Telecommuting is on the rise. After all, there are huge benefits to both employees and employers for remote work.
Employees get to skip the rush-hour commute to the office and often enjoy more peace of mind. Employers, on the other hand, enjoy less overhead in office space and increased employee retention. Not to mention the added benefit to the environment by having less commuters on the road.
However, managing remote employees comes with its own set of challenges. The following tips will help you keep your remote employees inspired and engaged within a cohesive and supportive environment.
5 Tips for Engaging Remote Employees
1. Arrange a Weekly Team Call
A big challenge with managing remote employees is that you miss the opportunity to see people and gauge their level of stress. Nor do you have the run-ins or spur of the moment discussions like you find in an office environment, which often help to fast-track solutions.
To remedy both challenges, schedule a weekly call for the department or perhaps even the entire team. The main focus of the call is to check in and allow team members to bring up issues and to discuss their workload. For managers, this call is your chance to gauge a worker’s stress level and the scope of their assignments.
If your business is heavily focused on projects and project management, consider holding a daily stand-up or scrum call. This short 15-minute call is typically held in the morning and is an opportunity for project team members to quickly describe their focus for the next 24 hours. It has the additional benefit of helping the project manager foresee delays and adjust timelines, too.
2. Use Chat/Messaging Platforms
Chat systems like Slack or Hipchat are a lifesaver for remote teams. In addition to cutting down on numerous emails, chat is an extremely useful tool for large teams. For example, Slack gives you the option to set up multiple channels so that each department can have their own channel.
For remote teams, chat also serves as the remote “water cooler” and as a place to foster your team culture. It’s very hard to communicate a company culture with employees who work independently and who may never see each other in person. The chat area is an opportunity for employees to be social and feel a sense of community, regardless of where they’re located.
Lastly, consider some guidelines around what types of discussions are acceptable in chat. For instance, if documentation is critical for a project and needs to be saved in a project management system, encourage your team to avoid discussing specific project items in chat messages. Setting some guidelines can help you benefit from chat rather than having it be a place of dropped threads.
3. Invest in Training for New Hires
With a remote position, the on boarding and training experience is even more critical than for an in-person job. A lot of employees consider working remotely as a huge benefit, but in order to support their transition into the company and help them to feel welcome, there are a few extra steps you need to take.
Prior to hiring anyone, you’ll need to prepare additional resources, such as training videos and online documentation. Once the new employee is hired, consider bringing them into the office for a few in-person meetings during the first week on the job.
From there out, your new team member may yet need a little help to get acclimated. In an office environment, a new hire can easily ask questions of their coworkers if they get stuck. With a remote position, new hires may not know who to turn to at the start of the job and may feel more anxiety. Consider assigning a go-to person for any new hire. This is also where chat messaging can be extremely helpful for answering quick questions.
4. Arrange Quarterly Social Gatherings
While you may not have the typical office birthday celebrations with remote employees, you shouldn’t forgo company social gatherings. In most cases, remote employees live fairly close to the business’ location, making it possible to gather everybody together. Admittedly, if you have remote employees who are in other states, getting together for a social event may be more challenging.
If possible, hold social gatherings with your entire team about once a quarter. These events are critical for several reasons. Employees who work from home may struggle with feeling lonely and disconnected since they don’t work in a social office environment. Quarterly social events go a long way to fostering relationships and connections between employees.
When planning an event, choose an activity that requires everyone to participate and communicate. For instance, an Escape Room is a fun and engaging activity for a group of coworkers. At an Escape Room, your team will be locked into a room for an hour and forced to solve puzzles that will enable them to escape before the hour’s out. These types of activities create a shared experience between employees – and can be a lot of fun.
5. Send an Internal Email Newsletter
An internal email newsletter is a great way to keep everyone updated with news or promotions and to introduce new members of the team. While this may be standard for larger B2B websites and businesses, it’s particularly helpful with remote employees, regardless of the size of your team.
Consider having an “employee of the month” or “employee of the quarter” section of the newsletter. You can request nominations from your team members and ask them to include a story about their coworker or describe the reason why they’d like this employee to be nominated.
With a remote culture, employees may not have the opportunity to say good job or offer appreciation for creative ideas. A newsletter can be a great way to recognize remote team members who may not experience the day to day recognition of their work. But non-performance based employee recognition can be fun too, to foster camaraderie and keep everyone engaged in the larger social context of the company.
Maintain a Strong Team
Remember that managing and engaging your employees is an opportunity, as well as a challenge whether they work half way across the office or halfway across the country. With a remote team, you need to harness more technology to stay connected.
While chat and email are great, don’t hesitate to pick up a phone and if at all possible, arrange a quarterly social for your team members. Pairing in-person interactions with technology is the best way to keep a strong team engaged.