The pandemic has forced organisations into remote work. Working from home is a new reality, and most companies have adapted to it. While remote working has several benefits, such as saving time and money and better work-life balance, it also has some downsides. Companies' most common challenge in this work environment is keeping remote workers engaged. Since the employees are not in the office, they tend to feel disconnected and less engaged with their organisations.
Currently, 4.7 million people in the US work remotely at least part-time, and the numbers are still growing despite the pandemic slowing down.
An engaged workforce is necessary to improve the productivity and performance of employees and the organisation. This article discusses ways to engage remote employees and measure remote employee engagement.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement tells us about how an employee feels towards his organisation. The mental and emotional connection employees have with their work, their teams, their managers and their organisation. Employees can be highly engaged to disengaged based on their perceptions of their organisations.
Employee engagement is based on mutual trust, commitment and communication between the company and its employees. According to research, 92% of executives believe that engaged employees perform better.
Why is employee engagement critical in a remote setup?
Employee engagement is an essential factor contributing to the overall success of your organisation. A high level of employee engagement improves individual and organisational performance and well-being, leading to business success. It becomes even more significant in remote working conditions. It isn't easy to make the employees feel engaged and connected when they’re not coming to offices and working with their teams.
However, there is data to support the opposite. According to the Harvard Business Review, 62% of employees feel more engaged by working remotely. This can be due to the flexible working conditions and improvement in work-life balance.
How to keep remote employees engaged?
Organisations need to go the extra mile to engage remote employees. But it is worth the effort.
Fortunately, because so many people have started working remotely, we know a little more about remote employee engagement. Let's talk about how to keep your remote employees engaged, even when you don't see them every day!
1. Give remote employees feedback
Yes, it's a lot easier to offer constructive feedback when you spend weeks in the same office with an employee. However, just because they are remote does not mean that feedback is not important. We recommend treating this as if they were in the office.
For most situations, try your best to offer performance reviews or meetings where you discuss feedback periodically. Another great idea is to help employees set performance goals in their careers, which can really help with engagement. This should take place every 3 to 6 months for the best results, and do your best to reach out in between.
When employees submit their work, it's always a good idea to respond with feedback, even if it's only a couple of sentences! Everybody loves positive reinforcement, so go out of your way to encourage employees from time to time. The best way is through Zoom or other video-calling apps for remote workers, as things like tone and body language can easily be lost through email or text.
2. Check in often
Don't give employees the impression that the only time you contact them is to give them feedback about their work or to ask them for something. When you were in the office, how often did you ask your employees general questions like "how's the family?" or "anything exciting planned for the weekend?"
If you used to do this in the office and felt it added value, take time for remote employee outreach regularly to show that you care. Connections are easily lost between remote workers, so one of the best solutions for everybody to chat would be an all-staff (or department) meeting through video chat. This way, everybody will get to see their coworkers' faces, get a chance to say hi, and everybody can be on the same page on upcoming projects.
Another option for this is the "virtual coffee break." Picking a time during the day when staff can optionally join in on a call and see their coworkers might be more popular than you think. The best way to find out is to talk to your staff and see what they say!
Of course, the last thing you want is to seem intrusive, so sending emails asking about personal matters may come off poorly. Instead, use these opportunities during meetings in small groups or one-on-one to check in with staff and see how they're doing. Always ask for feedback to see if there's anything you can do to make their remote work more engaging, and you'll be sure to win them over!
3. Online knowledge sharing
Another way to build cohesion among your employees with direct benefit to your business is to facilitate a knowledge-sharing discussion or workshop. This could be a fun training day, and you won't need to hire outside help. Instead, reach out to your employees and ask if they have any skills or techniques they'd like to share with their peers and make sure there aren't any repeats (ask staff to work together on the same topic if there are).
The best part is that this will work for any company with remote employees because there's been a learning curve for every new remote worker. There are challenges everybody has had to overcome in this transition, and it would be helpful to share what you've learned. Topics could include:
- How to research more quickly
- Remote customer outreach
- Cybersecurity tips
- Secure file-sharing
- Best software for remote work
- Stress management
The list goes on, and staff can take a creative license here if they have something valuable to share. This will go a long way to helping employees feel valued and promoting healthy company culture. Just plan the day far enough in advance, ask staff how long they'll need, and draft a schedule of speakers!
