4 Tips for Engaging Teleworkers

October 10, 2015

A new infographic put together by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s online MBA program takes an in-depth look at telework, and has uncovered some surprising stats about the ever-growing segment of remote workers. In 2015, nearly half (45 percent) of all employees telecommute or work remotely in some way shape or form, and they’re heavily influencing management and engagement methods.

Beginning of the End

With over 53 million Americans working as freelancers, it could spell the beginning of the end of the traditional 9 to 5 model. The number of remote job listings increased by 27 percent just in the last year and the trend shows no signs of stopping as advancing technology untethers us from our cubicles more and more. However, while remote workers report higher productivity and less stress day-to-day, their absence from the office can make maintaining strong personal connections a bit more difficult.

Demographic Power

But just like co-located workers, there are demographics at play within the remote workforce that can help managers and organizations understand their wants and desires better, therefore engaging them with more purpose. Here are a few characteristics of teleworkers that were analyzed in the infographic:

  • They are predominantly 18-34 year olds – Sometimes described as “no-collar” workers, Millennials and their younger counterparts would rather have no job than a job they hate, and flexibility is a huge deal-breaker for them. They are also the majority demographic (38 percent) of freelancers. If a company offered the option to work from home, even if it was only one day a week, it would instantly make them more competitive in recruiting.
  • They are driven by personal achievement – Chances are your remote workers are part-time freelancers, and they place more importance on controlling their future (73 percent agree), opportunities for challenges (67 percent), interesting work (66 percent), and a flexible schedule (65 percent) compared to their office-bound peers.
  • They are mostly “intermediate” level employees in tech industries – 86 percent of all freelancers have 3-4 years’ experience in their fields, and a vast majority of them (98 percent) are in the computer or IT industry. Best practices for remote workforces are still developing, but everyone can agree if you’re in the technology field with a decent amount of experience, the option to work from home is more or less expected.

Show Them You CARE

But the question still remains – how do you start and maintain engagement with workers who aren’t in the office? The answer, which you’re not going to like, is very carefully. It’s harder by definition to do it, so an extra effort must be made to reach out and connect across distances. Here’s where our CARE acronym can help:

  • C – Call them on the phone – Even though the demand for telework is climbing, people still overwhelmingly prefer in-person interactions when it comes to things like positive feedback and personal collaboration. So don’t lock yourself away from teleworkers in an email silo – reach out and make the connection real when you can.
  • AAsk about their lives outside of work – When you do talk to your remote workers, try not to make it all about work. A quick “How have you been otherwise?” can create opportunities to connect with them as people while building mutual trust and respect.
  • RRemember major milestones and celebrate accordingly – It is the most expected form of recognition workplace recognition, and you will look out-of-touch if you simply let them pass by without comment. Remember the birthdays and service anniversaries of your remote staff, recognize them accordingly, and use technology to involve them in celebrations as much as you can.
  • EEmpathize with their needs – Forbes called empathy “the force that moves business forward,” and for good reason: empathy from management is strongly correlated with higher job performance. Always show respect by listening intently and attempt to see things from the perspective of others in every interaction.

Back to the Future

There’s little to suggest the telework trend will taper off in the near future, so we’d all be wise to start preparing ourselves for the new management styles and attitudes that will be needed to keep employees connected to an organization, even when they’re miles away from it.

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