That working from home or remotely is rapidly changing the workplace is not exactly groundbreaking news. For a while now, hot desking and co-working spaces have created a shift in attitudes as people begin to explore new ways of working.
And of course, the global pandemic has only served to accelerate the move away from the traditional office environment.
But will we return to ‘normal’ or is this now ‘the new normal’? Many experts think it is likely that working remotely is here to stay, at least in some way, shape or form.
And a quick look at the numbers from a recent study seems to suggest that will be the case. Consider the study’s findings which, amongst other data, found that:
- 35% of employees would change jobs if it meant they could work remotely full time
- 56% of employees have a job where at least some of their work could be done remotely
- 80% of employees would like to work from home at least some of the time
It seems that our offices could become shells of their former selves, at least in some industries. But aside from the knock-on effect on shops, cafes, bars and other small businesses that predominantly serve office workers, what does it mean for you as someone working in Human Resources?
Perhaps your company already has people working from home and it’s looking more likely that this is going to become permanent. And even if you are still very much office-based, you might want to start looking into allowing a more flexible way of working, given the stats above!
However, whether you currently have people working from home, you’re considering adopting the practice to increase employee retention, or you have staff in multiple satellite offices, one question that might be on your mind is how to effectively engage with employees that are working from home.
8 Ideas for better engagement with your remote workers
Organisations need to adapt to this ‘new normal’ and as well as including embracing new ways of working, it also means adapting the way that management and HR interact and communicate with employees.
Although the attractions of working remotely - no commute, easier childcare etc - are plentiful, even its biggest advocates would have to admit that on the downside, there can be a disconnect that generally doesn’t happen when all employees are working in the office.
If you have been, or are currently, working from home you probably know what we’re talking about.
Depending on your circumstances, working from home can be a lonely business - and it can feel particularly isolating if little to no effort is made by a company’s leaders to foster a culture of communication.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if intercompany and departmental communication is good, your employees are more likely to be happier, more engaged and more productive.
Not only that but they’ll be able to do their job to the best of their abilities too because they’ll know what’s happening with a particular task or project, even if they’re miles away from the office.
So what can managers, leaders and Human Resources do to engage with their remote workforce and ensure that all employees - regardless of location - feel included and appreciated at work?
- 1. Check in with remote employees who’ve just joined the company
It’s crucial that you lay down the foundations for great communication right from the moment your new hires come onboard. This makes them feel welcome from the start and it will enable them to hit the ground running if they know what’s expected of them.
Create an onboarding new hire checklist so you know you have all bases covered and then periodically check in with your new people so that they don’t feel forgotten and that you can ascertain how well they’re working out in your company.
- 2. Ensure that communicating is made easy
If things are difficult, people will avoid doing them and that goes for workplace communications too - especially if some, or all, of your people are working remotely. Therefore you need to make it simple for your employees to stay in touch - both with management and HR, and with each other.
Platforms, apps, and tools have a major part to play in this: think Slack, Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, Monday or Asana. These solutions will all provide you with a means of communicating and collaborating with your teams.
- 3. Make sure your new hires are good communicators
Staying in touch goes deeper than just the tools you need to make it happen. You also need your people to have good communication skills. That means, moving forward, you need to add this to your list of desired attributes when interviewing candidates.
Maybe it wasn’t absolutely essential for all of your new hires to be good communicators when you employed them back in the day, but with remote work becoming the norm, it’s certainly a trait that you will need people to possess from now on.
- 4. Communicate with consistency
It’s all well and good checking in with your new people but that doesn’t mean there should be a cut off point a couple of months down the line. You need to make sure that communication is continuous and consistent throughout an employee’s time at your company.
Not only should this be an intrinsic part of your company culture, helping employees to feel part of the team and engaged, it’s also crucial for making sure that work is actually getting done - and done correctly.
Communicate clearly about work and objectives and also just check in periodically to make sure employees are coping with working from home and have everything they need to do their job properly.
- 5. Try virtual team building
Obviously traditional forms of team building probably aren’t going to work when you have a large proportion of remote workers. Outward bounds courses, team lunches and happy hours on Fridays are more than likely off the table, unless you’re all working from roughly the same town or city.
But what happens when your team members are in completely different parts of the country - or even the world? Does that mean you can forget about team building? Nope. Remote workers are in even more need of engagement and a sense of community than office-bound employees.
Try arranging virtual activities such as meet the team hangouts or even quizzes. Adding a sense of fun into the proceedings will help people to relax and get to know one another - even if it is only through a laptop screen.
- 6. Hold team meetings
As part of your communication efforts, regular virtual team meetings should also be a part of life as a remote workforce. This will allow everyone to ensure they’re all on the same page and give people a chance to make their voices heard.
Quick daily stand-up meetings might be a no-go and are better suited to in-person but a weekly meeting with the whole team should definitely be on the agenda.
- 7. Provide the same opportunities you would to office workers
Just because your people are working remotely doesn’t mean that they don’t want the same opportunities to progress as their office-based colleagues.
Making sure people who are working from home are kept in the loop about training or internal vacancies is a must. Otherwise you’ll be widening the gap between them and people working onsite. And that will create disengagement and increase the chances of ambitious and talented employees leaving to seek work in a company that does provide opportunities for growth and development.
Best of all, this doesn’t have to be a laborious one-on-one task. It can be as simple as creating a channel or board in whichever tool you use for communication and collaboration in which you post internal job opportunities, recommended online courses, and dates and times for virtual training sessions.
- 8. Remember to recognise your employees
Employee recognition has a huge part to play in employee retention and just because some of your people are working remotely this definitely shouldn’t be a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Make sure you let employees know that you appreciate their contribution to the organisation and thank them for a job well done. Failing to recognise your people and their efforts will only heighten any lingering feelings of disengagement - especially if they’re working remotely.
And don’t just save the thanks or congratulations for periodic reviews and personal assessments: give them in a timely fashion so that positive actions are encouraged and engagement is increased there and then.
It’s also well worth making sure that recognition is made visible. When you praise one person this will have a knock-on effect on individual team members. It increases the positive vibes and encourages the rest of the group.
A shout out in the weekly team meeting or in the group chat will go a long way towards creating engagement with your people.
8 Ideas for better engagement with remote workers: conclusion
Whether you’re a fan of having your teams work remotely, or you’re still trying to embrace the idea of a remote workforce, taking steps to engage with your employees will go a long way to building a more dynamic, productive and happy workplace. No matter how geographically spread out the different components of that workplace may be!