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And why doing so is crucial for your business

Even just a decade ago, employees occasionally working from home might have raised an eyebrow or two in the upper echelons of management. But remote work is on the rise—and it’s here to stay, especially in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic and the changes to so many people’s work patterns.

According to Global Workplace Analytics* working from home has increased by 173 per cent since 2005 (this was before the pandemic). In stark comparison, self-employment has grown only 4 per cent within the same period. In 2020, 70 per cent of the global workforce operate remotely at least once a week, with 3.6 per cent working from home half the time or more.

Working away from the office presents novel challenges to management as they strive to keep employees engaged with the company and invested in their work. Exponentially improving technologies and radically shifting attitudes are sending the global workforce on a one-way journey to a new era.

Business owners need to move with the times if they want to retain their talent, cultivate a productive workforce and ensure prosperity during this profound and irreversible shift.

The benefits of remote working

Don’t heed the naysayers: remote working is anything but a fad. And working from home isn’t just a plus for employees; your bottom line could end up looking decidedly healthier if you introduced a remote working policy. Why has its popularity skyrocketed in recent years?

Employee satisfaction aside for a moment, be under no illusion: remote working can be a serious money-saving strategy.

Not only does a remote workforce reduce the costs of office space, one of the most significant expenses for any business, but according to Global Workplaces Analytics the average business can also save a staggering £9,000 per annum - per remote employee. Furthermore, researchers at the Harvard Business School have found compelling evidence that remote employees are momre productive** than their onsite counterparts—even when they’re feeling under the weather.

Hiring remotely enables businesses to widen the net for talent. Remote workers operating in different time zones present a unique challenge when it comes to keeping the workforce engaged, but this is far outweighed by the benefits of being able to employ only the crème de la crème. And hiring native speakers of other languages enables you to build customer bases in regions you never would have considered conquerable.

As remote working exponentially transforms into a norm and its benefits to employee and employer alike become common knowledge, so workers’ expectations shift.

70 per cent of millennials have considered switching to a job that offers more flexibility with regard to remote working, and employing a remote workforce has been directly linked to both a higher rate of employee retention and reductions in absenteeism.

What’s more, remote workers experience significantly lower levels of stress*** than do their in-house colleagues.

The once prevailing perception of remote working as nothing but a means of slacking off has obsolesced. And since Global Workplace Analytics disseminated data demonstrating that no fewer than 99 per cent of people would choose to work away from the office at least some of the time, there’s little denying the fact anymore: remote working is considered a significant perk by the vast majority of the global workforce.

Remote workers are happier, and a happy workforce is a productive workforce.

But rethinking how your company operates takes time, and there will always be creases to iron out along the way.

So what should you be aware of when implementing a remote working strategy in order that your offsite staff remain invested and productive?

Why is it important to keep remote employees engaged?

Remote working brings with it a multitude of fantastic advantages - but that’s not the whole story.

Managing a remote team can be complex.

The lack of interaction with colleagues can disengage employees from the company’s values and culture, and lead to a sense of isolation.

The initial joy and novelty of working from home can wear off, and deadlines and commitments may no longer represent sufficient motivation for workers to keep working hard.

It is clear, then, that managers must take time to invest in remote employee engagement for the greater good of the company. And if you already have a remote workforce, they may well echo this sentiment: 56 per cent of remote employees do not feel adequately supported**** by their managers.

How can you make sure your remote workforce don’t end up feeling that way about you?

Here are 10 ways to boost remote employees’ engagement

For many industries, remote working is the way of the future. By understanding the most effective methods of keeping remote workers happy and stimulated, you can strike whilst the iron’s hot and get ahead of the competition.

1) Ensure easy and regular communication

Periodic conversations and check-ins are critical for establishing and maintaining remote employee engagement, as well as for providing them with updates on projects and company news.

Be sure to invest in software that facilitates a smooth back-and-forth. Slack is a cloud-based team collaboration tool that compartmentalises communication into channels, which can be organised by project, topic or team. Alternatively, Trello is an excellent project management app whose interface enables teams to seamlessly separate projects into lists and lists into delegable tasks.

Until relatively recently, video calls were a notoriously undependable means of communicating with remote employees. But the advent of highly reliable conferencing tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts means ‘face-to-face’ dialogue has never been easier - and that can prove crucial when it comes to staying connected with your remote employees.

Emulating genuine human contact as accurately as possible is key to helping remind your offsite workers that they really are part of the team.

2) Gather feedback

It’s important to convey that your remote employees have a voice. Show them that their opinions matter, even though they’re not in the office with management and the rest of the team.

Conducting surveys every month or quarter will help you measure and analyse employee satisfaction, which is crucial when you consider that high employee satisfaction is linked with both increased rates of staff retention and enhanced job performance.

Compare the responses from your remote team and onsite team. How do their experiences diverge? You can leverage this data to see where improvements to your employees’ working days are required.

3) Celebrate special occasions

Think about the events that spur festivities and fun in the office - birthdays, engagements, national holidays, promotions, a new arrival in the family. How can you extend these times of intensive group cohesion and togetherness to your company’s wider community of remote employees?

Whilst of course there is no replacement for the real thing, if your offsite staff members are unable to make it into the office to join in the fun then why not let them know they’re missed?

A message on one of the communal channels or tagging them in a social media post can go a very long way. And if a life event is happening for a remote employee themselves, a handwritten card, a big bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates in the post will let them know just how valued they are in the community.

