Employees who telecommute report a better work-life balance, and there are other big pluses to flexible work arrangements. Working remotely eliminates the commute for employees, allows for scheduling flexibility, removes geographic workforce constraints, and reduces overhead costs.
But there’s also a unique set of challenges that comes with remote employees and flexible work arrangements. When you’re not working in the same physical location, it’s harder to build the trust and comradery that develops naturally over time through daily small face-to-face interactions. Managing remote employees can also prove trickier, since traditional management often relies on in-person conversations, regular check-ins, and timely, in-the-moment feedback.
What can you do to make sure your remote employees are happy, productive, and engaged? We’ve got some ideas:
1. Empower them. Encourage autonomy and responsibility by empowering employees to work the way that suits them—this means letting go of how work gets done, and letting them determine their schedules (within reason). Set tasks and goals, make sure accountabilities and policies are clear, and articulate expectations for response times, availability, and updates. But once those parameters are established, get out of the way, and let them determine the details of how they will accomplish the work.
2. Keep them in the loop. Social time matters to employees. It’s those little catch-ups that happen before meetings that help solidify work relationships, build connections, and establish a culture of collaboration. Help your remote employees remain engaged in the social network of the organization by including them in the conversation whenever possible. Copy them on a humorous email update, send them photos of the team, and conference them in early for pre-meeting chats or impromptu conversations that may impact them.
3. Get to know the individual. It takes conscientious effort to develop relationships with remote employees, but it’s essential to establishing trust and building a strong and cohesive team. Encourage remote workers to bring themselves to the table, and get to know who they are as a person. Include a “get to know you” questionnaire as part of your onboarding process, and share fun facts about remote workers with the rest of the team.
4. Appreciate them. Include remote employees in your workplace appreciation efforts. Make sure everyone on the team knows how your remote employees contribute, and how what they’re doing contributes to the organization’s goals. Highlight who they are and what they bring to the team, and ensure their accomplishments and contributions are acknowledged (Hint: know their languages of appreciation to do this effectively!)
5. Include them in the fun stuff. No, they might not be able to join in for lunch hour potlucks or the holiday party, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be included in little extras. Implement wellness and engagement initiatives that allow for remote participation. Encourage connection by marking milestones like birthdays and anniversaries. Where it’s possible, schedule in-person quality time. These don’t have to happen regularly, but at least once every six months, bring everyone on your team together for a day or two of in-person connection.
6. Give them the tools. Out of sight can mean out of mind when it comes to remote workers. Be sure to check in regularly to make sure remote employees have the tools they need to work effectively. Giving them tools doesn’t stop at providing the physical equipment they need to do the work. It also means providing context, and making sure they have the same resources available to them as in-house employees when it comes to mentorship and collaboration. Also essential? Communicating your organization’s values, and articulating the vision and mission so that remote workers know where you’re headed and can participate in building the culture you want.
Your Engaged HR Assignment:
It might take a bit of conscious effort to engage and include remote employees, but the payoff is worth it. If you’re stumped on where to start, look at the list above and give yourself a grade for remote employee engagement. Think you could do better? Put these strategies into practice to encourage a happy and productive remote workforce.