Technology has made working from home a more common occurrence than ever before. Gallup’s 2015 annual Work and Education poll showed that 37 percent of U.S. workers indicated they have worked from home, up almost 30 percent since 1995. So how are you going to engage so many remote employees this year? With an increased number of companies providing flexible schedules and the ability for many employees to work remotely at least part of the time, it is important to have a plan to motivate, inform engage remote employees to ensure success.
- Mutual understanding: Remote employees and their managers need to work extra hard to safeguard that responsibilities, tasks, due dates are taken seriously and continuously met. Since these employees and their managers don’t have the chance encounters in the hallway or in the 5 minutes after a meeting ends, it’s important to find alternative ways to have those off-hand check-ins. Managers also need to make themselves easily available for employees to ask questions more often than just in planned meetings. It can be as simple as more emails or short phone calls, but it could make the difference between engagement and employee failure.
- Trust, trust, trust: This may seem like a given but trust is the most important part of having a remote workforce and engaging those employees. You can’t see them, you don’t know that they are at their desks all day and likewise, they may not know their manager cares about the extra hours they put in or their above and beyond performances on a certain project. Differences in time zone and working hours can compound this challenge. Additionally, tone can often get lost in our connected world, so doing a little extra to make sure your employees know you trust them to get their work done and to give their all to projects could be the difference between having an engaged, empowered remote group and having to look for a new team.
- Recognition and reinforcement: Since communication structures are often different for remote teams, recognizing exceptional behavior and reinforcing it among peers is critical. Mike Ryan, Senior Vice President at Madison Performance Group notes that creating a “democratic” or peer-to-peer recognition strategy can be even more engaging. It empowers employees not only to work hard, but to look out for others’ exceptional behavior. Giving employees the power to call each other’s hard work out is empowering and engaging all on its own. It can be a unique engagement program component that brings a remote team together. Adding rewards to this type of program can also show that an employer is willing to invest not only time and effort but money into this type of recognition and engagement as well.
Remote workforces can enable your team to scout the best talent and create work schedules and arrangements that work for both managers and employees. However, these teams can grow distant and it can be difficult for executives and managers to engage employees who aren’t in the office, or aren’t in the office all of the time. Use recognition, trust, and clear communication to engage remote employees.