4) Recognise good work

Employees who are publicly rewarded for their endeavours and accomplishments are more loyal to their companies.

It may sound obvious that acknowledging your staff’s hard work is one of the cornerstones of management, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget this when it comes to the achievements of your remote employees.

Demonstrate recognition whenever it is deserved, regardless of where your employee is situated.

Whether posting on the intranet, organising a special team video call or even just announcing your appreciation on one of the company channels, let your enthusiasm for their superlative work be visible and sincere.

Not only is this important for keeping remote employees engaged, but as long as recognition is distributed equitably and proportionally then you can also inspire others to work harder with a view to one big team win.

And if you want to go the extra mile when a remote employee has worked to a truly exceptional level, don’t underestimate how touching it can be to receive an impromptu gift in the post. Even something thoughtful and relatively inexpensive such as a greetings card, snack box or mug emblazoned with the company logo can convey a special kind of gratitude that you will never achieve with an email or instant message.

5) Be clear about expectations

Just as you would take a new hire through onboarding, so you should ensure each remote member of the team is walked through the tools, processes and protocols that accompany their offsite role.

By unambiguously iterating what procedures to follow, how and when best to contact their line manager, what output is expected of them, what to do if they’re ill or cannot work for some reason and to whom they can turn for help, you can help keep them engaged.

6) Organise in-person check-ins

Remote workers are sometimes regarded as mythical creatures of solace, but they’re just as likely to crave social stimulation as the next member of staff. In fact, 84 per cent of Gen. Z employees describe regular face-to-face interactions with their manager as a major factor in their overall engagement with their job and the company.

Where possible, invite your remote employees in from time to time. Let it be a bit of an occasion.

Coming into an office of people they’ve never met in real life can be daunting for even the most extraverted of staff. So whether you take them for a special team lunch or just send someone out for doughnuts, they’ll be elated at the camaraderie and community spirit that greets them after their long trek to HQ.

And be sure to share photos of the big meet on social media to boost brand image and fortify company culture!

7) Establish boundaries

Remote workers have a tougher time switching off once business hours have ended.

When your permanent workspace is inextricable from your home environment, transitioning from job mode to relaxation mode is more difficult than when you pack up, put on your coat and physically leave the office.

If you wish to not impinge on your remote employees’ wellbeing, it’s imperative to respect their working hours just as you would respect those of your onsite workforce.

Don’t bombard them with lengthy emails on a whim just because doing so would take a weight off your mind. Schedule those emails for 9am the next day and allow your employee to switch off, unwind and return to work tomorrow feeling refreshed and receptive.

8) Get them involved in company culture

Fostering a genuine sense of togetherness with your remote employees can be tough when your comms are almost exclusively virtual. But uniting the workforce in the name of what makes your brand unique can pay you massive dividends in the long run.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a sense of engagement with company culture can be engendered in remote employees only when their importance within the business has been conveyed to the workforce en masse.

Treat your remote employees with the same fairness, respect and good humour that you extend to your onsite staff. Only by cultivating a deeply ingrained cultural identity in your offsite workers can you achieve an overarching commitment to brand and company values.

9) Define goals

As we have seen, communication is inherently more challenging when managing a remote team—so it’s crucial that you’re crystal-clear when it comes to explaining their duties and responsibilities.

Even if your remote workforce are motivated and raring to go, they won’t stay that way for long if they lack clarity and direction and have little understanding of where their work fits into the wider organisational picture.

Clear goals and objectives aren’t just great for performance and productivity, but are also highly effective ways of keeping your remote workforce engaged.

10) Let them know they belong

According to Slack, 85 per cent of in-office employees would like to foster closer, more personal relationships with their remote colleagues.

Indeed, data collated by The Wall Street Journal demonstrated that one of the truly distinguishing characteristics that sets successful companies apart is the sense of belonging felt by their employees. According to Sue Shellenbarger, author of the study:

Amid growing divisiveness and stridency in public life, a sense of belonging at the office will be increasingly prized by employees, and a crucial condition for fostering innovation.

Keeping remote employees up to speed, stimulated and happy is essential to nurturing a sense of real commitment to how they spend their working day.

Staff who feel this special, intangible sense of belonging at their workplace - be they remote or in-house - are more satisfied at work and therefore perform better.

Only by demonstrating genuine interest in your remote employees’ wellbeing will you be able to build a remote workforce who are productive, committed and engaged.

Finally – keep remote employees engaged and witness productivity skyrocket

If you implement solid, overarching strategies to help boost and maintain your remote employees’ engagement, there’s no reason why they should internalise any pernicious sense of remoteness.

Take time to invest in your remote workforce by providing them with the tools, communication lines and support they need to perform to the best of their abilities, and their distance from the office will become irrelevant to their performance and wellbeing.

When you look out for your remote employees and organise them proficiently, your company may experience huge boosts in productivity and turnover.

That’s why here at Keep Fit Eat Fit we have tailored our digital wellbeing platform to support remote and in-house employees alike. Our comprehensive solutions will keep your employees fit, healthy and happy.

Together, let’s nurture your employees’ engagement and build a workforce who are invested, happy and productive—even if they are on the other side of the world.

 

 

Sources:

*https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics

**https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/how-companies-benefit-when-employees-work-remotely

***https://www.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2019

****https://www.ciphr.com/advice/how-to-manage-a-team-when-youre-a-remote-manager/

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