Remote work has seen a drastic uptick, first by necessity and now by choice for organizations across the world. As the prevalence of remote work has risen, the question of how to engage remote employees has emerged.
Communication is one of the biggest challenges for a remote team. Without the benefit of shared space, remote teams rely on managers and teammates to share the information they need to do their job successfully. When remote work is new for an organization, it can take conscious effort to make the shift to find effective ways to relay information. The norm at meetings should now be asking, “who needs to know this information” and managers must now assume the responsibility to communicate it efficiently and effectively in this new environment.
No matter what your expectations are for your remote employees, make them clear! If you don’t have specific guidelines about work hours, availability, or deadlines, let your employees know. But if you do, state them and articulate them as needed. An employee handbook is a good place to identify your company’s expectations around remote work. When you see someone working outside the bounds of your expectations, it’s easy to direct them to a specific written guideline to help them make a needed adjustment. These clear expectations make it easier to engage remote employees.
With social distancing and decreased interaction among people in general, remote employees need time to connect. Schedule regular meetings that are work related alongside those that are more social in nature. This might include virtual coffee talks, happy hours, or lunches that have no agenda other than connecting with one another. Stick to your scheduled timeline and enjoy the camaraderie of your teammates.
If you haven’t yet taken them, consider having your team take CliftonStrengths, Myers-Briggs and any other assessment tools your organization uses to understand workstyles and personalities. Knowing the strengths of your team will help you engage remote employees in a way that works for them and help them do more of what they do best. The MBTI also provides clues about what your team members might need to work effectively in a remote environment.
While Zoom fatigue can plague your team, the need for onscreen presence remains high. Seeing co-workers instead of hearing them behind a “black box” on the computer helps build trust and gives a glimpse into body language, even if just a peek. A best practice to engage remote employees is to keep the camera on during meetings to encourage participation and investment in the topic at hand. Schedule one-on-ones that also include opportunities to see one another.
Remote work is here to stay. For some companies, it will be a temporary solution until employees can return at full force. For others, work from home is the new way of interacting. No matter what environment describes your team, it’s important to know how to engage remote employees for the health of your team and organization.