Managing a remote team can be extremely productive, provided everyone has what they need and feels engaged with each project. Of course, maintaining engagement is one of the greatest challenges for managers of remote employees. Those who work remotely are the most likely to become isolated or to feel unappreciated when they only ever interact from a distance.
The key to remote employee engagement is to foster a sense of community, trust, and involvement with every aspect of your shared workflow.
In this blog, we will explore how to build a well-rounded approach to remote employee engagement, considering each aspect of the remote working environment.
You will learn how to offer leadership, workflow, and rewards that will help to keep each one of your remote team members fully engaged.
Create a Culture of Communication
The core element of remote employee engagement and a healthy company culture will always be communication. The way your team communicates will form their bond and define how well they work together.
The same is true of the connection you build between management and team members. While working in the same office can allow natural and free-flowing communication in casual moments and over cubicle walls, communication must be built into your workflow when managing remote employees to help them feel connected and remain fully engaged.
Water Cooler Group Chat
First and foremost, replace water cooler and break room chat with a group chat. This should be your universal on-work and off-work chat channel where everyone can shoot the breeze without the need for structure or focus.
Remote team members can use your water cooler group chat to say hello and swap news in the morning, ask quick questions about the project, or rally the troops for a group effort with equal usage.
While you will likely have other, more focused, chat channels for your remote workforce, the informal communication group chat is essential to rebuilding that ability to freely communicate between remote employees.
Routine Check-In Meetings
Check-in meetings have been a popular way to keep employees engaged both in-person and remotely. A check-in meeting is when everyone reports on their progress and their plans, then compare notes and makes plans together where collaboration is necessary.
Virtual meetings are a great way of engaging remote employees while making sure everyone is on-task and schedule a weekly face-to-face through video meeting software.
Assign Mentors and Partners
Mentors and partners also help to keep remote employees engaged because it gives them at least one other person who they can always ask questions and check in on objectives. This is especially helpful for new hires.
A mentor can help new remote employees prevent becoming isolated when they don't know everyone in the group yet and having a partner can keep remote employees from becoming isolated because there is always one person to keep in touch with.
Encourage Questions and Answers
Build a culture of question-asking. Many remote employees worry that their questions are bothersome or get anxious about answers. However, a culture of questions and answers can promote a sense of employee recognition and help everyone ask what they need to ask.
Just remember to emphasize that asynchronous communication is OK and answers don't have to be given right away.
Share a Collaborative Digital Environment
Collaboration is also important for remote employee engagement and a strong company culture. When remote employees learn to work together, they feel more like a team and less like isolated individuals.
Sharing a project environment and collaboration tools where team members can see each other's work can really help build their sense of being a team.
Individual dashboards are common in working software, but team dashboards are better at bringing remote employees together. Create a dashboard that everyone can log into that includes team goals, progress, and task assignments.
Make a point of checking and working off the dashboard in meetings and when discussing project progress.
Shared Task Lists
Task programs give your remote workers new ways to engage and help each other with team progress. Use a task list program with boards, kanban, and other task management tools that will help your team both see and assign tasks for one another.
These tasks can be requests for collaboration, coordinating a group effort, or down the chain of command depending on how your team works.
Cloud-Based Projects and Files
If your team works on a shared project like video production, app creation, or even simple documents, look for a cloud-platform that allows for simultaneous project editing.
Cloud-based projects with version control allow remote employees to work on the same projects at the same time instead of a team all working around the same workstation in the office.
Work-life balance is essential for a healthy company culture, especially with remote when working remotely. When it comes to remote employee engagement, time spent away from contact is just as important as communication.
This is because remote work - typically working at home - also relies on trust that personal boundaries between work and home lifewill be respected.
Employees who work in their own homes need that line for work-life balance to be especially strong and for personal time out of the office to be sacred. Otherwise, job satisfaction is on the line.
