Remember way back when Yahoo! announced in 2013 that all remote employees would have to return to the office? It came at a time when other companies were embracing work from home policies and starting to see real benefits from employing a dispersed workforce.
That same year, a Stanford study found remote workers are 13% more productive than their office-dwelling counterparts and quit half as often. Needless to say, it was a business move that was widely criticized and, as the next ten years proved, against the trend.
In the past decade, remote work has increased by 91%. And with the current coronavirus pandemic, that number has spiked exponentially for the foreseeable future as companies are required to have employees work from home.
As companies have experienced, remote employees deliver a great ROI for businesses. They have a better work-life balance, they’re happier and more productive (not to mention they’re a more environmentally friendly workforce without that daily commute.)
If you’re not thinking of remote work, your employees are. In fact, according to Gallup, 54% of office-based employees said they’d leave their jobs for a company that offered a more flexible work arrangement.
The remote workforce is a trend that’s here to stay. But cutting your employees loose from the office isn’t always easy. A remote workforce offers its own set of unique challenges like burnout, loneliness, and lack of communication.
If you’re ready to start offering more flexible work, follow these four tips on how to keep your remote workers motivated and engaged.
1. Avoid Remote Worker Burnout
While remote workers are generally more productive than their office-bound counterparts, the Stanford study also found that they work 9.5 percent longer. Jason Fried, CEO and co-founder of Basecamp, a project management platform for remote workers, and author of the New York Times bestseller Remote: Office Not Required has been an advocate for remote workers for years. In his book, he says managers might instinctually feel that remote workers might not get as much done, just the opposite is true. Remote workers tend to overwork and are at great risk of burnout.
“Managers need to establish a culture of reasonable expectations.”-Jason Fried, Author “Remote: Office Not Required”
If you have a distributed workforce, make sure your employees understand it’s about putting in a good day’s work, not spending their whole day in front of their computer. If you hire someone who has been a remote worker in a previous position, they might know how to maximize their time. But if you’re transitioning office workers to a remote arrangement, they tend to overwork in order to prove their worth.
Help employees adjust to being away from the office by setting expectations and:
- Checking in with them daily.
- Reminding them to sign off for the day when it’s quitting time for the first few weeks.
- Contacting them only during work hours so they don’t feel obligated to always be “on.”
2. Include Remote Workers as if They Were In the Office
Even with the endless number of communication channels available employees, working from home or even a coffee shop can get lonely for remote employees. Plan regular check-ins with remote workers or provide a stipend for a desk at a coworking space. Even better, organize a company retreat a couple of times a year to bond with your employees and see each other face to face.
Remote employees often feel connected to colleagues but disconnected from their managers. Make sure managers are well-versed in engaging their remote teams and are on top of inclusive communication strategies.
Three ways managers can help remote workers stave off loneliness include:
- Continue to include them on emails and company communication that relates to them.
- Have them come into the office for any essential meetings to stay connected.
- Offer them space to come into work whenever they need to reconnect with the group.
3. Engage Remote Workers with Internal Communications
When employees are at their desks or connecting with colleagues in person, it’s easy to stay in the loop with what’s going on in the company. For remote workers, it’s easy to miss out on information that might help them perform their jobs better.
When companies are transparent—like sharing values, goals, or financial performance—employees perk up and take notice. They respond by working harder when they’re a part of a team and are accountable to others. Extend that same communication strategy to your remote teams.
- Include remote workers in every internal communication memo, email, or newsletters that their desk-based counterparts receive.
- Ask for contributions from your remote workers for company newsletters.
- Take a multimedia communications approach and consider a company podcast that reaches every employee.
- Shine the spotlight on remote workers and recognize their work in company literature.
- Video conferencing is a must for remote workers.
- Offer remote workers professional growth opportunities through in-house training via a digital workplace platform.
4. Keep Remote Workers Motivated With an Employee App
Email and video conferences are effective ways to communicate with employees on a day-to-day basis. But remote workers often miss out on the “big picture” goals of your company without being in an office environment.
This is an easy fix with a digital workplace, something that 95% of leaders admit they need but only 56% of companies actually use. Enterprise messaging platforms like Beekeeper allow your remote workers to send instant messages, share their ideas on the direction of your company, collaborate with their peers, and give management the opportunity to recognize employee accomplishments so that the entire team can see them.
Include remote workers in your digital transformation to ensure easy adoption and rollout. You can also use the platform to survey your remote teams to obtain specific metrics on workforce engagement.
Advancements in technology have created the perfect opportunity for companies to thrive with distributed workforces, getting the best out of their employees no matter where they work. These workers often deliver better results than their office counterparts working in cubicles and can be a great asset to any company.