Digital technologies have completely changed how the world does business. Technology has affected nearly every aspect of the business world, improving and enhancing it in so many ways.
One of the most exciting of these improvements is the increased opportunity for remote work. People no longer need to be tied to one location to do their jobs, and this is great news for both employees and employers. Workers can have more freedom and flexibility, and companies can expand their reach into what has become a literally global talent pool.
However, as with everything, there are some downsides. Being far away from your central office, remote workers are at risk of being less engaged. They don’t have the same contact with the business and other employees, and this can hurt how they view themselves within the business. And since engaged employees tend to be more productive, it’s important you find ways to prevent this disengagement from happening.
Here are some tips for making this happen:
Hold Regular Meetings
One of the nice things about working remotely is that there are fewer time restrictions. Remote workers often get the chance to choose their own schedules and hours. If they want to work throughout the night, no problem. The only requirement is they get the work done on time.
However, if you get into the habit of only communicating with remote workers when you assign work or when they submit it, there’s an increased chance they’ll become disengaged.
An easy solution to this is to schedule a regular meeting. This can either be with all of your remote workers (if everyone is on the same team), or in one-on-one sessions. The ideal situation is to hold the meeting at least once a week or once every two weeks, but this isn’t always possible. Try not to go more than a month without checking in with remote workers.
During these meetings, make sure to discuss things besides just work. Ask people how their personal lives are going, how they’re children are doing, what holiday plans they’ve got, etc. This helps to build a stronger connection between employee and employer and reduces the risk of people tuning out; they will feel like they belong to a community.
When discussing work, make sure to convey that their opinion matters. If you ask them to offer suggestions as to how to improve, make sure you show them that you’ve explored the practicality of these suggestions. All of these little things go a long way towards helping people feel more connected to the workplace and the business.
Duplicate Benefits and the Office Setting
One key factor in building employee engagement is the workplace environment. When people feel comfortable and at peace at work, they stop viewing it as simply a place of employment. Instead, they look at it as somewhere they voluntarily give their time to.
Office parties, team happy hours, lunches out, etc. are all part of this. But these are things that remote workers simply cannot participate in. Nothing alienates people more than sitting in on a meeting and hearing people laugh about something that happened at a party they didn’t attend.
Of course, remote workers know this is going to happen when they agree to telecommute. But this isn’t always enough to fend off the feelings of exclusion. Try to find ways to offer remote workers some of the same things you give to your in-office workers.
For example, a lot of offices give employees free coffee or food, and this is something many people treasure. Consider giving remote workers gift cards to local restaurants or a free coffee subscription so that you can somewhat replicate what people get in the office. It’s of course not the same, but a tiny little gesture like this will go a long way towards helping people feel more included and engaged in their work.
Give People Their Freedom
Ask any freelancer or remote worker what is the best part about telecommuting and they will inevitably tell you the freedom and flexibility it provides. Being able to set your own schedule is incredibly empowering and liberating. This is part of the reason why remote workers can, at times, actually be more engaged than those in the office. They recognize that they have a good deal and they are more interested in making sure they don’t mess things up.
As a manager or team leader, though, you can mess this up. Hovering over people or pestering them to get work done that isn’t due yet is going to push people away, and this can manifest into feelings of resentment and frustration, both of which lead to disengagement.
Outside of your regular meetings and when addressing a specific question, try to minimize communication. In the office, it’s totally normal to stop by someone’s desk while going from one point to another to ask them how things are going, but when doing this over the internet, it’s going to feel like you’re unnecessarily checking in on people.
Instead, assign the work, set a deadline and then trust people to get the work done in time. Make yourself available to questions and respond to any issues quickly and efficiently. But beyond that, just let people do their jobs and you’ll find they respond by being more productive and engaged.
Make the Most of Your Remote Team
Using remote workers is a great way to save some money and to increase the talent of your team. They can be more productive and they’re often easier to manage. But remote workers are at greater risk of disengaging if you’re not careful in how you interact with them. Make use of these tips so that you can take full advantage of the benefits remote workers provide to your business.
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About the author: Raj is the founder of JavaPresse, a socially-conscious coffee subscription service. His entire team is remote, and he considers this to be one of the key reasons his business has been a success. He found people from all over the world who shared his vision and wanted to help make it a reality. To help other entrepreneurs and business leaders have success, he likes to write as much as he can about his experiences.