Remote work is becoming a new normal for organizations across the globe. But remote work is not a natural transition for everyone.
For many employees, shifting away from the office setting for work can be difficult. As employees adjust to more consistent remote working environments, it’s important to keep them engaged.
In this post, we’ll share insights and tips for working remotely, including:
To create and maintain an engaged remote workforce, you first need to understand what remote work is and the guiding principles that ensure an effective remote workplace.
Remote work describes the professional work environment that gives employees the flexibility to work outside the physical office. Whether at home or on the road, remote work allows employees to stay connected and productive from anywhere.
Successful remote work environments don’t just happen—they are intentionally created and maintained. To build a strong remote work foundation that keeps your employees connected, productive, and engaged, you need a cohesive strategy and culture aligned with grounding principles.
Your remote policies, processes, leadership, and communication should create and promote:
Remote employees should feel empowered to use their skills and strengths and apply their experience efficiently. They should feel connected to the work and driven by a shared purpose.
Make sure your employees have interesting and challenging work to do. When employees are interested in their work, they feel more connected to the team and invested in your organizational success.
Everyone wants to feel included and a sense of shared belonging. This can be trickier for remote teams as employees are dispersed and often don’t interact in person or face-to-face. That is why it is crucial for leaders to cultivate a sense of belonging among their remote teams, and demonstrate that they value and recognize their employees’ contributions.
The best remote teams are aligned across individual, team, and organizational goals. When employees are aligned, they feel a sense of shared purpose and responsibility and can effectively pull together in one direction—driving performance and engagement.
Communication is key to the success of all your other remote team building efforts. Remote employees rely on clear and consistent communication to ensure everyone is on the same page, understands their roles, and has a path for further growth and development.
There’s a certain energy that comes with being in a physical office space. It can be driven by morning routines, familiar conversations, and casual coffee bar interactions. That energy can be difficult to recreate when you begin to work remotely more consistently.
Organizations should be helping employees prepare for these shifts. More and more employees are now working remotely—for personal reasons, as well as situational reasons out of their control.
A study showed that most U.S. employees believe having the option of working remotely will positively affect their engagement. This is great news! However, organizations should expect optional, periodic remote work to be different from when employees shift to a consistent work-from-home routine on a longer-term basis.
Helping employees adjust to working remotely on a consistent basis requires more than just some resources and technology. It takes a different way of operating at the company level, an adjustment in how teams interact, and a shift in mindset for individuals.
Consider some of the following tips for leaders, managers, and employees.
Remote employees don’t have direct access to in-office IT support so it’s important to evaluate what tools, hardware, and technology they need to get the job done from home.
Providing the necessary hardware (e.g., webcam, monitors, etc.), as well as consistent internet access for key employee groups is part of the foundation for success. Access to video conferencing tools is also a big part of this.
Continually keeping tabs on what tech is available in the marketplace to make work better for remote employees is a good way for organizations to gain an edge.
Communication is the thread that ties your teams and organization together. Do not underestimate the importance of regular communication at all levels.
Having senior leaders email major announcements is basic, at best. Consider video conferencing, recorded interviews, or having leaders join department or team-level meetings to make it more personal.
As a rule of thumb: the more emotionally charged a message is likely to be, the more personal and frequent the messaging around it should be.
Part of preparing for an increased remote workforce will require clarity around how all teams fit into the grand scheme of things. Ensure communications and feedback protocols between groups are known. Issues need to get resolved in a timely manner.
Having a remote workforce will require going above and beyond to nullify any gaps. This includes having and sharing a plan for those who are not working remotely.
With a distributed team, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure your remote employees have the support they need and that all the gaps are filled by:
Keep in mind that as things evolve, it will be important to track progress and support go-forward decisions around your remote workforce with actionable data.
Many social activities and water cooler discussions that happen in the office won’t occur by chance with remote workers. Teams should be intentional about creating opportunities for social exchange.
