It looks like remote working is here to stay for many companies. If yours is one that isn’t going back to the office any time soon—or if you’re managing a hybrid situation—here’s how to keep remote employees engaged as they continue to work from home.
Henrik Jesman Sunde
June 5, 2022
Employee engagement can be a challenge in general, but when part or all of your company works remotely, it’s even more so. With all of the advantages of working from home—like skipping the commute, lowering or eliminating the cost of office space, and giving employees more time for family and personal needs—there is the risk of disconnection. Hopefully, out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind for the professionals at your company, but if you’re feeling a little too much distance, we’ve got some ideas on how to engage remote employees and keep your team tight.
There are many reasons why you may feel like your team is drifting apart. When everyone becomes head down while working remotely, it can feel like each team member is off on their own island. Without enough glue holding you all together, a number of things can start to suffer, like communication, camaraderie, productivity, company values, morale, collaboration, etc.
There are many reasons why remote employees may become disengaged. It could be that they feel ignored or left out, or they’re stressed and not communicating about it, or possibly their morale at the company is low and they’ve checked out. If you worry any or all of your remote team is struggling with feeling disengaged, or if you want to thwart the remote blues before your employees get there, here are 15 recommendations for how to engage employees virtually.
Implementing even one of these actions can go a long way to boost remote employee engagement.
There is so much software available today, there’s no reason why you should find it hard to stay in touch, even when team members work remotely. Between email, social channels, video conferencing software, chat systems, text message, and all the other ways people are reachable, your team should have multiple effective ways of being in communication with one another.
Determine which tools are right for your company, and then put them to good use. Don’t just use them every now and then. Use them daily. Get your team in the habit of checking in, updating the team, and collaborating virtually.
While we’re on the subject of communication, don’t just talk to employees about work. Get to know employees as full human beings with full lives. Take a few minutes at the beginning of meetings to ask about everyone’s weekend or how the kids are doing or how their new hobby is going. Talking person to person helps employees not feel like faceless workers. When employees feel like nothing more than workers at their company, it makes it easier to check out and feel disconnected from colleagues.
One big way to improve employee engagement? Talk about growth opportunities. Regardless of whether employees are in the office or working from home, no one wants to feel stagnant in their position. Have meetings with remote employees about their goals at the company and where they see themselves in their career. Discuss and set a timeline together for growth milestones so employees feel like they’re working toward something.
It can be tempting when people are working remotely to let everyone just do their own thing. But, doing the workday in tandem goes a long way to making people feel like part of a team working toward a common goal. Have weekly or daily meetings. Schedule virtual trainings. Gather online for virtual employee presentations. Anything you would do in the office, do it virtually. Don’t let structure fall away just because you’re not under the same roof.
Every person wants to be recognized and appreciated for their work and contribution. To keep employee morale high, don’t get lazy on the employee shoutouts. Whether you bring up someone’s great work in a meeting, post it on the company Slack, or message them individually, show team members that you notice them and appreciate all they do.
You know the saying: It’s better to over communicate. That’s especially true when employees work remotely. Few things can make employees throw up their hands and check out than feeling like they have no idea what’s going on at their company or on their team. If someone constantly feels last to know, it’s only a matter of time before they leave the company for a new employer that makes them feel like they have more of a seat at the table.
Human beings are tribal by nature. We need to feel a sense of belonging. If your company is broken into teams, make sure everyone feels included. Give everyone the floor to talk in meetings, encourage collaboration, don’t leave anyone out when giving recognition, and foster camaraderie on team chat systems, in meetings, or over email. Have your team inside jokes. Meet virtually just to chat over coffee. Make everyone feel part of the club.
For employees that live in close proximity, organize regular in-person meetups. Maybe it’s a Friday happy hour or the occasional baseball game or a night at the bowling alley to celebrate a great quarter. If there are employees who can get together face to face, that in-person contact will be huge for engagement, even if you’re not able to do it that often.
Remote employee success begins with solid onboarding. If an employee starts at your company feeling like they’re in a vacuum with not many coworkers to talk to, or if they’re unsure about projects, don’t get to witness company culture, and otherwise aren’t brought into the fold, they’re not likely to find their way on their own or even stay at the company for very long. Make sure remote employee onboarding lays the right foundation for each employee and immerses them into the company.
Even if you can’t get together face to face, you can still do virtual team-building activities. Set aside 30 minutes every Friday to have a team video call and talk about how everyone’s week went. Do a virtual escape room together. Play get-to-know-you games. Start a bookclub or recipe swap on Teams. There are many ways you can develop camaraderie and bond as a team virtually.
One of the worst blows to remote employee engagement is when everyone stays in their own bubble, including managers. Again, there are too many ways to communicate virtually now to let communication go downhill. Check in with team members at least a few times a week to make sure they’re doing okay, answer questions, get on the same page about tasks, provide company updates, and touch base on goals. The quickest way to see a drop in engagement is to let employees feel isolated.
And on that note, maintain transparency with employees. If changes are happening at the company, if new employees are coming onboard, if you’re adopting a new policy or tool, or if big decisions are made, include employees in a timely manner so there aren’t any information silos. This is especially true if you decide to roll out any kind of employee monitoring measures, which creates a divide between employees and managers when implemented in secrecy.
If you can muster the budget, a care package is a great way to connect with employees. Having physical items you picked out sent to their home creates a personal connection. It could be swag with the company logo, like apparel or a cool water bottle. You could include a few treats, giftcards, office supplies, etc. And even if your budget is tight, simply writing each employee a kind note and sending it to them could really make their day and let them know they’re thought of.
In the same vein of not only talking about work, bonding happens when you remember employees are full people. If someone recently learned to knit or is super into March Madness or just bought a new house, talk to them about it. Root them on. Ask questions about their interests outside of work. Learn the names of their family members if they regularly bring them up. Swap photos of your pets. Sharing personal interests will keep the team tight way more than that work project.
Essentially, make it easy for your employees to do their job and communicate. Don’t let software subscriptions expire. Update those old company laptops as soon as the budget allows. Stay on top of technology updates. Find a new provider if a tool you’re using is glitchy or unreliable. These issues are likely to make employees frustrated to the point that they stop using tools or even start avoiding work, which only leads to poor communication, less collaboration, and hindered productivity or job interest.
Always stay open to feedback and give employees regular opportunities to share their concerns and ideas, whether it be about work tasks, personnel, or how the company is running. Encouraging employees to give feedback helps them feel like their voice is heard and valued and that they’re important to the company. Naturally, that’s going to increase engagement.
A big theme among these recommendations is maintaining effective communication. Believe it or not, fostering virtual engagement actually isn’t that much more challenging than if employees were in the office. It’s about having the right tools used in the right way. Zelo helps you streamline internal comms to boost remote employee engagement. Used by big brands and small businesses alike, Zelo’s software allows users to easily create, send, and track company newsletters and other messaging when and via which channel they prefer.
By communicating with employees at the times they’re most available and on the channels they look at the most, you have much better luck getting in front of their eyes. Zelo lets you create beautiful, on-brand communications, track viewership, and get to know how best to reach employees so you can modify your approach to suit your team. Plus, Zelo integrates with a long list of tools, like Slack, Teams, Workplace, G-Suite, Azure, email, SMS, and more.
Want to see Zelo in action? Get a demo to see how you can improve your remote employee engagement.
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