By: Jock Purtle
The digital revolution has and will continue to reshape the way we work. Not only has it made us more productive than ever, but we’re also more connected. And one of the most visible results of this change has been the increase in the amount of people working remotely. This includes employees, contractors, and even members of a group such as trade union organization.
It’s easy to see why this has become normal in today’s economy. Remote work allows companies to access a global talent pool and reduce overhead, and it offers employees the chance to live and work more flexibly, making it easier for them to focus on their health, wellbeing and work-life balance.
However, the big challenge when it comes to remote workers is engagement. Often far removed from the office, it’s only natural that people will start to disconnect slightly from the workplace when they begin working remotely, and this can have a profound effect on productivity.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Some research has found remote workers actually tend to be more engaged than in-office workers, but this only happens when you manage your digital workforce the right way. Here are some ways to do this so that you can keep all your employees working hard to achieve company goals.
Employ Open, Honest Communication
Building an engaged workforce requires a constant flow of communication between employees and leadership. People need to feel free to express their opinions, and they need to feel like their ideas are being listened to. If they don’t, then it becomes harder and harder for employees to get the sensation their work is going towards something meaningful, which causes people to disconnect and care less about what they’re doing.
When dealing with remote workers, the same idea applies. But you need to take a different approach. Whereas with in-office employees you can maintain a constant flow of communication using a “management by walking around” technique, this won’t work with remote employees.
As a result, you need to establish places for people to express their ideas and ask questions. Consider setting up a regular meeting specifically for remote workers where you talk about things that could be done better. And then do everything you can to try and implement some of these suggestions. Another option is to create an online forum where people can speak up. In the end, the format doesn’t really matter, but you do want to find something that’s a bit more dynamic than email, as not all emails are read.
There are market available solutions to help companies engage their staff. Company-customized mobile applications such as Continuwell can make it easy for remote workers to access online forums and keep engaged. Push notification is another great way to remind people to engage with your organization events. Slack is a popular choice for many remote teams, and a channel dedicated to helping remote workers stay more in-tune with what’s happening with the company can go a long way towards helping people stay engaged.
Be Hands Off
However, it’s important to remember that dealing with remote workers requires a different management tactic. While you might be able to walk around and check in with your employees around the office, the digital equivalent of this (pinging people with messages every time you have an idea or a question regardless of the time) can actually have the opposite effect and cause people to disengage.
This is because remote workers tend to be more interested in the idea of presence. They may work fewer hours, but the idea is that when they do work they are fully present and therefore much more productive. This allows them to then be more present in the other parts of their lives, contributing to a better balance between work and life, and also a greater commitment to their work when it’s time to be productive.
If you hound people with constant messages, especially outside of their working hours, then you are going to disrupt this balance. This will cause them to lose presence in the other aspects of their life, and this can cause a distraction in their work life. It’s much better to establish clear schedules about when to communicate, regular meetings that allow you to get status updates and ask questions, and lines of communication that make it easy for remote workers to reach you when they need to. Apps, like Continuwell, help send relevant messages across to your employees and gives them access any resources to reach out to when needed. Do this and you’ll likely be rewarded with a remote workforce far more dedicated to helping the company succeed.
Work to Include Remote Workers
To keep employees engaged, you need to convey to them how important they are to the company. Yet when people work remotely, there’s a tendency for the relationship to trim down to just what’s important for work. Managers stop asking remote workers about their lives, and the whole dynamic begins to go stale.
It’s important you do everything you can to fight against this since the moment an employee feels you don’t care they too will start to give less importance to their work. Simple things, such as starting meetings off asking people about their personal lives, or scheduling monthly one-on-one meetings, will make it far easier for you to demonstrate to remote workers how vital they are to the team, and this should help keep them engaged and at their productive best.
Offer Equivalent Benefits and Perks
The other thing to keep in mind when dealing with remote workers is that you need to do everything you can to make them feel the same. This will reinforce the idea that they are just as important as any other employee, keeping them engaged and working hard.
The best way to do this is to make sure the benefits and perks you offer to remote employees are similar or the same to what you offer people in the office. Obviously remote work itself can be seen as a perk, but don’t carry this too far.
For example, if you offer employees access to an onsite gym, consider subsidizing a health club membership for remote workers. These little things will help reinforce the message that your remote workers are just as important to company success as everyone else, which is essential if you hope to keep these employees engaged.
Sometimes this can be tricky, though, so consider working with a benefits management firm to help you design packages that are both attractive to your employees and practical for the bottom line. Make sure you also find a solution that makes it easy for all the staff to access and learn about the resources available to them.
Just because you communicate with your remote workers through a phone or computer screen doesn’t make them any less human. Treat them the same way you would treat your in-office employees, and work to be as attentive to their needs as possible.
Work to implement solutions that will make it easier for people to stay on top of what they know. Centralized enterprise platforms make it super simple for employees to find answers to any questions they might have, for managers to contact certain groups and for everyone to stay on top of their own health and benefits packages. Combine this with the strategies discussed above and you’ll be able to offer employees the exciting benefit of remote work while increasing their productivity and engagement.
About the Author: Jock is a career entrepreneur and the Founder of a successful online brokerage. He and his entire team work remotely which has many benefits for both the business and employees. Connect with Jock on LinkedIn here.