Though the global pandemic has spurred an immense shift towards working remotely in just a few short months, the truth is that this sector of the workforce has been growing steadily for the last few years.
Remote work is no longer just a flexible offering that some companies extend to their employees, rather it has become the only way many businesses are currently running.
Remote work, just like on-site work, comes with it’s own set of challenges , one of the biggest being how to engage employees remotely.
Employee engagement affects everything from productivity to retention; and fostering engagement among your virtual employees should be a top priority in your business.
In this article we’ll talk a little bit about remote employee engagement plus some actionable engagement tools you can put into practice today.
What is Employee Engagement?
To put it simply, employee engagement refers to a worker’s commitment to a company. Engagement is different from employee satisfaction or happiness as it deals more with the emotional connection an employee feels to their work and workplace.
This connection, especially among the remote workforce, ensures that employees are not working simply for themselves and their own gain, but rather makes them want to contribute to the goals and achievements of the company at large.
When it comes to the virtual workforce, employees may feel disengaged if they are lonely, if they are having trouble communicating with their team or their manager, if they feel like their voices are not being heard, or even if they are having trouble unplugging from work.
For an employee to experience this emotional investment in their job and their company’s goals, they need to feel like they belong and are an integral part of their team.
The engaged employee feels as if their contributions and their efforts matter.
How This Affects a Corporate Wellness Business
The thing is, a disengaged employee is not only not as productive as an engaged one, but they can actively detract from the productivity of your engaged employees.
While highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability , disengaged workers can decrease morale among your team members and disrupt the harmony of the workplace- even remotely.
While engaged employees work creatively to come up with new ways for the company to move ahead, disengaged ones do the opposite, resulting in stagnation within the organization. A side effect of this is that disengaged employees can be costly as well.
Not only do they tend to be a drain on a company’s time and resources, but they might also be responsible for driving away other engaged employees.
Tools to Engage Remote Employees
With all of this in mind, you can see how fostering engagement among all your employees is important, but even more so for the virtual worker.
To do this you will need to encourage employee participation, cultivate a strong company culture, keep open lines of communication both within the team and with the direct manager, provide regular feedback and positive recognition, and show a genuine concern for the well-being of your employees .
Here’s how to put those ideals into practice, with some employee engagement techniques to keep your team excited about working with you.
1. Employees Working From Home Need Social Interactions
The water cooler may be gone but that doesn’t mean the need for it is gone as well. Work-from-home employees are at a higher risk for disengagement because of loneliness, so it’s important to carve out time for them to communicate with their team members in non-work ways.
Small breaks during the day actually encourage productivity as it allows employees to reset and get back to work fresh. Try:
- Virtual Coffee Breaks: schedule a virtual coffee break with your team a few times a week to foster connectedness.
- Company-Wide Contests: you don’t need to be on-site in order to enjoy some fun office traditions. They can be holiday-related like a Halloween costume contest or something random like 80’s workout outfit day, silliest pet photo, etc.
2. Remote Workers Need Well-Defined Goals
When it comes to overall productivity, remote workers can finish tasks just as they would in an office setting. In order to complete tasks with speed and accuracy, they need to know exactly what is expected of them.
Encourage engagement with your virtual staff by setting clear expectations.
What hours/how many days per week are they expected to be online and available? Who do they turn to when they have questions? What is the best way to contact team members - email, text, Whatsapp, Slack, etc. To set your remote workers up for success make sure they have clear and measurable goals to achieve.
3. Virtual Employees Need to be Able to “Go Home”
One of the most overlooked issues with remote workers is the loss of the work-home life balance . Many employees who are working virtually find it hard to turn off at the end of the day or put away work on the weekends.
And while on the surface this may seem like a good problem to have, it can easily lead to burnout and can drive down productivity overall.
Encourage your virtual team to turn off with end of week meetings. Advocate for maintaining boundaries between work time and off time with a short video call to symbolize the end of the work week.
Take this time to call out wins and recognize specific employee’s contributions, summarize where you’ve left off for the week and end the call by sharing some fun weekend plans.
4. The Remote Workforce Needs to Prioritize Wellbeing
An engaged employee is one who feels like they belong to something _bigger_than them, but at the same time who’s personal contributions make a difference. You can encourage these feelings by helping your remote workers prioritize their own wellness .
Sleep, self-care, healthy eating, etc should all be topics of conversation within your team. For the wellness business in particular it’s important to encourage employees to take their own well-being seriously.
- Virtual Workouts: Think about setting time aside for a group fitness break during the day. Encourage break times for meditation, yoga, stretching, a quick HIIT session or walks around the block.
- Company Challenges: Challenges are an effective way to bring employees together, encourage friendly competition and help remote workers stay engaged. Try implementing an exercise challenge, a journaling challenge, or even some sort of nutritional challenge. Anything that gets your employees people interested, entertained, and engaged.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Finally, you won’t know if your employees are having issues with engagement unless you ask them!
They might not feel comfortable addressing challenges in your zoom calls or meetings, so you need to check-in periodically and ask your remote workers how they are doing.
Give them the opportunity to voice concerns so that you can address these issues before they become disengaged.
Get into the habit of asking questions like,
- How do you think we can improve our communication?
- Is it easy to contact your team members or manager when you need them?
- What can I/we do to improve the work from home experience?
- What is the biggest challenge you have found from virtual work?
Make sure to follow through with the responses you receive so that your employees know that you are listening and helping them to confront these challenges.
The remote workforce is growing larger by the day and it is imperative to know how to keep your virtual employees engaged in order to keep productivity and retention at a maximum.