It’s safe to say that remote working is here to stay. What does the shift to remote and hybrid work mean for employee engagement now and in the future?
A recent PwC study found that only 8% of employees surveyed would want to return to the office permanently, while over 55% of employees would like to be remote at least three days a week.
The good news is a 2018 McKinsey study found that, if certain workplace trends continue in advanced economies, “more than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week.”
Moreover, the PwC we mentioned earlier discovered that 83% of employers and 71% of employees viewed the shift to remote work a success.
A key issue for businesses, however, is how to maintain or increase remote employee engagement, which is the personal dedication and emotional investment employees have for their organizations. Critical to the success of any company, it is not the same as job satisfaction or employee happiness even though it is highly correlated with both.
Understandably one of the most highly cited reasons managers and executives gave for going into an office was to maintain company culture and foster employee engagement. As Dr. Derek Avery, C. T. Bauer Chair of Inclusive Leadership in the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston mentioned to CNBC Make It:
“Engagement is already a challenge when employees are in one place, so it will be even more difficult when they’re geographically dispersed.”
If employee engagement was already an issue pre-pandemic, how can companies that are transitioning to a remote workforce ensure that their employees are engaged?
With the help of some experts, we’ll show you several strategies that can be used to improve employee engagement. But before we do, let’s briefly touch on why your business should actually care about employee engagement.
What does it mean to engage remote employees?
Many workers have found remote work to be an amazing experience. In a two-year study by Professor Nicholas Bloom from Stanford University, remote work increased employee productivity. A Chinese travel company record shows that remote employees were 13% more productive than their colleagues who worked in-office over nine months. Organizations stand to gain a lot from their remote workforce: productivity boosts, increased team spirit, and low turnover.
To enjoy these benefits, however, you ned to ensure your remote employees are engaged. Although they may get more done, it’s not sustainable if they aren’t engaged over the long haul. The biggest challenge cited among remote workers is feelings of isolation. In short, there are many pros and cons to remote working. But it's here to stay, so our workplaces will have to adapt to keep employees engaged.
Why is employee engagement so important for remote employees?
Several factors affect the employee engagement of every employee at the office or home. These factors range from job satisfaction to management and leadership. Workers satisfied with their current job positions are highly engaged and are less likely to consider resigning.
According to a Peoplegoal, ambitious companies prioritize employee engagement because it's known to help workers achieve the following:
- Improved mental health
- Enhanced work-life balance
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Low level of absenteeism
Highlighted in a PWC poll, remote work is unlikely to become an afterthought even as the pandemic receeds. More than half of employees desire to work remotely thrice a week or more.
Now that we know the benefits of engaging our remote employees, let’s break down 13 actionable strategies to unlock their full potential.
13 strategies to engage your remote employees
With 83% of employers saying remote work has been successful, remote work is now entrenched in many companies' workplace cultures. A happy employee translates into many things with better customer experiences and lower employee turnover rates recognized as notable benefits.
Below are 13 science-backed strategies capable of improving remote workers' engagement with their work:
1. Create a strong onboarding process
Onboarding is critical for ensuring that new remote employees are properly introduced to the company culture. Employees who experience a great onboarding process are 69% are more likely to stay at the company for three or more years.
Alternatively, a poor onboarding experience leads to higher turnover. SHRM found that almost one-third of new hires resign within six months.
Fortunately, MIT provides several ways companies can build a strong onboarding structure for recruits:
- Send them a welcome message
- Demonstrating how communication tools should be used
- Conducting frequent check-ins
We’d add that they should also assign new hires an onboarding buddy.
2. Communicate frequently and openly
Effective communication is essential for maintaining a cohesive and productive remote team. Employees should feel comfortable communicating openly with their managers and coworkers.
Every remote worker should be encouraged to join conversations on public Slack or Team channels. This builds their confidence and gives the feeling of togetherness. For effective communication, do this:
- Encourage people to have their cameras on during video conferencing meetings.
- Create a company-wide chat channel where employees can ask questions, share ideas, and collaborate on projects.
- Connect employees with people they may not talk to every day. You can do this through Slack apps like Donut or through formal mentor matching programs.
- Use a robust business phone system that has automation capabilities, shared numbers, internalized message threads, and third-party app integration, like OpenPhone.
3. Encourage peer-to-peer feedback
Feedback is the backbone of employee development. However, not every recruit comes with an arsenal of skills. SHRM reports that 75% of HR professionals encountered difficulty recruiting because there are skill gaps in job candidates.