Virtual lunches can be a good way to keep up. Also, consider baking in 5-10 minutes of banter to begin team meetings prior to diving into business.
"It's important to hop on a video call and just say hello—no different from walking past a desk and stopping by to just chat!" - Scott Schoenbrun | Account Executive
Ensuring that the team is constantly moving in the right direction is difficult, even when interacting on a daily basis. With the added variables that come with working remotely, teams should be more diligent about exchanging feedback. Managers asking for feedback can help the team stay focused on top priorities.
Expect team dynamics to shift as your employees transition into remote work. Some individuals will adjust quicker than their teammates. For some, it will take time to find their rhythm. Either way, everyone should expect growing pains as they adjust to new communication styles, schedules, expectations, and other variables that come with transitioning to remote work. If it feels like an easy transition early on, keep an eye on things as new challenges are likely to arise as time goes on.
Encourage individuals to find ways of holding themselves accountable. Pairing teammates on a video conference to complete work tasks simultaneously can be a useful tactic. However, managers should be cautious not to appear as though they’re keeping tabs on people. Remote workers can feel pressure to prove to others they’re working. This can cause distrust and add to burnout risk because they’re "always on" trying to put up a façade of productivity.
Employees should have a physical space specifically set aside where they can work consistently. While not all employees will be able to have an ideal setup, things to consider when trying to optimize the space include privacy, noise, Wi-Fi connection strength, natural light, and a temperature-controlled area. The kitchen table will do in a pinch, but employees might want to think more strategically if they’re setting up for longer stretches of time.
"Having a designated space and going through the process of getting dressed like I was going to work is very important. I added a ton of orange accessories to my office when I started at Quantum Workplace to help remind me I was a part of something bigger!" - Stephanie Woodard | Controller
Most employees will have kids, roommates, or significant others vying for attention and space in the same area. It’s important to have conversations with those people about where work boundaries exist. This might include having the designated workspace space be off-limits during certain times of the day.
Keep in mind, those same people have needs too. Any ask on the employee’s part should expect reciprocation of the favor—especially when it comes to kids and spouses.
"Don't forget to walk away from your screen and take intentional breaks to move your body. That has been so critical to me!" - Alee George | Customer Success Manager Lead
Remote worker burnout is a serious concern. Come up with a plan and stick to it consistently. Some workers might find adhering to an 8-5 schedule will work for them. Another way to assess whether employees put a full day’s work in is to set daily and weekly goals. When those goals are accomplished, they should shut it down. If the goals end up requiring too much time, they should adjust accordingly to find balance.
"Get up and move. If you keep forgetting, use a Slack reminder or calendar event to make sure you do. Without the coffee maker and break room, it's easy to zone in on a task and then realize that you haven't moved in 3 hours." - Sean Erickson | Senior Software Developer
Those extra flights of stairs and the long walk from the parking lot were a built-in way of keeping employees moving. Of course, it’d be optimal if employees get 30 minutes of gym time each day. If that’s not an option, consider more creative options. Having a one-on-one each day with a manager while walking is one option. Or employees can replace “commute” time with a jaunt around the block or up and down their stairs.
"Take a walk, even just around the block. Also, work from a different location a morning or two a week. I even mean moving locations in your house, not necessarily a coffee shop." - Jarah Banks | Customer Experience Director
Employees should treat the beginning of their day as if it were any other day. Shower. Get Dressed. Breakfast. From there, have time set aside for daily tasks, team meetings, and even breaks throughout the day. The routine for a remote employee’s week can act as a guardrail for keeping their energy moving throughout.
"Make sure to take time for lunch and don't have lunch at your desk or at the computer. Take the time to re-energize with the lunch break. It’s really easy for me to just work through lunch and then have a snack so I constantly remind myself to do this." - Jason McEvoy | Senior Software Developer
Transitioning an entire organization to work remotely is a huge undertaking. And making sure you have the right resources to set your employees up for success is another burden to take on. We want to help you make this transition seamless and stress-free. Manage remote teams with confidence with Quantum Workplace.