Remote work is enjoying a bit of a moment as of late, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon. In fact, given the growing number of remote workers and freelancers, it’s only gathering steam.
According to a study done at Stanford, remote workers were 13% more productive than their office-going counterparts. And it’s not just the employees who are benefiting from this development. Thanks to digital communications, companies can now choose from a worldwide selection of talent, which enables them to find just the right person for any position.
On top of that, companies save a ton of money on office rent, supplies, and computer equipment, since remote workers are all too happy to use their own hardware and work from home. Also, remote workers tend to take fewer sick days on average. In a survey of remote workers from 2014, 74% of the respondents have also said they enjoy better work-life balance, and 69% liked the fact that they save time and money on travel.
However, despite all these pros, there is at least one con in there. The major downside for most remote workers is the feeling of isolation and monotony, which then impacts all other aspects of their job.
So, how do you, as an employer, keep your remote employees engaged and happy? Let’s find out.
1. Assign People to Work on Projects in Pairs
According to a Global Work Connectivity study, 60% of workers surveyed have stated that they would be more inclined to stay with the company longer if they had more friends. This goes to show how valuable interpersonal relations among employees really are. And that particular component is the one that is lacking with remote work.
There are several different ways in which you can approach the issue, and one of the most effective ones is pairing up one of your remote workers with an office worker by giving them a project to work on together.
Now, to get the job done, they will need to turn to each other quite often and communicate on a regular basis. They will even learn from each other, and over the course of weeks or months working together closely, they might even become friends. Not only will it make them happier, but it will also improve employee productivity.
2. Connect with Them on a Personal Level
Try and imagine your average day at the office. It doesn’t just boil down to sitting at your desk all day and working for 8 hours straight, does it? There are plenty of moments that don’t include any work at all, such as chatting by the water cooler or exchanging non-work-related messages with your colleagues. All of that strengthens your team and your company, so why not apply the same approach when it comes to your remote workers?
While it may not be possible for you to talk to them in person, reach out to them and ask how they’re doing, how things are going outside of work, inquire about their interests, and so on. It doesn’t take much, and it can go a long way toward building a relationship with them and making them feel like integral members of the team – just like the employees that come into the office every day.
3. Keep Communication Channels Open
Even if your team consists solely of office-going employees, miscommunication is not uncommon, especially in large teams. That’s why it’s vital to keep communication channels open and to have several of them.
For example, while it’s great to have frequent video calls with your remote workers, those are simply not enough, because something will definitely be forgotten. The same goes for messages or emails. However, all of those channels combined leave much less room for misunderstanding.
You can even take it up a notch and start using one of the numerous project management tools. This will help keep everyone on the same page, enabling every remote employee to see which tasks have been assigned to them and which deadlines they need to stick to.
4. Organize Occasional Face-to-Face Meetings
Having several communication channels is great, but nothing can replace meeting someone in person. Make it a point to get together with your remote employees at least a few times a year.
Now, you can simply have them come in and work at the office and build deeper connections with their colleagues, or you can organize a team-building trip. Ideally, you should organize both. Another benefit of remote workers visiting a few times a year is that they will see that they are just as valuable as any other member of the team, and that what they do matters.
5. Offer the Same Perks
If they’re putting in the same amount of work and producing the same results as your in-office employees, why not have your remote workers enjoy the same perks as their colleagues? You’re already saving money by hiring them, as you don’t have to invest in equipment, which means you can provide them with benefits such as bonuses, raises, incentives, programs, health insurance, and pretty much everything else that regular employees enjoy.
If you fail to do so, they will start to feel disengaged, unmotivated, or even disgruntled. And before you know it, they will be looking for another job. Be fair and treat all of your employees equally.
6. Recognize Their Work
Despite the fact that remote workers have been proven to be more productive than their office counterparts, they don’t necessarily get the same kind of recognition. If people can’t see what your remote workers are doing, then they won’t place as much value on it. But, as an employer or manager, you have the insight into their activities, productivity, and their contributions to the company. Therefore, make sure to point out their good work every chance you get. If you’re sending a company-wide email, for example, use the opportunity to thank your remote workers in front of everyone for all of the hard work they’ve put in on a specific project.
Keeping your remote workers engaged and happy is not without its challenges, but always remember that they are also a part of the team. If you treat them the same as any other office-dwelling employee, they will have no reason to feel unmotivated or disengaged.