4. Have a weekly close-off
On Fridays, it's great to have a weekly close-off meeting for everyone to leave the week on a positive note. There will be bonus points if you can have these meetings a little early than when everyone ends work on Monday through Thursday, but that's not always an option. However, work-life balance is more important than salary to the majority of workers.
Try to make these fun and engaging, allowing workers to feel like the weekend has already begun. These meetings can even have themes like casual Friday, funny hats, or whatever you want! This is a great way to promote a healthy company culture for remote workers.
5. Engagement surveys
How can you try to fix a problem if you're unsure what it is? Send out a survey to staff to see how they're feeling about their work and leave as many questions open-ended as possible. Multiple choice questions are useful, but it's even better to offer text boxes for respondents to explain what they mean.
Once you have this information, take note of any patterns among your employees. If something seems to be overwhelming, then it's time to make a change.
6. Encourage health and wellness
The best way to make someone feel connected is to show them that you care. And what better way of showing your care than investing in their health? Make your employees’ health your top priority. Create a conducive environment for them to adopt healthy habits, such as longer breaks for workouts or allowing them to go for a walk. You can even have a wellness program for your team, like a daily yoga session. Also, take care of employees' mental health by addressing any issues they might face.
7. Have a virtual water cooler
Remote employees miss the most the informal conversations and gossip they used to have with their colleagues during office breaks. A water cooler is where friendly talks are exchanged, and bonds are formed in the traditional office setup.
Organisations can think of something along the same lines. Digital space can be set aside for informal conversations around any topic of interest, such as TV shows, weekend plans, sports, and much more. Such informal discussions play a crucial role in making the employees feel like a part of the organisation and connect with their co-workers personally. This dramatically impacts employee engagement and makes them stay longer with the organisation.
8. Don’t neglect learning and development opportunities for employees
When employees believe that the organisation is suitable for their career growth and aspirations and give ample opportunities to them to develop holistically, they feel motivated to work.
It would help if you did not neglect employees' professional development because they work from home. Regular training and mentoring sessions to develop new skills should be organised as online workshops. Encourage your employees to participate in these learning sessions based on performance reviews.
9. Gamify your teamwork
Gamification is an approach where game-playing or fun elements are introduced to work environments to encourage engagement and make the employees feel included. You can organise employees into teams and conduct competitions and give rewards. This will teach a sense of collaboration and cooperation even though they’re not working together from the office.
10. Keep the lines of communication open
Remote employees work from different places, sometimes even from different time zones. In such a scenario, they might feel that their team is not around when they need them. To make them feel more connected, keep the communication lines open. They should be able to reach out to their colleagues when required. This will make them feel like part of the team even from a
Measuring remote employee engagement
Peter Drucker, the Management thinker, rightly said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Evaluating employee engagement will tell you if your efforts are in the right direction or if you need to change course.
Here are some proven ways to measure remote employee engagement correctly.
- Employee engagement surveys
The most common is the Pulse survey which is short and frequent. Nowadays, many online survey platforms are providing such services for remote employees.
It stands for Employee Net Promoter Score. This metric measures employee satisfaction with their workplace experience. It tells how likely your employees are to promote the organisation. e-NPS is an effective way to measure if remote employees have a good working experience at home and are engaged enough.
- Hold focus groups
Focus groups are used to discuss a particular topic. Employees are made to participate and asked what they feel about a specific situation or issue. Convening focus groups online for remote employees can be very insightful.
One-on-one meetings should never be skipped, even when working remotely. Employees and managers can connect online through various video calling platforms. These meetings are essential to understand the strengths and weaknesses of employees.
Now that you know some employee engagement ideas for remote employees put them to use and keep your employees as engaged as possible. It has a direct impact on your company's performance, so spare no expense!
It is vital to invest time and resources to engage remote employees. It is always easier to get along with a happy workforce than a discontented one. This not only improves overall productivity but also builds a strong work culture.
If you are facing any issues regarding employee performance and engagement, contact our team at Mesh. We are happy to help your organization on its way to success.
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