How to Engage Remote Employees: 10 Strategies Backed by Research

how to engage remote employeesRemote work has been on the rise for years—and it will only continue to grow. As companies and employees settle into this new remote normal, many are realizing the advantages of virtual work. And it’s no surprise why.

Remote workers tend to be more productive, engaged, and happier. Plus, companies that offer remote and flexible work options are more attractive to top talent, helping businesses land and retain a competitive workforce.

 

Looking for more ideas to improve engagement? Explore our 200 Employee Engagement Ideas for HR and Managers.

 

But managing a remote workforce isn’t always easy. So how do you ensure your remote employees are successful? Keep your employees engaged, no matter where they're working.

In this article, we will cover why remote work is good for your employees and your business including:

  • Benefits of working remotely
  • How to engage remote employees

 

Benefits of Working Remotely

 

There are many benefits of a remote work environment, including:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Greater productivity 
  • Reduced turnover 
  • Positive employer brand
  • Lower overhead costs

A Stanford study found that remote workers were more productive because they were not distracted by office disruptions or long commutes and actually took fewer sick days and shorter breaks. Additionally, remote workers had higher job satisfaction, which led to a 50% reduction in attrition rates. The cherry on top was a savings of nearly $2,000 per employee in overhead costs by reducing the amount of office space needed at HQ.

But productivity and savings aren’t the only advantages.

Top talent is increasingly looking for flexible work options including at least partially remote schedules. Companies that offer remote work strengthen their employer brand and can attract and retain employees in a competitive market.

In fact, 54% of office workers say they'd leave their job for one that offers flexible work time.

Gallup found that workers are increasingly likely to favor jobs that offer flexible work time. And as remote work becomes more common, businesses that don’t offer flexible work options will become unusual—and less attractive to employees.

There are many ways to keep remote employees engaged. Here are 10 strategies backed by research you can use to engage your remote team.

 

How to Engage Remote Employees

 

1. Stay connected through technology.

Keep your remote employees connected through effective communication channels and strategic use of technology.

For example, use tools like Skype, Asana, GoToMeeting, and Slack to streamline communication and project management between team members so everyone is on the same page. Encourage your team to use the cloud for file sharing and to increase seamless work efforts between all team members.

Be sure to take advantage of video conferencing, too. While email and digital chats are great ways to keep in touch, face-to-face communication can help your virtual team feel more present in the office environment.

Schedule staff meetings, and incorporate video calls with screen sharing on a regular basis. This can help your remote workers feel as though they are a part of the team, and it can help to change the way your in-house staff members view the remote workers.

 

2. Foster social interaction.

Despite the many benefits of remote work, the number one drawback employees complained of was loneliness. Keep your remote employees engaged by fostering team connections through social hours, video chats, and virtual team building activities.

Assign mentors to new hires so new employees have someone they can rely on to ask questions and get oriented throughout their first year. If possible, plan in-person team or company retreats and outings to strengthen those connections.

 

3. Show employees you care.

Build meaningful relationships with your remote employees and give them permission to create balance. Respect their time by setting healthy boundaries around schedules, assignments, and performance expectations. Make the time to chat with them about:

  • Their family and life outside of work
  • Personal hobbies and life outside work
  • Stress and mental or emotional health
  • Their workload to help them avoid burnout

 

4. Ask for and listen to feedback.

Communicate with employees when you take action (or why you won’t be taking action) on their feedback so they know they have been heard and their opinion is valued. When employees feel valued they are happier and more engaged at work.

And don't shy away from giving constructive feedback. Help employees take advantage of development opportunities.

 

5. Recognize employee contributions.

Remote workers tend to put in more hours than their in-office counterparts, but they often don’t feel part of the team. One solution is to make employee recognition a priority.

Leverage an online recognition platform to give every employee the ability to view, comment on, and give recognition in real-time. Our research found that employee recognition is a top driver for employee engagement. Regular recognition from peers and managers helps employees feel connected, appreciated, and valued.

 

6. Keep them in the know.

It’s important to keep your remote workers updated on projects, goals, team progress, and company news. Since a lot of information at companies gets circulated through water cooler talk or chats across desks, remote employees can easily get left out of the loop and feeling disconnected.

Use an employee-friendly goal setting and tracking system to give everyone access to company goals, progress updates, new projects, and more. Check-in regularly with your remote employees for both one-on-ones and team meetings so everyone has a chance to touch base and keep their finger on the pulse of the company.

When remote workers are part of the dialogue, they will be empowered in their work and feel more connected and engaged.

 

7. Support your newest hires.

Our research found that 76% new hires felt less equipped to do their job compared to 85% of tenured employees. In other words, new hires need extra support when working remotely.

Managers should provide additional training, communication, and resources to support new remote employees throughout their onboarding. This includes making sure employees have access to:

  • Information like login credentials and document access
  • Clear training on processes and technology
  • Tools, equipment, and resources to do their job

 

8. Give employees the tools to succeed.

Ensuring your employees feel confident and empowered to do their best work no matter where they are is key to improving engagement and performance. Whether a new hire or a veteran employee, make sure your remote team has the tools and training to get the job done.

And resources and amenities aren't limited to hardware or equipment needs like laptops or company cell phones. Do your employees have a place they can work effectively at home? Do they have access to development opportunities?

Don't be afraid to get creative. You can offer stipends for co-working spaces for employees who don’t have a home office or cover costs to send employees to business conferences and professional development courses.

 

9. Be flexible.

One of the best things about remote work is the flexibility it offers employees. While you may need to have set times around team meetings and collaborative sessions, give your employees autonomy around when and how they work the rest of the time.

Trust them to get the job done. Building trust between employees and managers is crucial for employee engagement and satisfaction. Plus, flexibility means employees can develop a working cycle that works best for them, creating a healthier work-life balance.

 

10. Offer a mix of remote and in-house work options.

Remote work increases employee engagement, especially when employees spend a mix of time working at home and in the office.

Gallup found that the optimal engagement boost was when employees worked from home 3-4 days out of a five-day workweek. Time spent in the office helps employees feel connected to their coworkers and allows for in-person collaboration and bonding among team members. But the majority of time working remotely keeps employees focused and productive, less stressed, and happier.

 


 

It’s clear that remote work will only continue to grow in the coming years, which means understanding how to manage and engage your remote employees is more important than ever. Fortunately there are many ways to engage remote employees—use these tips to take advantage of all the benefits of a remote workforce and keep your team happy, healthy, and productive all year long.

Looking for creative and strategic ways to engage your remote, gig, and seasonal employees? Download our 200 Employee Engagement Ideas for HR & Managers ebook.

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