As more and more workers move from traditional office environments to home offices (up to 74% of the American workforce, according to some estimates), new challenges for employers arise. Though we have more and more tools to stay connected thanks to modern technology and social media, many people can actually feel more distant from their peers and colleagues than ever before.
Employees who don’t feel seen or recognized for their work are unlikely to continue putting in their best effort. It’s vitally important to reach out to remote workers to ensure they feel involved. Everyone should know that their contributions are noticed and make a difference. We can work from home, and work together too!
When the ease of a Skype call takes precedence over face-to-face interactions, it’s easy for employees to feel lonely and disconnected. How can you manage your team most effectively under these conditions? And how can you retain valuable talent, even when that talent works from far away?
The best strategy to keep remote workers happy is twofold. Most importantly, focus on maintaining a personal connection with them. More broadly, keeping team collaboration healthy and as active as possible will go a long way in keeping remote workers engaged and feeling like part of the team. You can work from home, and so can your employees, as long as you stay connected and keep some of these strategies in mind.
According to Gallup polls, having a personal connection or friendship at work increases the likelihood that an employee will be engaged and motivated at work by almost 40%. This is huge!
It’s no wonder, then, that this same principle applies to remote workers, and is especially important to consider because of their physical distance from you and their fellow co-workers. When you factor in a recent study by Harvard Business Review about the worries remote coworkers have with regards to being left out of decisions and being forgotten, maintaining personal relationships becomes especially important.
So how can you counteract this detriment to your team’s cohesiveness and your individual employees’ satisfaction with their work?
1. Engage with video whenever possible
Video calls are an especially useful tool. Rather than email or message, or audio-only, try to use video calls whenever possible for 1:1 meetings and team discussions. Having that visual image adds a lot of the physical, nonverbal cues that we take for granted in conversation and that can’t be conveyed so easily through written communication.
2. Make regular check-ins
You can go about this in many different ways, but one simple approach is to have a morning briefing with your remote workers to update them on any happenings in the office and reestablish their goals and tasks for the day. Better yet, allow them to brief you on what they’re working on, what they hope to accomplish, and any struggles or difficulties they may have!
This is a great opportunity for you to listen and respond to the concerns of your employees and keep them feeling “in the loop” on what’s happening with the company, with the team, and with you. Regular check-ins give your remotely working employees an reasonable expectation that they’ll have your complete attention and care on a consistent basis.
3. Don’t leave them on read!
One major difference between working remotely and in-person is the potential for laggy responses. Don’t let the distance or the convenience of reading but not responding slow down your communication! A rapid response makes a really meaningful impression on the people you communicate with.
Responding quickly lets your employees know that you value and pay attention to their needs and concerns even when you aren’t physically present. It reassures them that they can collaborate with you real-time on important matters. And overall, it adds worth and value not only to their work but to their own perception of themselves as team members.
Keeping your team working together as a unit can be especially challenging when one or all team members work at home. Here are a few simple strategies you can use to improve cohesiveness and keep everyone working together, no matter where they are.
1. Always Include!
Any time you have a physical team meeting, be sure to pipe in remote workers via video chat! Include them in everything they’d be doing if they were physically present, and make it a point to include them (i.e. schedule with them in advance so they know, not just a last-minute call that they may or may not pick up).
Keeping this inclusive mentality is a great way to make sure your remote workers feel they are a part of everything happening in the company.
2. Schedule period physical meetups
The more frequently the better, but even a bi-annual meetup can make a big difference in not only developing personal connections, but keeping your team feeling personally connected to each other. If possible, schedule a weekly lunch with your remote employees, or perhaps a monthly get-together for everyone in the office, remote and on-site.
3. Encourage openness and friendliness in your team
Enough with the formalities! While maintaining a professional relationship is important, don’t be afraid to open up and encourage your employees to be friendly with each other. Try to complement not only their results, but their unique style of working that makes them particularly unique and valuable.
When your team members feel they have a personal connection with you and each other, they’ll work together better whether they do so remotely or in the office.
As the world moves away from physical offices as a necessity and makes use of the increased efficiency of technology, we may be moving into a new era where the home office increasingly becomes the main office. As we become separated by physical distance, now more than ever it’s important to maintain our personal connections.
Employers facing new challenges with remote working can overcome them with intention, effort, and a clear mandate to encourage collaboration. Focusing on maintaining personal relationships, and creating opportunities for teams and to work together is essential to keeping talented employees and making your team as competitive and cutting-edge as possible.
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