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How To Engage Your Remote Workers and Improve Productivity

These days, an increasing percentage of your workforce probably works from home at least a couple days a week, if not entirely so. It's one of the most visible signs that the workforce is changing. The needs and desires of your employees are evolving and if you have at least a portion of your workforce doing their jobs from home, their needs are going to be different from the needs of your in-office employees. Wise is the manager who understands and accounts for this.

If you're at a bit of a loss though, when it comes to trying to figure out how to keep your remote employees engaged, this piece is for you. Let's take a closer look at the issue.

Understanding What Your Remote Workers Want and Need

The first step toward keeping your remote employees engaged is to understand the challenges they face and what you, as a manager can do to help them overcome those challenges. Based on a survey conducted by Finance Buzz, here are some of the things that are hitting your remote workers the hardest:

Feelings of Isolation

The two most commonly reported challenges faced by remote employees were general feelings of isolation (46%) and difficulties building and maintaining relationships with co-workers (49%). It's easy to understand why. The lack of face to face communication really does make these things more difficult. Fortunately, as you'll see a bit later in this article, there are some surprisingly easy fixes for this!

Work Life Balance

This is a complaint reported by 38% of survey respondents and interestingly, it's a complaint that remote employees share with their in-office counterparts. This may well be the oldest and most persistently occurring challenge on surveys of this type. It is an issue that has been a prominent feature of the workplace for decades now.

Lack of Facetime With Management

More than 37% of survey respondents mentioned this issue and as with the first one we mentioned, you'll be pleased to know that there are some surprisingly easy fixes to make this one a thing of the past!

Difficulties Collaborating with Co-workers

Nearly a third (29%) of remote employees reported this as being an issue. While we completely understand it, this one, like most of the others on this list, comes down to improperly leveraging technology.

Different Perks/Benefits between In-Office and Remote Employees

Too often, your remote employees feel like second class citizens. That unfortunate reality is more pervasive than you might think, with 31% of survey respondents specifically mentioning this as a challenge.

How to Help Your Remote Employees Succeed?

Address Work from Home Employees' Feelings of Isolation

Your employees feelings of being isolated from the rest of their teams can be significantly reduced through the use of technology. This, of course, is a standard part of a remote employee's work, but what enhances connectedness is using a variety of communication channels.

ou should be using multiple channels to communicate with your remote employees. Besides phone and email, video conferencing tools like Zoom, project management tools like Asana and Monday, messaging apps like Slack, and comprehensive collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams can be part of your technology stack to keep remote employees connected and engaged. Don't be afraid to go beyond email and messaging. Having regular Face-to-face meetings via video conferencing is the closest thing to coming in to the office and working in person which can make your virtual team feel more connected and part of the office life.

This variety, while imperfect, does an admirable job at replicating the different types of in-office communications that occur on any given day, and that, in turn, goes a long way toward combatting those feelings of isolation.

Honor Remote Employees' Work Life Balance

This is something that's an issue for both in-office and remote employees. The simple truth is that work occupies an increasing percentage of our lives and honestly, it shouldn't. In other countries, they've figured out how to balance the needs of work with the fact that human beings may occasionally long for a life outside of work, but in the United States, it's something we're still struggling with.

There are two keys to help your employees (remote or not) find that magical balance: Communication and Understanding.

Life happens, and even if you've got employees who are on-call 24/7, they still have a life outside of work. They still have things they have to take care of that don't involve your company. When things come up, so long as there's good communication, let them take care of those things. If you don't, you're going to lose that employee in short order. Naturally, communication is a two-way street and you should definitely impress upon your employees that while you do understand that life happens, communication has to happen too, and if it doesn't, there could be trouble on the horizon. You want to work hard to be fair, but you also need to do that without being taken advantage of.

Increase Remote Employees' Facetime with Management

This involves leveraging the technologies we've talked about earlier. You should, at regular intervals, put in some face time with your remote employees. That means Zoom, Skype, or another video conferencing app, but it also means taking the time to sit down with your remote employees when they do head into the office.

It may also mean arranging lunches, either in groups or one on one with your remote hires, any time you can make it work. When possible, make these informal affairs, but working lunches are fine too, as long as they happen!

Solving The Collaboration Problem

It's important to demonstrate a collaborative culture. That's often easier said than done, but one powerful way to demonstrate that is to allow employees to work with each other across traditional corporate boundary lines. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow to set up groups for specific problems and allow anybody access to those groups. Then, you get feedback from all over the company on whatever problem you're working on. You'll be stunned at the insights you get, and the unexpected places you get them from.

This, combined with informal communications channels that allow your employees to get to know each other (again, crossing traditional corporate boundaries), is a great way to establish creative links, and when it comes time to collaborate, let your employees drive the process, pulling in resources from other departments as needed (with prior manager approval of course).

Provide Your Remote Employees Gifts

Out of sight, out of mind. This is how too many remote employees feel, and for the most part, this is a management issue.

Many managers do tend to forget about their remote workers, especially when it comes to the employee gift and recognition program. Take pains not to do this! Go out of your way to remember those whose faces you don't regularly see.

You may even want to send your remote employees special gift items just for them to let them know you're thinking of them. If you're interested in doing something along those lines, we've got a number of fantastic options to choose from:

  1. Gift Boxes / Care Packages: Gift boxes for remote employees are all the rage as work from home employees seem to love them! They can come with a variety of items including productivity items, desktop decorations and tasty snacks.
  2. Physical Awards: Perfect for when your remote employee wins a virtual award – you can send them a physical counterpart!
  3. Gifts appropriate for home: These are perfect gifts for the home like personalized candles and vases, yet still professional enough to be received from the workplace.
  4. Virtual Activity items: Use these items for virtual team building activities to bring your team closer together.

Now Get to Work

Remote team members are an important part of your company and when strategies are set in place to increase their engagement, everybody benefits. With this information, you should be on a better path that will improve both the morale and the productivity of your remote team members.

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