The 4 Best Ways to Engage Remote Employees
The number of remote workers has gradually increased over the past two decades—but remote work really started to accelerate in 2020 with the advent of COVID-19. In 2019, for example, approximately 4.1% of the U.S. workforce worked remotely. That number more than doubled, to 9.6% of all U.S workers by 2021.
Looking ahead, remote work looks like it’s here to stay. A recent study by Upwork predicts that more than 36.2 million Americans—about 22% of the U.S. workforce—will be working remotely by 2025.
Accepting some form of remote work as a practical reality means that, as an HR professional, you need to think strategically about how you’ll keep remote workers engaged in their daily work. They need to feel connected to their teams, departments, and the company as a whole.
Keep reading to learn about strategies designed to keep remote employees engaged, happy, and productive.
Strategy 1: Level Up Internal Communication
Communication is critical for establishing and maintaining engagement with all employees, whether or not they work remotely. Remember that keeping in touch with remote workers takes a little more work. That’s why it’s important to go the extra mile, add more opportunities, and make communication with remote employees an organizational priority.
Here are a few ideas you can consider incorporating into your communication strategy.
Embrace Instant Messaging
Instant messaging tools like Slack, Teams, or Google Chat may seem like an extra distraction. When it comes to remote workers, instant messaging is a blessing. It’s faster and more casual than email while also facilitating remote group discussions. Instant messaging makes it easy to keep in touch with people in and out of the office and levels the playing field by removing distance as an obstacle.
Improve your Remote Meetings
Remote meetings are important, because they provide direct communication with remote employees - a critical piece to keeping them connected to your organization. Regularly scheduled check-ins are a proven method for maintaining alignment, and they offer a chance to catch up after business is handled. The important thing is to focus on best practices to make your meetings as efficient and productive as possible. Answering a few of the questions below can help you decide how you want your organization to manage their remote meetings.
- Camera culture. Do you want employees to keep their cameras on during meetings, or only when they have something to say?
- Meeting frequency. How often should managers schedule their remote team meetings? Do they need daily, weekly, or biweekly meetings? Remember that highly collaborative teams may require more frequent meetings than others. If your remote team is far enough away to be in different time zones, consider creating a rotating schedule to ensure they can contact someone (or a group of someone’s) during their working hours.
- Efficiency. What kind of time limits should managers observe for their team meetings? There’s a balance between taking only enough time to deal with the business at hand, and allowing time for remote team members to connect and socialize.
Download Our Remote Employee Checklist
This free checklist offers creative strategies that engage remote employees—all centered around communication, participation, and appreciation.
Strategy 2: Improve Participation
It might be impossible to exactly duplicate the community of an office environment for remote employees, but that’s no reason not to try. On top of effective and constant communication, it’s important to ensure remote workers interact in more ways and with more people than just their direct managers or team members.
Make Remote Onboarding Activities Memorable
When you’re hiring a remote workforce, the first days of an employee’s tenure become even more important. Chances are, they’ll come to your office or another centralized location to receive training with other new hires. That’s a chance to meet and greet their new coworkers in real life. Making that onboarding experience highly interactive will help make it impactful and memorable. Connections will happen that go beyond established team and department boundaries, and they’ll last a long time.
Take Advantage Of Communal Workspaces
You might not be able to afford to open a satellite office, or even need one. But renting a few desks in a communal workspace can be affordable.
It also offers a way for remote workers to connect with each other, collaborate, and feel a sense of belonging, and even to get away from the distractions of home. Many workspace providers will even let you customize your designated area with branding, refreshments, and equipment at no additional cost (assuming you pay for the stuff itself).
Bonus: Recruiters will have an easier time seeking and hiring new candidates when they can draw a radius around your second location.
Set Up Extracurricular Activities
The internet makes it easier and more effective to conduct business across long distances, but it’s also helped billions connect socially around the world. As an employer, you oversee a business community, but you also have the opportunity to make it something more.
Whether it’s a book club, a fantasy football league, a multiplayer online gaming tournament, or just an internal social network for people to share experiences or connect outside the nine-to-five, you can facilitate social connections among your employees that will increase engagement during the workweek.
The Dos (and Don’ts) of a Hybrid Workplace
Hybrid workplaces promised the best of both worlds–but companies often struggle to find the right balance between remote and in-office culture. Follow these tips from BambooHR to cultivate a collaborative and thriving workplace!
Strategy 3: Show Your Appreciation
The last strategy is the icing on the cake from the other two. Recognition and appreciation for the work your remote employees do is the most direct way to show you care about them. Unfortunately, employers often fall short in this area, or they make recognition too broad and generalized to really make an impact.
Individualizing your recognition can have a dramatic impact on helping your remote employees feel seen and valued. It can be as simple as a “Thank You” e-card with a message that includes their name and why they’re important to your organization, or it can be an inexpensive, but thoughtful individualized gift. A little effort will have a dramatic impact.
Send Out a Survey
Here’s a tip that we’ve found useful for our own employees at BambooHR. We use a questionnaire for every new employee that helps us learn personal data and preferences like tee shirt size, hometown, and favorite candy. That may seem trivial, but when it comes to rewarding employees on an anniversary or special occasion, we have all the information we need to give it a personal touch.
Consider Offering a Home Office Stipend
Whether it’s as simple as sending some high-quality office supplies or as generous as giving every remote employee a standing desk for their home office, any money you spend on improving remote workers’ experience pays you back twofold: it has the feeling of a gift with the additional benefit of making your remote team more effective at their jobs.
Treat Remote Employees Like VIPs In The Office
Coming into the office can already feel like a big deal for remote staff, so any effort to show you feel the same way is a guaranteed win. It can be as easy as going out to lunch with the department when a remote employee makes the trek to HQ or even just having someone bring donuts in the morning—and remembering their favorite flavor.
Tailor Specific Benefits To Remote Employees
Another tip the executive team at BambooHR has seen a positive impact comes from special Q&A sessions just for remote employees. These occur in addition to our regular company updates, giving remote employees a chance to talk directly with the executive team. That’s just one way that an organization can show remote teams they understand the different challenges remote workers face. Other ideas might include location-agnostic healthcare plans or subsidized broadband connections.
Strategy 4: Measure Remote Employee Engagement
All of the suggestions above are designed to strengthen the bond between employers and remote employees. No matter what you decide to do, however, measuring their effectiveness is a challenge you’ll need to consider–especially the ones that cost money.
Measuring engagement is all about learning what needs and concerns remote employees have. It gives you a framework for addressing those issues. Looking for ways to keep your thumb on the pulse of remote employee engagement throughout the year provides a method to track that sentiment to see if what you’re doing is working. At BambooHR, we’ve found two tools to be very effective at doing just that: eNPS and pulse surveys.
Employer Net Promoter Score, or eNPS is a two-question survey designed to measure employee satisfaction. It uses a simple scoring system and keyword analysis to give employers a quick performance rating along with deeper insights about why employees are feeling good or bad about the company. It allows you to track satisfaction over time and understand what you’re doing right as well as what you might focus on to improve the employee experience.
Pulse surveys are even simpler: short multiple-choice or binary questionnaires that take only a couple of minutes for employees to complete, but that can be administered quickly to gauge reactions and help executive teams make the right call when a decision might impact the employee experience.
Employees want to be heard. Is your organization listening?
With accurate, reliable employee surveys in BambooHR, you'll gain the insight you need to prevent burnout, improve morale, and stop premature turnover in its tracks.