Love it or hate it, remote work is here to stay. The Great Resignation has given employees more flexibility than ever before and it shows no sign of slowing down. According to projections from the data scientists at Ladders, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023. There are a myriad of benefits to remote work – productivity, retention, cost savings – but only if remote employees are engaged.
In this blog, we’ll present six creative strategies to keep your remote teams engaged and productive.
Technology is the great bridge to stay connected to your remote employees but you need to incorporate the right tech for the right conversation at the right moment. Communication tools like Zoom, Teams, etc. are great for face-to-face communication but it’s important to use them with care. Nobody needs another meeting to plan the meeting and this can hamper productivity.
Expand your tech toolbox with email and digital chats and don’t just communicate when you have a formal company update; tell a dad joke, celebrate the wins, share birthday or anniversary wishes, and praise your employees’ work. Make time for one-on-one sessions to make each team member feel special and heard.
Be sure you’re putting your efforts and resources where it counts. The same initiatives aren’t going to work for everyone, and in some cases may fall flat or even send the wrong message and work against your goals.
For example, if holding a morning all hands, consider streaming the session again in the evening followed by a separate live Q&A to accommodate global time zones. Encourage local leaders to prioritize participation for their teams.
It’s easy to feel isolated and out-of-the-loop when working remotely. Keeping employees engaged also means remembering that these are, well, real people. If your communication only consists of work-related things, it’s easy for your employees to feel like you don’t value them as a human being and only care about their output.
Reach out to individual team members regularly to get their opinions on your decisions and to talk about non-work-related things. Create opportunities for a virtual “watercooler” where team members can connect and have fun. Let them share their new favorite TV shows and movies or debate which candy is their favorite – the answer is always Twix – or talk about “the slap heard around the world.”
Here at Blue Beyond, we start a lot of our virtual meetings with “Stringing of the Beads” where we all share our answers to a single question picked by another member of our team. Not only does this give us an opportunity to learn more about each other, it helps connect us as a team and allows us to be comfortable with each other.
The first thing to remember about fun is that it can’t be forced and people have to be in the mood, which is hard to do if they’re feeling stressed, anxious, and exhausted at work. Do an audit of all your process and policies and streamline or eliminate those that are ultimately unnecessary and that create work stressors for your people.
Another easy way to bring fun into the workplace is with your communications. It’s easy to get into a rut of communicating in a certain way all the time but it’s important to switch it up once a while. Find new, unexpected ways to “wow” employees and take them out of their daily routine. The more memorable the message, call to action, or meeting experience is, the more likely they are to “tune in” next time.
Try delivering a company announcement in the form of a local news show. Extraverted employees with a mic and smartphone can turn an ordinary communication into something creative and impossible to forget. “Now back to you, Ron…”
It may seem silly but it works. How many of us can recite word-for-word “call J.G. Wentworth – 877-Cash-Now?” Same concept, different application.
What’s asynchronous work you ask? It’s work that’s done at times that are convenient for the employee, not necessarily dependent on collaborative or real-time communication. Now, we know what you’re thinking; however, we’re not advocating for you to stop being collaborative or have real-time conversations. What we are encouraging you to do is look deeply at the schedules that both you and your remote employees have. If you or your teams spend 75% of the workday communicating with others in real-time, when does the actual work get done?
Respect everyone’s time by setting healthy boundaries around schedules, assignments and performance expectations. Make sure your team always knows exactly what’s expected of them. Do they need to check in at specific times of day? Do you have certain requirements that need to be met on each project?
Working asynchronously also means that you must prioritize your employees’ health by enabling mindful breaks, giving them resources to create an efficient working space, scheduling time to have conversations about mental health, and setting clear limits on their availability. Trust employees to get the job done and let them lead.
All of this is vital for employee engagement and to create a healthier work-life balance.
More than 40% of employed Americans feel that if they were recognized more often, they would put more energy into their work. When was the last time you praised your employees for a job well done?
Showing appreciation is an easy, thoughtful thing to do and can bolster your remote team’s confidence that the work they do matters. It also sends a clear message to their colleagues, both in-office and out, that they’re working as diligently as everyone else to meet organizational goals.
At Blue Beyond, we have a peer recognition program that gives everyone a set amount of money to recognize their colleagues internally. We make it a company-wide goal to ensure that all peer recognition funds are used by the end of the year and consistently promote ways to give props to one another.
A transparent workplace indicates that your organization operates in a way that creates openness between managers and employees. It’s strategic and presents a 100% ROI because it’s free. Increased transparency has been shown to increase trust between employers and employees, improve morale, increase employee advocacy, and lower job-related stress.
In order to be transparent and honest, it’s important to focus on breaking down silos, being open about mistakes and the learnings gained from those mistakes, and sharing information about your organization and projects (good or bad). Create space for feedback and accept criticism gracefully, without being defensive. Involve your remote employees in the hiring process whenever possible and look for candidates who value honesty.
It’s also important to be consistent and honor the commitments you make, no matter how small. Holding a contest? Don’t forget to choose — and widely publicize — the winner(s). Conducting a survey? Make sure to share the results and actions! Rolling out a new tool or policy? Send an update after the first month or quarter with how it’s going, and any feedback received.
As many organizations and teams continue to move to hybrid and remote work models, it’s important to put specific strategies in place to engage your remote employees. Take a critical look at your organization’s culture and policies and identify areas of opportunity.
It’s critical for you to equip yourself with the knowledge, skills, and resources to keep remote employees engaged. Adjust your strategy to the reality of your team and keep communication open. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a stronger team, increased productivity, and happy employees.