According to a recent Gallup poll, 37% of US employees work remotely at least some of the time. As technology continues to evolve and the perception of remote work improves, we can reasonably expect this number to continue climbing in coming years.
Do you have remote workers? Are you planning on letting your staff work from home more frequently? If so, consider these five ways to keep your remote workers engaged and productive:
1. Use a real-time communication platform
Just because your remote staff doesn’t work from the office doesn’t mean they have to be completely isolated from the rest of the team.
Technology has evolved to the point where it’s easier than ever for workers to communicate with their colleagues in real time — no matter where they happen to be. So invest in a real-time communications platform. Whether that’s Google for Work, Skype for Business, Slack, or any number of other tools will depend on how much money you’re willing to spend and what kind of functionality you’re looking for.
Once you’ve deployed these tools, your remote employees will feel connected to the rest of the team because they will be in communication with each other on a daily basis — and not just through email.
2. Have in-person events as often as you can
If your remote workers are distributed across the country, you probably don’t have the budget to bring everyone together that often. But you should strive to assemble your whole team, in the flesh, at least once or twice a year.
If your remote workers live near each other, you can host in-person events much more frequently (think weekly team meetings at the library and monthly happy hours at the local watering hole).
3. Managers should regularly check-in with their employees
To keep your remote employees engaged and motivated, schedule regular meetings with each member of your team. These meetings could be held once or twice a week.
Whenever possible, you should probably try to hold these meetings via video conference. That way, you and your employees will make eye contact with one another. Despite the digital nature of such an interaction, it’ll still feel more human.
That said, you can definitely hold meetings over the phone too. Just try to avoid checking in via instant messages unless that's the only method available.
4. Invest in professional development
According to our 2015 Employee Engagement Report, only 25% of employees feel as though there are ample opportunities for professional development at their respective organizations. This is a problem because millennials in particular are extremely interested in learning everything they can on the job so as to advance their careers.
There’s an easy fix: Offer your remote employees opportunities for professional development. Encourage them to attend webinars; let them go to tradeshows, conferences, and seminars; and give them premium subscriptions to relevant sites.
5. Recognize your employees’ hard work
Just because your remote employees don’t work in the same office as you doesn’t mean you are unable to recognize and reward them for their efforts. A great way to keep remote employees engaged is by recognizing their hard work in front of the rest of the team. It doesn’t have to be anything super complex.
For example, keep track of what your employees are working on and send out a team email once a week highlighting a particular team member’s contributions. Not only will such a gesture make employees feel valued, it will also help their colleagues understand what they’re working on — which opens the door to even more organic compliments and expressions of gratitude.
Remote employees are the future of the working world. Leaders need to learn how to adapt to the change in work style to ensure their employees are engaged — whether they work in the office or from their couch at home.