Keeping Your Remote Workforce Engaged: The How-To

Ever since the whole world shifted towards remote working (or enabled it in a way or form), many factors seem to affect whether employees stay or leave.

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The Great Resignation, "quiet quitting," and remote working are just a few of the buzzwords that have surged in popularity following the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. And regardless of whether we approve of them or not, they seem to have gained traction and are working their way up up to this very moment, two years after the pandemic started.

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What do the aforementioned three buzzwords have in common? They are all employee-centric. And ever since the whole world shifted towards remote working (or enabled it in a way or form), many factors seem to affect whether employees stay or leave. Only one factor -employee engagement- is what's tipping the scale and reversing the downsides of remote work.

Although some companies already operated in remote settings pre-pandemic, there were not many, and therefore, most of the companies are now building their cases through "trial and error" models of experimentation. As such, here are a couple of effective and practical ways that companies can use to keep their remote workforce engaged, efficient, and productive, all of which have been built based off case studies of companies operating in the EMEA region:

1. Set the grounds for remote work through an enabling technology as well as a proper workspace Be it Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, Notion, Miro, or others, digital tools are essential to keep the communication flowing between team members residing across the globe. Creating an atmosphere that fosters connectivity and communication is the stepping stone to keeping a workforce engaged. In addition to setting the requisite digital tools, having an ergonomic workspace at home (or wherever) is also crucial for the employee to feel supported and at ease. Starting day one, ensure that all employees have their ergonomic desks, chairs, laptop setups, and others. One cannot be engaged, efficient, or even functional if they're constantly bothered by trivial matters. These two components are the foundations for initiating solid employee engagement.

2. Create an office setting, virtually It's 9am in the morning. If you were working onsite, you'd arrive at your office location, park your car, pick up your laptop bag and lunch box, have a quick chit-chat with your colleagues, and then delve into non-stop work until lunch hour. Now, try to create a similar experience for your remote employees. Much like your real headquarters, set up a virtual one where your team can gather and just hang out. Add to that some breakout rooms inspired by your actual workspace, and let your team members hop in whenever they have meetings, need co-working sessions, or others. Instead of daily/weekly all-team face-to-face meetings, create daily/weekly huddles or stand-ups online with the same timing, same spirit, and same sprint conversations for people to kick off their days/weeks. These meetings serve as reminders for everyone of what other employees are doing, how they collaborate together, or ask for help when needed.

In addition, instead of watercooler talks or coffee breaks in the canteen where all the office gossip happens, encourage employees to have one-on-one chats with colleagues they're close to. Whether we like it or not, some gossip in the office does glue people together- just be careful that this doesn't become toxic. Having said that, a little bit of it does more good than harm– and that's coming from an HR professional! Plus, also consider creating online events for your remote workforce. Pajama nights, pizza nights and happy hour drinks - all of them and more exist in the online space, and they work. Offer allowances for pizza or drinks to your employees on that specific day, and enjoy together as a team, talking about everything except work.

Last, don't forget your newest hires. They are your most vulnerable entity. Ensure your onboarding process is as smooth as ever, encourage them to meet all the team members, have weekly (if not daily) check-ins, and don't forget their onboarding kits. Let them feel welcomed and engaged from day one. Slowly, but steadily, the change that was once frightening is now allowing more engagement of your employees.

Related: Growth Hacks: Lessons Learnt Scaling A Distributed Workforce Globally And Remotely

3. Don't let go of your rewards Once the remote working bridge is crossed, there is no turning back for both employers and employees. Though not easy, yet if the pandemic had taught companies anything, it is mostly about setting proper goals, i.e. key performance Indicators (KPIs) for their employees. At the moment where old school "attendance" or "the number of clocked hours" became no longer the answer, companies needed to emphasize more on the power of delivering and achieving targets as the indicators of good performance at work.

To keep your team on track, review your KPIs, and ensure that each member has a well-defined structure of goals. Whenever these goals are reached, make sure to recognize the employee's efforts, and make them public. Rewarding the behavior that you are looking to replicate among many is essential in strengthening the workforce, and pushing further engagement all across. Not only that, by creating incentives that are employee-centric, such as having rewards centered around employee health awareness, paid mindfulness breaks, and family quality time, you are proving to the employees that their engagement is rewarded with more care about your employee's well-being.

One more thing you can do to your remote team is to have a "fun budget" where team members can spend it on anything that is not work related and not virtual- say, a party in Barcelona, a retreat in Bali, or a simple two-day hike in the mountains. Anything that your team collectively wants to do outside the virtual ecosystem is welcome and supported periodically, and it goes a long way with developing a collegial atmosphere.

4. Build a culture of transparency If there is any competency that this article wants to focus on, it mostly revolves around communication. Following The Great Resignation, transparent organizations are the ones who were able to strive and maintain their presence amidst all the changes. But how does one achieve transparency practically on "remote ground"? For starters, create periodic town hall meetings that happen virtually. Meet with your team as frequently as possible, as communication here is crucial with your remote workforce. Employees need to be in the know of any changes happening. Encourage an open-door policy and regular "ranting" and feedback one-on-one sessions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an employee feeling free to express their concerns, and their employer/manager explaining a certain ambiguous situation.

The world is living in unprecedented times. The last time something that huge happened was in the eight-hour work day movement created following the industrial revolution back in the late 18th century. This means that the future of work is currently being shaped forever by everyone, employers and employees. The above four ideas pave the road and serve as tools to creating an engaging workforce, yet continuous work is to be made in order to ensure that the world is making history through the shift from an onsite workforce to now one that is remote or hybrid.

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