In the previous articles from our employee engagement series, we touched on what employee disengagement looks like and what to do if it happens. In the newest installment of this series, we will be discussing how to keep employees engaged when they’re working remotely.
Employee engagement is extremely critical – but it can be increasingly challenging in today’s business environment. The challenge of keeping employees engaged with their work may be further challenged by remote working environments, which have become increasingly popular due to the pandemic.
A 2021 survey by Owl Lab revealed that close to 70% of full-time workers surveyed stated they had started working from home during the pandemic. As thing begin to return to normal as the pandemic begins to improve, it’s clear that for many organizations, remote work is here to stay. After the pandemic, 92% of people surveyed expect to work from home at least one day per week, while 80% expected to work from home at least three days per week.
When employees aren’t working from a physical office space on a day-to-day basis, it may be difficult for managers to establish relationships with employees. Face-to-face interaction allows us to pick up on nonverbal cues and body language. While communication is often non-verbal, it can be easier for employers and managers to understand each other when they are interacting in person.
A lack of face-to-face interaction can make it difficult to spot some of the clear signs of employee disengagement. For example, when an employee is working from home, you can’t see if they’re late, or how their demeanour is during meetings.While there are many benefits to remote working environments, it also presents a unique subset of challenges with regards to employee engagement. At Sodales, we have a fully remote working environment, and we are proud of the level of engagement our team displays. We have enlisted the help of a member of the Sodales HR team, Andrea Talancon, who will give some guidelines on how to keep your team engaged remotely.
1. Change the way you measure performance
A remote working environment creates one obvious obstacle: the lack of a physical presence of your employees. This can lead to doubts about their productivity, and managers can fall prey to the tendency to micromanage. “Micromanaging can cause your employees stress, which can end up demotivating them,” advises Andrea.
Traditionally, an employer may measure performance based off physically seeing their employee working. Instead, employers must lend their employees their trust and alter the way they measure performance. Setting well-defined structure and goals can be a way to measure the performance of employees in a remote working environment. Employers should avoid micromanaging and monitoring everything employees do and should instead try transitioning their efforts into setting clearly defined and effective goals and objectives for their team to work towards. This can help build trust between managers and employees and will help keep them engaged in the long term.
2. Show Appreciation
One of Andrea’s tips for employee engagement in our last article was showing appreciation – and this is still extremely effective in remote working environments. It can be easy for employers and managers to become consumed with other tasks and they may often forget to show their team appreciation, especially in a remote environment. Rewards and recognition may look different in a virtual workspace, but it is still significant. It is important to show appreciation in a timely manner and find ways that work in a digital workplace such as a reward system. For example, you can reward an employee by spotlighting their achievements in an employee-wide newsletter or offering incentives with prizes.
At Sodales, Andrea says we make sure to recognize when one of our employees is eager to learn and take on new and difficult challenges. “We are happy to guide our employees with growth opportunities and promote them when they are showing they are motivated and willing to put in the work,” says Andrea.
Showing appreciation assures employees that their efforts are being noticed and valued, which will help keep them passionate and engaged in their work.
3. Open Communication
In a remote working environment, employees don’t have the opportunity to simply walk into their managers office and ask questions or share concerns. But just because employees are working from a far, doesn’t mean there should be a break down in communication.
It is essential to work with your team to establish a means of communication that works for everyone – whether it be texting, virtual messaging, phone calls or video calls. Employees should feel that they are able to get in touch and ask questions when they’re running into challenges or just need to hear a friendly voice for inspiration. Employees can often struggle with reduced access to managerial support or communication which can in turn cause disengagement. For example, if instructions or expectations are unclear, and managers are out of touch with the needs of their employees, the employee may withdraw or underachieve. This means that establishing meaningful and intentional means of communication is essential to keeping your team aware of expectations and instructions, so they stay engaged even from afar.
4. Invest in your Company Culture
One of the clear pillars of employee engagement is having employees believe in your organization and its mission. To ensure employees believe in your organization and what they do, they must feel like they are an equal part of the team.
Andrea recommends investing in your company’s culture by implementing activities like remote games with the entire team. At Sodales, we plan in-person dinners and training days every quarter. These in person events give our team the opportunity to develop connections with their colleagues and managers. “It also makes the team feel excited about our organization’s mission and leaves everyone feeling inspired and energized,” says Andrea.
In an article posted by Cinga, on average, lonely workers say they think about quitting their job more than twice as often as non-lonely workers. This shows that employee engagement and retention can rest on your ability to properly communicate and engage with your employees, whether you are working in a remote environment or not.
When employers and managers aren’t seeing their team in person, they may be wondering if their employees are smiling behind their computer screens or what emotions they are feeling. It’s hard to know if employees are truly engaged when working remotely, but as Andrea recommends, there are some helpful indicators and methods to keep your employees passionate about their contribution to your organization. Focusing on deliverables as a means of performance, showing appreciation, fostering ongoing communication, and investing in your company’s culture are all strategies the HR team at Sodales uses and strongly recommends to keep your team engaged in remote working environments.