In response, companies have adopted peer-to-peer feedback initiatives. Instead of managers shouldering the responsibility, employees can coach one another. This aids learning and development programs because employees don’t just take a course, they’re discussing what skills they’re actively building with their peers. There’s a level of accountability and engagement not present in stale coursework.
4. Encourage social interactions
We all need strong social ties at work. Organizations and their managers should start seeing the workplace as an avenue to form lasting relationships. Aside from the drive to work, workers should be allowed to interact with one another. While sharing ideas, one worker may have the solution to their team member’s pain point.
According to the Harvard Business School, social interaction positively impacts the employees such that they:
- Become more effective during engagements with customers
- Perform tasks properly
- Have higher well-being
- Set clear expectations
Therefore, create opportunities for remote employees to connect with one another.
5. Give employees autonomy
Aside from allowing employees to work from home, bosses should implement policies that align with the new work system. Employees should be allowed to work with flexible schedules, or flextime. This instills a feeling of control and boosts their confidence.
6. Provide feedback regularly
Remote workers should receive constant feedback from their supervisors to know the areas that need improvement. Regular feedback reminds the remote worker that they're just as important as the onsite worker. With regular feedback, remote workers get:
- The motivation to keep doing their best
- The opportunity to improve their skills
- A sense of progress and accomplishment in their work
7. Create opportunities for career growth
Every employee seeks growth in the workplace, and employers have to provide chances for career growth. From Gallup's report called "How Millennials Want to Work and Live," 59% of millennials announce that learning and growth opportunities are crucial factors when job hunting.
Millennials, who constitute the highest percentage of the workforce (35%), should be taken seriously. Companies must introduce career growth opportunities for their current and future workers to keep them engaged.
8. Offer competitive compensation
Offering remote work as an option to jobseekers is smart, but offering them competitive pay is better. According to FlexJobs, a remote worker's average income is $4,000 more than a traditional worker's.
Other companies have remote work models targeted at the same talents you desire. Your company needs an unbeatable package to outmaneuver the competition.
9. Recognize achievements
In today's world, employee recognition should not be a foreign concept, especially as the Great Resignation still prevails. A study shows that 66% of employees will "likely leave their job if they didn't feel appreciated."
If you're passionate about driving your remote employee engagement, opt for an employee reward and recognition program. Offering employee recognition programs has shown to help Organizations:
- Drive employee engagement
- Boost team performance
- Build trust in your team
- Leverage the benefits of employee advocacy
10. Encourage work-life balance
Based on a Buffer report, remote workers tagged "distraction at home" as their fourth-largest struggle. Dealing with one's family's needs and meeting work deadlines can be challenging. A CDC article envisions a flexible work schedule that allows for activities like extra sleep time, exercises, and meditation.
11. Promote a positive culture
No company succeeds without a visionary leader and a highly talented team. The office should imbibe a positive culture that rewards hard labour, encourages feedback, and provides career development opportunities. Doing this will inspire a feeling of belonging to the company.
12. Invest in employee engagement
Previously, we outlined the types of employee engagement and why organizations and startups must always keep their staff engaged. According to a Report Linker study, 87% of employees that form part of the company's decision-making process are more likely to remain in their current position.
If you're unsure how to improve your employee engagement, Together shares 7 amazing tips.
13. Train your managers
A decent manager provides employees with the appropriate tools and motivation to accomplish their daily tasks. When a company lacks such a manager, employee engagement will plummet.
Interestingly, while 71% of company executives see employee engagement as an important part of organizational success, only 24% say their employees are highly engaged. From that report, it's evident that company executives must train their managers accordingly.
Improve your workforce with Together
Today, remote work is just as important as working in the office. With workspace flexibility and extra perks comes the burning issue of engagement. No remote worker should feel detached from their team and company at large.
Together provides an excellent software capable of helping companies with traditional, remote, or hybrid work models scale their employee engagement. Mentoring programs come in handy for engaging employees, and we've got the best software designed to deliver excellent results. With us, your company will enjoy the following:
- Correct mentoring matches
- Less burden for the HR and related units
- Improved engagement
- High workplace positivity
Try the Together software if you'd like a world-class mentoring program built just for your needs. We want to transform your employees into company ambassadors. Connect with us to learn more about mentoring software that makes remote work more engaging.