If you’ve searched for an open seat at your local coffee shop recently, you may think that employees are working everywhere but in the office these days.
And you aren’t wrong! Our constant connection through email, social media and other cloud-based technologies has transformed working relationships and has allowed us to easily work outside of traditional office environments.
An increasing number of employees are opting for the flexibility of remote work, to the benefit of both the employee and employer. According to a recent Forbes article, remote workers are happier, feel more valued and are more productive than their in-office counterparts.
This is valuable information for an employer. With a remote workforce, you can reduce costs by downsizing your physical office, and improve the productivity of your employees by offering more flexibility and greater autonomy in their work. When you aren’t limited by geography, you will also benefit from expanded reach when recruiting hard-to-find talent. All good things for your business, right?
Maybe. The key is to ensure your remote employees are engaged. Here are some suggestions to help:
1. Keep communication lines open
It should come as no surprise that the most important component to having an engaged remote workforce is open communication. Open, transparent dialogue and the ability to communicate with colleagues in real-time when encountering challenges is a critical component to feel engaged and part of the team.
When communication and collaboration don’t happen in person, it’s important to implement tools and create a culture of open online dialogue – to help keep remote employees from feeling isolated or stuck on their own, and to provide some missing social interaction.
2. Take advantage of technology
There are hundreds of tools available to help remote employees feel connected, and many have little or no cost to the employer. Platforms such as Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts and GoTo Meeting all allow for virtual communication through instant messaging or video conferencing.
When it comes to virtual collaboration, cloud-based project management and file storing tools like Asana, Basecamp and DropBox make it easier than ever to work together, share documents and oversee your employees’ work.
It’s a crowded market, so be sure to carefully select the tools that will work for you before adopting with your team.
3. Make a point of face-to-face meetings
Despite technological advancements, nothing beats personal interaction.
Even if your workforce is remote, be sure to get everyone together occasionally for face-to-face meetings and socials to foster closer connections. Having an in-person meeting every few weeks, every quarter or even every year can help remote employees get to know their colleagues and have a more personal connection with them.
When employees return to their respective workplaces, they’ll know who they’re working with on a more personal level, and may have some new work friends!
4. Emphasize real-time feedback
Remote employees do not have the same opportunities for “water cooler” moments as their in-office colleagues. The casual “hey, good work on this project”, or “I read your article over the weekend, it was great!” comments go a long way in terms of informal feedback and recognition. Since remote employees do not see their colleagues or managers on a regular basis, these types of moments are often missed.
Make a point of providing this type of feedback to remote employees, even if it isn’t as spontaneous as in-person feedback. Calling them up or sending a quick message can go a long way in terms of making them feel like valued members of the team. And be sure to encourage your managers to do the same with their team members.
5. Treat your employees equally; virtual or not.
Remote employees want to feel like they aren’t forgotten about. If you typically have weekly one-on-ones with in-office employees, make sure to do the same with your remote employees as well. If you have a team meeting, include your remote employees via video conference so they can also participate.
It is important to treat remote employees as you would any employee who was in your physical office location. Regular check-ins help with communication and transparency, and ensure that remote employees’ concerns and contributions are being heard.
As the number of employees working from home increases, employers need to adapt and navigate how they are able to engage a workforce that is off premises. By incorporating some of the tools above, you can take advantage of the benefits of a remote workforce while ensuring your employees are engaged, which will ultimately increase productivity.
If you want to improve employee engagement with your remote workers, a Business Sherpa Group HR consultant can help. Learn more about our HR consulting services.
About the Author
Cassie Van Tol is a graduate of Queen’s University and joined the Business Sherpa Group as an HR Associate in early 2013 while completing her post graduate certificate in Human Resources. A bright and enthusiastic HR professional, Cassie has since expanded her HR experience and has supported a variety of clients with their HR needs.