Set Strong On/Off Work Hours
Whether you have set shifts or flexible schedules, build a policy that strongly respects each remote employee's on-work vs off-work hours. If an employee is scheduled to be offline and has marked themselves as unavailable, they are unavailable.
Employees will typically return this respect for their work-life balance by being at their desks on-time and committed when they are on the clock.
Respect the Status
Online status can keep everyone on the same page in terms of availability. For remote employees with flexible schedules, respect the status.
One's online status can indicate whether a night owl is awake and available to answer questions in the late night or offline and not answering their phone for personal time.
Asynchronous Messaging During Off Hours
Draw the line between synchronous communication (real-time live chatting) and asynchronous communication (delays between messages).
During off-hours, team members can still ask questions, but they shouldn't expect an answer until the person asked is back on the clock.
VOIP Over Personal Phones
VOIP phones are virtual phones or communication channels that are only used for work. You can use VOIP or work-only communication platforms in order to avoid sending messages to employees personal phones during off-work hours.
Prioritize Work Over Time Tracking
Lastly, be sure to focus on delivered work instead of time tracking. Trust in the performance that comes with employees autonomy. Time tracking is a disproven theory in remote work and can actually reduce engagement, while rewarding excellent quality and quantity work should be rewarded no matter how exactly an employee managed their time to achieve it.
Remote Friendly Employment Benefits
Companies building a strong remote company culture and seeking to keep remote employees engaged must also think about benefits. Many, if not most, employee benefits and perks are designed to benefit in-office employees and people who commute regularly.
Be sure to build a motivating benefits package that will make your remote employees feel that you value their well being and enhance their lifestyles while working at home.
Virtual Classes and Resources
Instead of providing on-site experiences, provide virtual classes, memberships, and resources instead. Make it possible for employees to seek skill development, wellness, and interesting hobbies through virtual experiences.
Telehealth is extremely useful for remote employees because they work at home and rarely commute. This gives them the option to reach health services from the same office where they do the majority of their work.
Gym Memberships or Fitness Stipends
Offering gym membership makes it possible for your employees to find a fitness centre close to home or choose an online fitness program, while fitness stipends allow them to put together home gyms and routines equivalent to their colleagues who prefer public gyms.
Healthy At-Home Food Incentives
Before the remote work movement, workplaces were moving toward offering healthy foods on-site. Today, there are many remote-friendly healthy food options as well.
Raw ingredient recipe programs, non-perishable and frozen gift boxes of healthy foods, and even online group cooking classes could fill this role.
Plan Group Activities and Events
Lastly, you can better engage remote employees by bringing everyone together for social events, both virtual and physically present.
Virtual events make it possible to share activities online without travel, while meeting everyone for live parties, conventions, or workshops can encourage team bonding on a deeper level in person.
Virtual Events for Remote Teams
Virtual events are a growing trend and extremely popular with remote employees. Virtual events range from career growth to painting classes and escape rooms.
To host a virtual event, send everyone a gift box of supplies, then tune into the same video meeting with a virtual host to lead the shared experience - whether it's a holiday party, a fun activity, or an online course.
Annual In-Person Events Bring Companies Closer Together
In-person events are a great opportunity to bring remote employees together for a unique day or week spent in person. Just remember to be accommodating for employees who work remotely for specific reasons like disabilities, small children, or other unmentioned personal life details.
Team Competitions, Goals, and Raffles
Of course, one option for remote team fun that you can do all year is ongoing events like competitions, group goals, and prize raffles. Everyone can get into this type of event and remote employees will often get excited about seeing ongoing events through to the end.
Seasonal raffles or group competitions encourage everyone to throw in and look forward to the end of a season together.
Engaged Remote Team Management with Shiftbase
If you are facing the challenge of managing remote employees, Shiftbase is here to make it simple. Our cloud-based team management, employee scheduling, and HR services can help you build a structure to provide your team with both structure and support.
Engaged management is the foundation for engaged remote teams. Try Shiftbase for free, to explore your remote team management tools with Shiftbase.