How to Encourage Employee Engagement in Remote Workers

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“Out of sight, out of mind,” is a phrase you might use to assure yourself when the long-legged spider that was perched in the corner of your shower a few minutes ago has disappeared, and you hope it took advantage of the open window and fled the premises, rather than taking refuge in your polished work shoes. It could also be applied to the chef who didn’t realize until too late that they accidentally smothered a lemon-basted salmon, cooked to perfection, in ketchup rather than tartar sauce and it’s already whisked away by the waiter. However, it’s not a phrase that managers want staff members to associate with their remote team members. Remote employee engagement is critical for the success of your teams, both remote and in-house. Not only does it promote communication throughout the different departments, but it also helps remote employees feel like they are still a part of the team. In our past article, Let’s Get Engaged! Remote Employee Engagement Ideas, we mention that it’s possible to create a “sense of engagement by creating an environment where your workers feel a part of something. They are valued, working towards a goal, and they’re motivated to do that.” But don’t just take our word for it. Slack recently conducted an engagement survey and found that 85% of employees want to feel closer to their remote teammates. According to BusinessNewsDaily, that eagerness is well-placed as remote employees are at risk for feeling less engaged and poorly connected. In turn, this hurts their productivity and performance.

While we don’t live in a world where virtual water coolers are available for remote workers to congregate, thanks to innovations in technology and communication, it’s easy to stay connected, whether you’re down the hall from the break room or Skyping from a beach in Spain.

Encourage Open Communication

Communication can make or break a team – it’s your remote employee’s lifeline. By encouraging open communication, you’re stepping onto the path to success when it comes to employee engagement. Software like Slack, GoToMeeting or even Google Hangouts is a great place to start. In our article Psych! Making the People in Your Virtual Teams Feel Like They Belong, we mentioned that, “a big part of building a strong team is touching base with your team, and making sure they all feel valued, and that they get an opportunity to air their views.” The two things to remember are, first, to encourage remote employees to speak up and participate in the chat as much as in-house members do (even more so!) and, second, to allow for casual conversation as well. Casual conversation encourages employees, both on-site and remote, to get to know each other on a personal level, something that will bolster employee engagement more than you would think. CultureSummit explained the impact well: “Instant messaging applications enable remote workers to have casual conversations that don’t warrant an email thread. This can help employees share ideas, as collaboration, usually across departments, is key to innovation.”

Virtual And Physical Engagement

Planning for your remote employees to have a virtual presence in the office is one of the best ways to help them feel like they’re part of the team. As ITAGroup pointed out, software tools for video conferencing allow remote employees to see the meeting taking place and, more importantly, be seen. DistantJob recently released an article discussing the impact of Telepresence Robots and the role they will play in remote employee engagement. It’s getting easier and easier for remote employees to be virtually present in the office and it’s important to encourage in-house staff to take advantage of it. A good place to start is selecting which video software works for your company’s needs and then making sure staff members are trained on how to use it, particularly those on teams with remote members. Then encourage in-house staff members to use it frequently to collaborate with those who are remote. Putting faces to coworkers encourages strong engagement activity and improves company morale. Bear in mind that many remote employees will function in different time zones. This is especially important to consider when planning meetings. If it is possible, companies should consider flying in remote workers for special occasions, whether to celebrate their new hire and help them get to know the base team, or once a year for a company retreat or celebration.

Employee Engagement For All

A good manager is one who is aware of how important employee engagement is for both in house and remote employees. A great manager acts on this knowledge to improve their team. Everyone should feel included and part of the team and the big step for making that happen is to encourage engagement. Whether it’s through chat software (where everyone can collaborate), videoconferencing (where you can put a face to the name) or even on a social network. As we pointed out in our article How to Bring A Remote Team Together, “You could also use professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Yammer to connect your team outside of meetings, or even schedule virtual coffee breaks with no work agenda at all.”

At the end of the day, the goal is to have colleagues and business owners congratulating you on your staff’s engagement, a word here that means the amount of communication your in-house staff has with your remote employees and not their intentions to partake in a matrimonial arrangement. Once that’s established, there’s no telling how big of an impact, and more importantly, a difference this will make in your remote teams. If you’d like to get on board with employee engagement but still to assemble a team yourself, contact DistantJob today to get started.

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Casey Shull

Casey Shull

Casey Shull is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.

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