Remote work offers many benefits, like saving money and time on traveling and offering a better work-life balance. Much of the shift to remote work has been brought on by COVID-19, but these remote opportunities are here to stay even after the pandemic ends.
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A survey by Forbes showed that 74% of professionals expect remote work to become standard, and 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time. These statistics reveal that adopting a remote or hybrid model of work for many companies today will likely help them both hire and retain employees.
Current employees are looking for more than a place to work. They value flexibility and having an employer that prioritizes their growth, development, and personal wellbeing.
While remote work has its advantages, it presents challenges as well. Because employees aren’t in the office, they often feel less valued and engaged in their work. This disengagement can cause workplace burnout and also hurt productivity and creativity.
Top 10 Ways to keep remote employees engaged
Gallup discovered that managers account for an astounding 70% of the variance in their team’s engagement. Therefore, the quality of a manager is a top factor when it comes to choosing, accepting, and remaining in a professional position.
Only when managers learn how to keep remote workers engaged in a virtual team can a company operate at maximum efficiency and reduce employee turnover. Help your remote team feel connected and valued by implementing our ten tips listed below.
1. Set up a weekly call to go over goals for the week
Staying focused while working remotely is a challenge. There are simply more distractions at home than the office— everything from social media and roommates to the TV and housework.
Setting up a weekly call to go over goals for the week allows you and your employees to keep track of individual performance and engagement. Setting clear expectations and requirements for your team regarding their weekly tasks also helps each member stick to their work agenda and helps ward off distractions.
Keep in mind that checking in on a virtual team only once a week requires trust. Daily calls with a manager might burn out people and create a stifling (virtual) environment. Don’t just ask your team about their work during these weekly calls. See how they’re feeling about that work and life in general.
Different channels should be created for each type of weekly call. One-on-one chats are good between managers and team leaders to discuss performance and KPIs, while group calls are effective for getting feedback on projects, sharing ideas, and checking in with each other.
Be sure also to take advantage of video conferencing. Face-to-face meetings help you facilitate better communication, deliver a more personal collaborative experience, and engage your virtual team in more of an office-like environment.
2. Implement activities that encourage communication and productivity
As a manager, before you choose to engage your team, you need to understand better what they like and dislike. For example, if your employees enjoy drinking on the weekends, you can try implementing a Friday late-afternoon happy hour to wrap up the week.
This method puts everyone in a good mood heading into the weekend (and makes the last Friday push much more bearable).
Office banter, also known as water cooler talk, lets coworkers get to know each other and ultimately helps build a more robust company culture. Although there isn’t a water cooler to gather around on a virtual team, you can recreate the casual setting of water-cooler chats over a group call.
For example, if most of your team members have pets, you can encourage them to show off their pets during weekly group calls to promote a bit of fun office banter.
Here are some other ideas of fun virtual activities you can use to further engage with your team:
- Ted-talk style talks– Every month, one employee gives a Ted-talk style talk about something that interests them. This can be work or non-work-related, depending on personal preference.
- Competitions– Nothing gets people more fired up than competitions! For example, if you’re launching two different products, you can split your employees into two teams and set a small prize for whichever team brings in the most revenue. This also motivates your team to work together and increases productivity.
- Company yearbook– It’s harder to make an impression on your peers when you only know them through your laptop screen. Plus, the feeling of communal accomplishment doesn’t have the same weight when you can’t enjoy an epic, in-person high five.
However, by publishing and sending out a company yearbook with everyone’s photos and accomplishments highlighted throughout the year, your team can better retain positive memories about their coworkers and experiences.
- Creativity exercises- Creativity can often be stifled when remote workers are in the same environment and doing repetitive tasks every day. Setting aside time to do creativity exercises such as reading and freewriting helps both you and your team take breaks while expelling burnout and encouraging innovative thinking.
3. Encourage health and wellness
Implementing health and wellness programs or activities should always be a priority. If anyone on your team is sick, they won’t perform at their best which is detrimental to both the company and the employees themselves.
One great health and wellness benefit is to cover the gym membership expenses for employees at gyms closest to where they live. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which promotes the growth of neurons and boosts learning and memory functions. So not only will a gym membership help your virtual team stay healthy, but they’ll also get a boost in performance and productivity.
Here are some other health and wellness-promoting ideas:
- Healthy food subscription boxes
- Booking health talks with experts
- Allowing employees break times to go on walks or meditate
- Providing standing desks, back support devices, and/or blue light filtering glasses
4. Provide education and training
Helping your employees learn by providing extra education and training alleviates stress while teaching them key skills they can apply to their daily work.
For a company operating in multiple sectors, encouraging different teams to share their expertise in workshops allows each member to contribute productively and learn new skills. These workshops can break up the monotony of work and permit employees to show off their knowledge while making everyone more well-rounded professionals.
