The old era of stressful commuting and dry as dust cubicle spaces is almost over. Laptop out, coffee in hand, cozy slippers on – you’re ready to start your work day! Corporate stooges’ nightmares came true: employees say they would take an eight percent pay cut if they could work from home. What’s more, a Stanford University study found that remote workers are 13 percent more productive and quit half as often as office dwellers.
While it’s clear that the future lies in a distributed workforce, working remotely offers its own unique challenges like burnout, isolation and lack of engagement. In other words, although everyone can perform tasks literally from the bed while working remotely, distant job isn’t a bed full of roses.
If your team is at least partly remote, you may want to learn how to keep your teammates truly engaged and productive. Let’s dive deep into nine tested-and-tried hacks on keeping your employees connected when they are thousands of miles away from each other.
Treat your employees like a dream team
It’s crucial for your remote workers to feel that they are an integral part of the team. Since remote workers aren’t in the main office, they often feel isolated and disconnected from the day-to-day action.
To boost team spirit and skyrocket employee engagement, start with thorough onboarding process. When a new hire joins the company, greet them in your team messenger and introduce to the rest of the team via online video conference. The good idea here is to pair new workers with a mentor to bring them into the fold.
Next, make sure they know that their contributions are essential to the overall company’s success. Efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed. A Gallup study shows that employees who do not feel recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. The study further reports that the type of recognition they value most is when it’s done publicly. Don’t deny your remote workers the fruits of their efforts.
Encourage ‘water cooler’ conversations
You probably want to be super cool and professional with your distributed team, don’t you? Great, but keep in mind that your workers are still human (seriously) with feelings, interests and the need for social contacts. It is easy to become isolated (read: lonely) while working remotely, so reach out to individual team members regularly to just chat about non-work-related stuff.
What’s more, assign collaborative tasks monthly, motivating your distributed employees to work together and stay connected. Your team will feel more engaged and committed to your company if they believe that you care about them not only as a ‘source of output’ but as a person as well.
Invest in frequent training
The more your employees know about their roles and key productivity rules, the more fruitful their output will be. That’s why successful businesses, especially tech ones, invest both in professional workshops and soft skill training. You should not assume someone is already skilled enough simply because they work remotely.
For instance, one of the challenges remote workers face is their ability to manage their time effectively. Imagine: they have the freedom to search the fridge for tasty bits, cuddle their pets, watch endless Youtube videos (nobody can blame them for it), and more. Therefore, distributed teams may struggle with scheduling focused work time into their days full of home pleasures. Providing training that help remote employees better manage their time shows that management cares and helps them with their path to success.
Give frequent feedback
You are likely to know plenty about how crucial performance feedback is. This is even more important for distributed teams (you’re likely to know it, too). Therefore, embrace the power of providing regular feedback. The first step here is to make sure each remote employee has a job description that clearly outlines the output you expect. Second, have a one-on-one performance review with each worker at least quarterly. Third, follow up completed tasks with quick notes. These simple rules will foster collaborative environment within your distributed team.
Establish clear rules in digital communication
One of the challenges of working remotely is establishing an effective flow of communication to keep distributed teams engaged and motivated. There’s a list of rules for you to consider:
Cut out the fluff. There is a such thing as too much face time. Resist the urge to hold useless meetings for the sake of ‘regular’ communication. Communicate when necessary, then leave your team alone to do their job.
Sync your schedule with teammates. Working remotely, across the oceans and different time zones, your team need some hours overlap to get answers and share funny stickers.
Prioritize every new issue to make sure it requires an urgent attention and agree the channel for solving high-priority problems. Thus, you will always understand the real importance of issues and respect your teammates’ private time.
Choose the go-to tool stack for your team communication. When it comes to collaboration on the fly and employee engagement, team chats are irreplaceable. Among the most preferred solutions, you can find Chanty, Slack, Flock and others. When communication gets messy in your team chats, switch to audio or video collaboration tools like Appear.in.
Prepare an online shared space for all the projects and files
Without a centralized place to manage projects, workflow may become mixed up. The good idea here is syncing all tasks and files with the cloud. The statistic shows that cloud technology can significantly increase team collaboration and improve company performance. In this case, remote teams can access needed information in no time. Reliable project organization tools like Trello, Todoist and Wrike help streamline tasks and keep everyone on the same page.
Check if your distributed employees have an ‘office’
The idea here is not to enrich IKEA (no offence, IKEA). Just make sure that there’s at least some sort of separation between your remote workers’ work and home life. If needed, provide your new hire with furniture or buy them a membership at a coworking space close to their home. Excessive investments? Hardly. To be truly productive and focused, everyone needs an office space in their homes: a desk, chair and door that can be shut.
Prevent remote worker burnout
We already know that distributed workers are generally more productive than office ones. At the same time, the Stanford study found that remote employees work 9.5 percent longer. Make sure that your colleagues don’t spend their whole day in front of their computers (you may define it by their bloodshot eyes during next online meeting). The good idea is to set a time-limit, a 40-hour working week, for instance.
Find a perfect fit
The last but not least: even the most outstanding expert can be a lousy remote worker. Why? Because the ability to work remotely is a standalone skill. Sometimes employees jump at the idea of working at distributed companies without the required knowledge. How to perform tasks independently? How to organize a productive workflow? How to make decisions on their own? Don’t fall into the trap of employing good workers who can’t answer these questions.
Despite the numerous perks, running a remote company brings its unique challenges, including the lack of engagement. Business owners should remain consistent in their effort to keep all teammates on the same page. Once you’ve assembled your dream team, feel free to experiment with the nine tips on converting a group of employees into engaged workers.
Did we miss anything? What challenges have you faced while collaborating with your remote employees?