Telecommuting is more common than ever within the constantly changing landscape of the modern workplace. With advances in technology, many employees no longer need to travel to a physical office to utilize tools and resources and effectively do their jobs, so companies are increasingly allowing them to work remotely. In fact, a study by Gallup reported that 43% of U.S. employees work remotely at least some of the time.
Although telecommuting has its benefits, including reduced real estate costs for employers and increased productivity, there are a few trade-offs. Employee engagement is an ongoing issue many companies face, but solving the problem can be a challenge because remote employees are likely to become disengaged for different reasons in comparison to on-site employees. Gallup agrees, stating “what hinders the engagement of employees who work remotely a majority of the time are two critical employee needs: relationships and development.”
Here are five ways to ensure your remote employees stay engaged and feel connected to colleagues:
- Properly Onboard Remote Workers
We know making a strong impression in the first 90 days is crucial to employee retention. A well-known SHRM study shows that employees can be up to 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience a great onboarding. A successful onboarding program almost guarantees a remote employee will begin the job fully engaged.
As a basic, all necessary tools, including laptop, phone and working email, must be available to the employee from day one. Although this is important for all employees, remote workers need the equipment immediately to feel connected to the office and be productive out of the gate. Managers should also develop a detailed training plan to ensure they’re appropriately trained. Remote workers rely heavily on training since it may take them longer to get questions answered than if they worked in the office. If possible, bring remote workers on-site for the onboarding process so they can meet team mates face to face and experience the culture first hand.
For the most successful onboarding experience, enterprise organizations integrate talent management systems to help manage new-hire onboarding activities. For instance, PeopleFluent’s Onboarding gets new hires comfortable and productive faster – using social, video learning, combined task and forms management, and insightful reporting and analytics from one dashboard.
- Leverage Technology for Social Collaboration
Technology makes it easy for teams to collaborate from all parts of the globe. Tools such as real-time instant messaging and video chatting applications like Skype for Business are effective tools for remote workers to connect with their teams and feel part of the action.
Social collaboration enabled through a company’s HCM system is also a great way for remote employees to engage with co-workers. With a system like PeopleFluent Mirror, remote employees can give and receive performance and project feedback, share documents, and collaborate more easily with their team members.
- Be Responsive and Inclusive
It can be difficult to replace real time face-to-face communication found when working in the office. Remote employees don’t have the luxury of stopping by their manager’s desk to ask a quick question or discussing a project with teammates in the lunch room. Managers also tend to forget to include remote workers in last-minute meetings, making them feel disconnected and left out of important conversations.
Managers and team members should ensure the lines of communication are kept open for remote employees throughout the day. Take time to respond to emails or answer phone calls from them promptly. This simple task will make telecommuters feel engaged in regular interactions, connected to their team, and ultimately more productive.
- Schedule Regular Check-Ins
In addition to day-to-day communications, managers should set regularly scheduled check-ins with remote employees to discuss project status, answer questions, and communicate clear objectives and expectations on upcoming projects.
Check-ins can also be used to discuss career goals and development opportunities. Communicating with remote workers about opportunities for professional growth can lead to including them in projects they find more challenging or interesting, helping them see career progression and reducing the chance of disengagement.
- Connect In-Person
At the end of the day, nothing beats in-person interaction so it’s very important to meet with remote employees face-to-face throughout the year to maintain engagement. For instance, scheduling on-site team meetings at least twice a year strengthens a team bond and a remote worker’s feeling of connectedness to the company.