Did you know that 43% of employees work from home at least some of the time? And that doesn’t include contingent workers or freelancers who contribute to your team as independent contractors. Many people view flexibility in work arrangements as a desirable perk, but how engaged are remote workers with the organization?
In our recently released Trendicators Report on Remote Workers, our research suggests that along with the appeal of setting their own hours and working from anywhere, remote workers do face challenges like feeling satisfied with the organization and receiving clear communication. However, their attitudes and perceptions compared to those employees who don’t work remotely reflect a more engaged group, overall.
It can be difficult to implement engagement strategies with remote workers because they aren’t in the office every day. It’s not as easy to set up a meeting, stop by a desk or celebrate an achievement without physical proximity. Still, like all team members, remote workers are more productive and more likely to stay with your company when they feel supported and engaged.
Let’s take a look at five ways you can build connections with remote workers to promote engagement.
1. Include remote workers in recognition programs.
Lack of recognition is the number one reason employees leave their jobs for other positions. Recognition for a job well done is proven to boost both productivity and bottom-line business results and your remote workers are no exception to that rule. In addition to performance rewards, recognition strategies may also include wellness initiatives, acknowledgements of work anniversaries or birthdays and peer-to-peer feedback.
2. Use technology to foster collaboration.
It’s frustrating to feel out of the loop on a project, especially when colleagues make changes without consulting you. Collaborative technology helps remote employees stay in the loop and do their best work by setting clear expectations and facilitating feedback. Project management platforms like Trello and Basecamp make it easy to share documents, manage deadlines and collaborate on projects in real time, and communication tools like Slack keep everyone connected and foster camaraderie among team members.
3. Encourage face-to-face and phone communication.
Frequent, personal communication accomplishes two important goals. First, it aligns expectations and keeps remote workers informed about project requirements, feedback and strategy. Second, it includes them in the day-to-day functions of the office, which helps place remote workers on an equal footing with other members of the team. If possible, incorporate face-to-face meetings with your remote workers on a regular basis. For local employees, that may mean coming in to the office once a week, while workers in other locations may connect via video conferencing. If in-person meetings are infrequent or not feasible, schedule weekly or monthly strategy phone calls to keep everyone connected and informed.
4. Set availability expectations.
Aligning availability expectations helps eliminate the frustration of not being able to reach team members or managers with questions about a project. Talk with the employee about scheduling and make sure you both understand when you expect them to be available for work and communication. Managers should also make themselves available by email or phone during the employee’s working hours, especially if they operate in a different time zone. For contract workers, demonstrate respect for their schedule by making appointments for phone calls ahead of time and responding promptly to email communications.
5. Foster personal connections.
Demonstrating value and appreciation for employees is an essential component of any engagement strategy. It takes intentional effort to build personal bonds with remote workers, but the pay-off is huge in terms of loyalty and productivity. Take the time to check in with remote workers about their families, interests, and personal lives as a means of building trust and developing a synergistic team.
Remote workers need to feel recognized, supported, and connected just as much as your in-house team does, but it’s easy to overlook them when they are not in the same location. Intentional relationship-building practices help you build a culture of shared purpose so that all team members can work together toward common goals without leaving your remote workers in the dark.