Corporate cube farms continue to give way to remote workers who may work three miles away from their manager or three time zones away. The capability to work remotely for a company allows managers to hold on to some top performers who may otherwise leave a company for geographical reasons.
The upside is continuity and the ability to hold on to high-flyers’ industry and company knowledge. The downside is the challenge of keeping remote workers engaged, and feeling and working like a team.
“Working from home, whilst convenient and desirable, is also a system that relies heavily on an employee’s motivation,” says Dave Nevogt, founder of Hubstaff, an app that allows employers to track their employees’ time and productivity via screenshots. “It is up to employers to provide motivation across many miles, sometimes continents.”
These tips for keeping remote workers motivated and feeling connected to the team are from blog posts, interviews and articles.
Make them feel valued – “Not being in the office is not the same as being unimportant,” says Konrad Waliszewski in a blog post at Speek, providers of a platform for online meetings. Keep remote workers engaged by asking for their opinions on different issues. Include them in interoffice changes. Never let remote employees feel disenfranchised or isolated because of where they work. “Most employees will respond favorably when they know you consider them an important part of the team,” Waliszewski says.
Recognize regularly – “The biggest risks for remote workers are feelings of isolation, being undervalued and out of touch. Recognition overcomes all three,” says Jonathan McClellan, director of employee recognition at Hallmark Business Connections, the B2B subsidiary of Hallmark Cards. The company provides a platform for delivering customized eCards and reward certificates electronically. “It validates the questions we all have: ‘Am I focused on the right things?’ It creates human moments in what otherwise can be chaotic corporate days,” McClellan says.
Don’t neglect career development – Fostering employees’ careers is one of the most appreciated rewards you can give. Just like the people in your office, remote workers have goals and aspirations. Ensuring they make progress on their goals for growth and understand the career paths available avoids confusion or frustration, states the Lighthouse blog on management and leadership (getlighthouse.com/blog). “Long-term motivation comes from loyal, committed team members — and we create loyal, committed team members by investing,” adds business consultant Susan Drum (SusanDrumm.com).
Provide feedback and ask for it in return – Your team wants to know what is working and what could be better. Be candid in conversations, both one-on-one and on conference calls. Canvassing remote workers for their ideas is equally important. Soliciting feedback via standardized, brief questionnaires can reveal broader problems or wishes, and allow the business to react accordingly. Just because they are working remotely does not mean there are no problems. Remote working is like any business activity — it requires tweaks and work to make it run smoothly.
Use video as much as possible – Research shows that more than half of human communication is nonverbal. When you don’t get to see someone in the office every day, having any type of visual clue to what someone is thinking is essential. Whether you’re gauging their reaction to a change in plans, or just trying to judge their overall mood that day, video tells you way more than an audio-only call or chat will ever reveal, the Lighthouse blog states. With so many free and inexpensive solutions for video chat, there’s no reason not to switch to video whenever you can. Trust your instincts when you see something might be wrong and take the time to ask about it. Those nonverbal clues you see on video are your opportunity to fix problems while they’re still small.
Don’t overlook human contact – It’s fine to get the most out of technological advances, but it is vital not to lose sight of the power of human contact. Nothing replaces the energy and bonding power of face-to-face gatherings. Make sure you get together as a team at least annually and preferably more often than that.