5 tips on how to keep your employees engaged during remote work
Keeping employees engaged is no mean feat.
Keeping employees engaged when they work remotely can be a gargantuan task — especially with the pressures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s why every HR personnel and those in supervisory roles must design ways of keeping employee engagement levels high.
What is employee engagement and why is it important?
Employee engagement refers to an employee’s level of commitment and connection to your organization.
Connecting with your employees is more difficult when you’re not physically in the same room or office. For example, you don’t see facial expressions when communicating via email or chat.
Video calls partially make up for the loss in face-to-face contact, but you can’t compare video meetings with spending a whole day in the office with your team.
To make up for that loss of connection during remote work, it’s important to keep your employees engaged in alternative, effective ways.
In the long run, employee engagement will improve talent retention and organizational performance.
The Cost of Disengagement
You must be deliberate and strategic in your efforts to foster high levels of employee engagement — especially when your employees shift to remote work. That’s because disengaged workers will frustrate you by producing the bare minimum.
They also pose the danger of evolving into toxic employees. Above all, research shows that a disengaged employee will cost you as much as 34% of their salary.
Especially in the era of COVID-19, keeping employees engaged is not easy. That’s because the pandemic’s effects have gone beyond being health-related and have permeated every aspect of life.
From finances to mental health and more, people all over the world — your staff included — have been affected in one way or the other. Getting them motivated to work is a challenging task. However, with the right strategy and tips, it can be done.
How to boost employee engagement when working remotely
So how do you keep your employees engaged while working remotely?
We’ve gathered 5 best practices we believe are indispensable for your employee engagement strategy:
1. Foster personal communication
One of the most significant drawbacks of remote work is that remote workers are mostly self-reliant.
Given a task, they only check in when they encounter a challenge. While your workers still maintain satisfactory productivity levels without supervision, you must foster a culture of checking on them regularly.
While regular team meetings may be a part of your regular schedule, checking in on each employee individually is also instrumental in keeping them engaged. To do this, you can schedule regular video calls for both formal and informal conversations.
Yes, the latter is important and can include checking in on your employee’s health and that of their loved ones.
For quick meetups or updates, VOIP phone services are also a great way for remote workers to stay connected and engaged to both other employees and their work.
Listening to your team’s concerns fosters a personal connection as well. When your employees feel heard, they will feel more engaged with your company’s mission and targets.
They’ll respect you when you’re open to a bottom-up approach, where employees inform you about what’s going on in their departments. As a manager, you can make informed decisions based on these inductive flows.
You can automate this communication flow using assessments in which you ask open and closed questions about the operational and strategic developments in your different departments. After they’ve filled out the assessment, return the favor by offering them a personalized report with recommendations. Your employees will be happy with your feedback and try even harder to improve the operational and strategic efforts in their respective departments.
2. Set Clear Targets
Another way of fostering employee engagement in your remote teams is to set clear targets for them. Research has shown that setting goals and targets with your team is an excellent way of encouraging employee engagement. Another study reveals that as much as 72% of employees whose managers help them set goals are more engaged than those whose managers don’t.
Keeping your employees engaged during remote work is as simple as setting aside time to set clear targets with them. Follow up on each individual or department to ensure said targets are being met. Also, schedule regular meetings with your team to discuss progress, challenges, and results.
By collaborating on prioritization, your employees develop a sense of ownership to the task at hand and the organization’s success. The result is an increase in engagement.
3. Allow for flexibility
While it may seem counterintuitive, giving your employees the flexibility to set their own schedules is an excellent way of fostering engagement.
Remember, you can’t supervise your employees the same way as in the office. So you have to trust your employees to complete their tasks without you looking over their shoulders.
People have different times of the day when they’re most productive. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Remote work allows your employees to operate at their optimum, resulting in increased productivity. When your employees see that you trust them enough to let them work on their own schedule, they’ll reciprocate by being more committed to finishing their tasks on time.
Granted, as an HR manager or supervisor, you may feel uncomfortable with the idea of your employees having the flexibility of working at their own hours.
To boost employee engagement, focus more on results and less on working hours. Your employees will reward you by being more productive.
4. Schedule Team (Building) Events
One element of working from the office that most remote employees miss is the office banter and other social activities they engaged in with their workmates.
While it may seem like wasting time, those light moments significantly impact boosting employee engagement.
Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or in this case, a less creative/productive boy.
That’s why you must strive to replicate that online.
To do that, schedule time for virtual team events. These can include anything like:
Online quizzes. Create interesting and interactive quizzes with fun facts about your company's history and colleagues, for example. You can also use quizzes to test your team’s knowledge about a certain topic, and compare scores afterward. Make it a bit more competitive by rewarding the winner. You’ll see that this is a typical conversation starter between colleagues, both within teams, and between different teams and departments.
Interactive games. Scheduling game time in your workweek is an excellent way of encouraging your employees to interact. It also helps boost morale and, ultimately, engagement.
Virtual meetups. These can take any form from stand up comedy to team workouts or meditation, and everything in-between.
The purpose of team building events is to create a relaxed atmosphere for your remote employees from time to time. They must in no way feel like your regular virtual work-related meetings.
Giving your employees opportunities to unwind and bond (even on company time) benefits your organization in increased employee engagement.
5. Be empathetic
While many organizations adopted remote work pre-pandemic, most people were forced to work from home because of the pandemic. To help your employees adjust to the new normal of remote work, you must be empathetic.
When your employees see that you’re not just concerned about what they can do for your organization but about them on an individual level, they’ll give their all to see the organization succeed.
Keeping employee engagement during remote work is key to growth
While employee engagement is essential to the success of any organization, fostering it is not always easy. And that’s particularly true if your employees are working from home.
However, if you show your employees that you acknowledge and appreciate their work and care about their wellbeing, you’ll succeed in keeping them engaged.
Your employees will be more inclined to engage with your organization’s mission. As a result, you’ll get the results you need to grow your company.
This is the guest article by Stefan Debois, the founder and CEO of Survey Anyplace, an online software tool to create engaging surveys, assessments and personalized reports. Besides kitesurfing, Stefan is passionate about using technology to build professional relationships with people at scale.
Get your free guide to employer branding in the dev space!