How Can You Better Engage Your Remote Workers? 6 Ways.
Empower your team with the support they need to feel included and collaborate across the miles.
Remote work has become popular for a reason: Businesses can widen their talent searches when they don’t limit their workforce to a small geographic region.
At the same time, remote workers have proven more productive for many businesses, especially when the popular open-plan office makes it difficult for certain workers to concentrate or do as much as they could in a quieter environment.
Working from home also cuts out hours of frustrating commute time, giving employees a better work-life balance.
Still, one of the biggest negatives of remote work continues to be the feeling of isolation and disconnectedness telecommuters often report. This is a problem because effective managers know the importance of encouraging cohesiveness among team members, whether they’re seated in the same office or working on opposite sides of the globe.
When your entire team is engaged, morale improves, which has a direct impact on your business’s bottom line. If you’re struggling to find ways to better engage your workers, here are some tips that can help:
1. Get organized.
Whether they’re in the office or working from home, workers need to upload files, check project progress and stay up-to-date on what’s happening. This can not only help remote team members feel included, but ensure that projects stay on track, avoiding the delays that result from depending on disseminating files by email.
A collaboration platform like Trello or Producteev could fit the bill here. I’ve worked on teams that use both of these tools and found Trello particularly popular . One reason for this is because of how it lets you manage work across different platforms like Google Drive and Evernote.
2. Keep the conversation flowing.
Communication is an ongoing challenge for today’s businesses, especially as employees leave behind traditional voice chat in favor of email and text. Slack is dominating the area of workplace chat because of how easy it makes it for team members to stay in touch throughout the day.
Over time, remote workers I’ve known say that with Slack, they feel they’re being included in the day’s in-office activities since the tool gives them a direct connection to most people on the team.
3. Make meetings inclusive.
Another way remote workers are often excluded is with company meetings. Traditionally, managers have simply scheduled a meeting in the conference room at a designated time and everyone showed up. Remote work makes this much more challenging, requiring meeting coordinators to use technology to include everyone.
For best results, I use the latest tools that help connect everyone via a shared screen. Zoom and Join.me have worked well for me. Another tool, GoWall, uses a digital “notewall” that lets everyone participate in brainstorming during the meeting and in a follow-up once the meeting is over.
These tools help make my own meetings more inclusive and interactive, and put everyone on an even playing field, whether those people are in the office or working off site.
4. Offer rewards.
Although few employees will balk at a generous raise, multiple studies have shown that employees value recognition over financial compensation. This could come in the form of pulling someone aside to show appreciation, or through something more formal, like a gift card for the person who has brought in the most business.
Regularly make an effort to recognize your team members for their achievements, and make sure you include remote employees. You’ll likely find that team members feel motivated to work harder in the hopes they’ll eventually get the recognition they’re seeing others get.
5. Give frequent feedback.
You’ve likely already heard plenty about the importance of providing employees regular performance feedback. This is even more important with remote workers, since when you're one of them, and not in the office every day, you may find it difficult to gauge how management perceives your work.
From the first day, make sure each remote employee has a job description that clearly outlines the work outcomes you expect. At least twice per year (and many experts ecommend a bi-monthly or quarterly schedule), have a one-on-one meeting with each worker and go over the written feedback you’ve created. If you can’t meet in person, have a video-conference meeting to facilitate more open communication.
6. Get together in person.
No matter how spread out your team is, try to get everyone together in person at least once a year. If that's too expensive, consider regional meetings where you gather smaller groups. This face time will be highly beneficial in team-building, which will make each worker more productive.
You’ll likely also find that these gatherings inspire great ideas and invaluable feedback from people who don’t feel comfortable sharing information in chats or via videoconferences.Remote work is expected to only grow in popularity in the coming years. While it has many benefits, communication can always be a challenge. With the right tools and procedures in place, though, you'll empower your team with the support they need to feel included and collaborate across the miles.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.