towards remote-first.
Now, let’s have a look at how to engage remote employees:
Understand Employees’ Perspectives
When working remotely, employees encounter fewer boundaries between their work life and personal life. Certain distractions such as childcare, responsibilities to manage a home, bereavement, and proximity to familial issues are just a few cases of what remote employees may be dealing with. It’s important for employers to understand employees’ different situations so they’re able to accommodate and include them the same way they would for on-site employees.
To help you foster empathy for your employees, you can:
- Conduct one-on-one meetings specifically for hearing out employee issues
- Conduct engagement surveys to discover specific issues to help resolve
- Create a company suggestion form for feedback (feel free to use Google Forms, Jotform, or Typeform)
Set Clear Expectations
Effective communication with employees helps to foster positive employee engagement. It’s easy to get detached while working remotely. So it’s important that, as an employer, you’re frequently sharing your expectations with your team so they’re aware of what value to bring.
As a remote employer, you should remain mindful that your employees may not always have the most ideal set up. Therefore, patience and repetition is needed when it comes to communicating your work expectations. You should also make it clear to your staff that if they’re facing any complications relating to their work they’re free to communicate it without receiving harsh judgment. Here, empathy is key!
Show Employees You Care
A simple and practical way to show your employees you care is by providing regular individual feedback. This could be monthly or quarterly. Providing individual feedback shows that you genuinely care about your employees’ personal progress and this can motivate them to make the company proud. In fact, according to Oak Engage, 75% of employees see feedback as valuable to their performance overall, so it’s a win-win for everyone!
Another way to show employees you care is to check-in frequently and listen to their queries or ideas so that they feel that their input is heard and understood. This can lead to more engaged remote employees who believe that their work is meaningful and supported by their supervisors.
As a remote company, it’s also especially important to acknowledge and support the diversity of your workforce. Airbnb’s “Belonging at Airbnb” initiative is a diversity and inclusion program with the goal of creating a sense of belonging for all employees of all backgrounds. They show their diverse employees care by offering workshops, training programs, and networking events to encourage them to elevate in the workplace.
Make Sure People Collaborate
It’s not so great for your work culture if your employees aren’t familiar with each other. Understandably, this can be difficult for large remote organizations to achieve. So, the solution to this is to ensure departmental team-building. You can do this by involving a whole team to onboard newcomers through group Zoom meetings and incorporating one-on-one virtual mentorship programs for greater collaboration.
Salesforce’s “Ohana” culture is a strong case study for successful community building within a company because it emphasizes seeing employees as family. This is not just a term thrown around loosely. The company makes a continuous effort to engage employees through mentorship programs and employee resource groups so everyone is always collaborating.
Another great way to encourage collaboration is by creating virtual water-cooler moments. Simply include a virtual break-room in your communication software such as Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams so that your employees can get to know each other during their breaks.
Celebrate Big and Small Wins
Recognition of employee achievements is a simple way to enhance the employee experience and motivate them to strive for their best.
While private encouragement is still appreciated, it’s even better when you incorporate public shoutouts that everyone can see. You can make it easier by creating a dedicated channel on the communication platform you use. This way, your employees will genuinely feel valued for their efforts because you are proud enough to share it with the entire team.
Create a Remote Working Resources Library
For remote work, it’s especially important your employees can access relevant resources whenever they need them so that they are encouraged to stay engaged. You should ensure that key information to help your employees stays updated – such as manuals, onboarding checklists, and learning resources – are easily accessible from a central hub. This could be from a shared Google Sheet or on Notion.
IBM generously offers online learning resources for its employees through its ”Think Academy” program. This is amazing for employee engagement because employees are given the opportunity to improve their skills which leads to greater job satisfaction.
Create Opportunities for Career Growth
In an organization that utilizes a hybrid work model, remote-only employees often face the risk of being overlooked for career advancement opportunities. Even if the organization is remote-first, it can be hard for employees to properly envision what development can look like for them if it isn’t expressed.
When considering how to engage remote employees, discussing and offering career advancement opportunities with your remote employees can go a long way. It encourages them to want to stay with you long-term because they have the opportunity to progress and flourish.
Here’s how you can create these valuable opportunities:
- Build shareable career maps for employees who want to progress so that you can keep track of their aspirations with them. Make sure to schedule virtual or in-office meetings 2 or 3 times a year to discuss this progress.
- Encourage in-house mentorships via Zoom to help new employees learn from seasoned employees and vice-versa.
- Build online courses for every relevant field in your organization which employees can access easily and learn as they go.
Set up Extracurricular Activities
Just because you operate remotely doesn’t mean you don’t have the opportunity to provide fresh and exciting activities for your employees. By setting up extracurricular activities you can strengthen your remote workforce community and give them genuine reasons to be happy to work for your organization
Some activities you can consider are:
- Wellness activities specifically for remote employees
- Virtual book clubs
- Fantasy football league
- Multiplayer online gaming tournaments
Patagonia takes an interesting approach to extracurricular activities. The outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer runs an Environmental Internship Program for employees excited to participate in various environmental projects. Why does this program work for their employee engagement? Well, it allows employees to actively dive into their interests and gain new experiences, all while getting paid!
Ready to Engage Your Remote Workforce?
Remote work is only going to become more extensive as time passes. This makes it more important for you to learn how to engage remote employees so your workforce thrives. We hope you incorporate our useful tips into your workplace culture. Trust us, your employees will appreciate your effort!
If you’re ready to engage your remote workforce, check out NoHQ’s full library of valuable remote work resources to help you get on the right track.