Providing online courses and subscriptions to learning platforms such as Khan Academy and Skillshare also offers your employees a chance to choose which area(s) they’d like to learn about. They can benefit from learning different key skills for their resumes, such as search engine optimization (SEO), how to do video editing, or how to code — all from the comfort of their homes.
5. Use chat platforms rather than emailing
Emails are helpful when doing webmaster outreach and distributing large amounts of information to people outside of your organization. But emails aren’t suitable for quick back and forth communication – especially when you have deadlines to meet.
Using a designated employee chat application allows you to get your messages across quickly. Utilizing informal communication and emojis also helps remote workers build relationships by providing a broader range of emotion and a more lighthearted atmosphere.
Here are some popular work chat platforms you can use:
6. Have your chat platform have a balance of professional and fun channels
It’s much easier for team members to chat about nonwork-related topics with designated channels. Having these separate channels also helps with work organization because posting about nonwork-related topics in work channels can cause distractions.
For every one or two “Product Discussion” type channels, have a “Dog Photos” or “Food” channel to encourage people to engage with each other on a more fun level. A virtual team can grow to know each other beyond simply working together, which should help everyone feel more connected.
7. Create a virtual working resources library
“The most successful virtual teams are those who communicate and share information,” according to authors Brenda Huettner, M. Katherine Brown, and Charlene James-Tanny in their book Managing Virtual Teams: Getting The Most From Wikis, Blogs, And Other Collaborative Tools. For example, in a virtual library, every employee has access to the same information and can learn from one another.
Having instantly accessible files about your business and all the necessary resources helps your virtual teams operate more efficiently. For example, if you create standard documents such as onboarding files and upload them into the library, new remote employees can access them and find all the resources they need to do their onboarding tasks.
Files are also easily organized in a virtual space, which means no one will lose their important files and documents.
8. Gamify the working experience
Gamification is the process of using game-like elements and mechanics such as competition, scores, points, and rewards in work settings.
A study done by Atlassian showed that newly formed teams that played video games together for just 45 minutes were 20% more productive than those that engaged in more traditional team-building exercises.
In addition, you can choose to manually gamify work processes such as awarding points in your company’s chat channel for people who interact with content the most or by setting a reward for whoever makes the most sales.
Another way to gamify the remote experience and improve employee productivity with the help of technology is by using a designated app like Gather.Town. It includes many interactive elements such as customizable office spaces, whiteboards for brainstorming, and mini-games for breaks.
The customizable office spaces let fully remote teams decorate their desks just like in-house. Using an app allows larger remote teams to socialize in smaller, more manageable groups while still being connected through a platform.
Here are some other popular work gamification apps you can use:
For people working remotely because of the pandemic, apps such as Gather.Town let them virtually walk around and socialize with coworkers – things that they cannot do freely. In a way, this provides employees with a (virtual) breath of fresh air.
9. Make sure remote employees feel valued and heard
Individual voices are often lost in the mass of messages a manager receives daily, which can lead to a feeling of not being valued or heard. Thankfully, all it takes is a little recognition to go a long way.
Is it the birthday of someone on your team? Put a shoutout in the channel or send an e-card to show your appreciation and make their day extra special! Did someone just earn a necessary certification? Make a social media post about it to celebrate their accomplishment
Employees, especially remote workers, are still humans even if you never see them in person. And like most humans, they want to feel like their achievements and personal details matter, are remembered and are celebrated.
To collect feedback from your team and encourage discussion, use employee surveys and ensure your virtual door is always open. Miscommunications are common when you can’t assess the speakers’ tone of voice or expressions. Employee surveys allow you to get honest feedback from your virtual team and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
10. Factor in everyone’s timezones
Remote employees who work outside the headquarter’s timezone or simply operate during nontraditional work hours often feel that they’re not part of team discussions and aren’t considered when decisions are made.
While it’s unreasonable for everyone to be online simultaneously, these remote employees will feel more comfortable knowing that they can reach out to their colleagues if managers include them by setting longer deadlines to finalize notable decisions.
For instance, if you’re creating a poll to decide which logo design is more popular, factor in everyone’s timezones and set the closing time of the poll after everyone’s had a chance to log on. Before you set meeting times or send emails, acknowledge that you don’t expect everyone to be present or reply immediately to avoid team members stressing about the time. It’s always a good idea to set and follow virtual meetings best practices.
Employees who don’t follow the primary timezone of the company will then feel like their opinions matter more and that their circumstances are taken into consideration.
Keeping remote workers engaged in a virtual team is necessary for retaining and hiring employees. However, engagement can’t be achieved without implementing different strategies, taking everyone’s circumstances and voices into consideration, and always keeping the lines of communication open.
As remote work is the future of work, make sure you consider our ten tips for keeping remote workers engaged, and stay on the lookout for more effective employee engagement ideas to keep your virtual team happy and gearing to work.
Chloe Chioy is a Staff Writer and Digital Marketing Coordinator at Resume Genius and CV Genius. Her job advice has been featured on career platforms like Zapier and CharityJob, as well as on the BBC.