How To Engage With Remote Teams Effectively

Kayla Naab
September 17, 2019

The world of work has changed. Fewer and fewer working people are commuting every day to the same location for their jobs. Now more than ever, people are freelancing, starting small businesses, and working full-time jobs from home, from coffee shops, or from anywhere. 

While remote working can be seen as an asset to lure the top talent in the industry, it’s not just beneficial for the employees but for the company that employs them as well. The potential of a solid remote work program for cost savings makes it a win-win situation for both the employees and employers. 

According to a recent report by Global Workplace Analytics, a typical business saves about $11K per person, per year just by reducing the cost of in-house workstations and allowing for remote work. Moreover, companies that allow remote work experience 25% less employee turnover than companies that don’t. 

The reigning argument against remote work is a fixable one. It is said that remote work can also lead to lapses in productivity or connectivity to other employees. To keep up the productivity level and feeling of strong company culture for your remote teams, you need to keep them engaged and motivated.

Here are a few simple strategies that office managers can use to keep their remote teams engaged:

Improving Communication With Remote Employees

Whether teams see each other at the office every day or they don’t, communication is the key. Communication is crucial for establishing as well as maintaining engagement with your employees. In order to keep your remote employees engaged with your organization, you need to keep them informed and in the loop. To do this, you need to find the best ways to communicate with them and get them communicating with other members of the team.

Here are a few of your options for communicating with remote employees:

1. Slack

Some people might see chat programs as a synonym for ‘distraction’ but in reality, such programs act as a boon for remote working setups. Online applications like Slack as well as other options like Skype are some of the most common chat programs. The best way to ensure that these are used productively - or used at all - is to draft policies that govern the use of the system and then promote activity there. Slack is a great option because it allows you to bucket your conversations into channels - direct conversations are separate from channels about different projects or departments, which are different from channels that are casual such as “Water cooler” or “Weekend update.” 

2. Virtual Face-to-Face Communication

Just a few years back, going for face to face calls online was more of a mess than a solution. More recently, tools have become more robust to allow for our constant need to connect. Now communicating virtually has become a breeze because of these advancements in technology and with the help of conferencing utilities like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or JoinMe. While each program offers its own quirks and features, the goal is to schedule time with your remote employees where they feel like they’re all sitting together, solving problems in tandem, and connecting face to face. 

3. Whole Team Rallies and Stand-ups 

Calls and meetings provide guaranteed communication with your remote teams. You need to connect to your remote employees with regular calls and virtual meetings that bring everyone together. Whether this is to announce big company initiatives, celebrate a birthday, or unwrap the secret Santa gifts you sent each other, these big rallies make everyone more comfortable and excited to continue working together and remind everyone of the bigger picture they are part of. 

Optimizing the Experience

It should come as no surprise that happy employees are more productive than those who aren't. A study from TINYPulse shows that remote workers are happier than in-house full-timers, and it makes sense. However, not all employees know how to optimize their remote working time to be more productive OR to enjoy it.

Ask your remote employees how things are going and what they feel their biggest challenges are. Find out what would help them succeed in their role as a remote employee and then provide it. If this means more engaging meetings or more of a structured schedule, hand it over. If this means more autonomy or less unnecessary email triage, help reform the processes. What works in-house is different than what works at home. 

Increasing Participation

To foster and maintain a healthy relationship with your employees, you need to interact with them as much as possible, but you also need to make sure these interactions are business-focused. Try to engage them just like you would do with your full-time employees by offering the following. 

1. Memorable Onboarding

When you hire a remote team, the first few days after hiring becomes very crucial for the employee and the whole team. Try to make the first few days highly interactive and social to make your remote employee more comfortable and familiar straight away. If you do have an in-house office, give your remote employee a virtual tour or set up a Zoom call in a high-traffic area and encourage passing employees to say hello. If you’re 100% remote, encourage your current team to schedule one-on-one meetings with the new person. Sending a care package with company-branded swag and a favorite professional book can also go a long way. 

2. Meaningful Work 

When you simply demand that employees do their specific tasks, they don't feel like they’re truly a part of your team. Make sure everyone feels connected to their responsibilities and help them understand how what they do connects to what the company achieves. Make them feel valued and watch how much more intrinsic their productivity and connectivity becomes. 

3. Non-work Connection

The internet has already helped us connect with our long-distance peers and it has also helped us to hire and manage remote talent with relative ease. Now, when you can do so much with the internet, why not leverage it to go the extra mile? Conduct various extracurricular activities to keep your employees engaged and facilitate connections among your employees. This might look like rounding everyone up to do a 30-day challenge, do a virtual book club, or take a virtual yoga class.

Whatever suits your culture and your people, it’s important to encourage them to feel human around each other and become friends. This is the best way to reduce conflict and friction while increasing comfort, confidence, and respect. 

Showing Appreciation

Who doesn't love to be appreciated? These small gestures lead to happy as well as highly productive employees. With the help of recognition and appreciation, you directly show your employees that you care about them. Thank your remote employees and appreciate them when they do something worthy. Encourage all employees to show off what they’re working on or boast a “big win” from the week. This creates a culture of positivity that can be felt no matter where your employees work. 

Offering Clarity 

One of the major concerns for organizations having remote teams is meeting expectations. Just like your in-house team, your remote teams also need to have clarified goals and objectives. Use project management software to document tasks, deadlines, and workflows. Set goals and KPIs that let your team know that they’re on the right track or signal for help if they’re not. This simple yet effective step can help you to get the most out of your remote teams and it also makes your employees feel more confident in the work they do. 

Seeking Feedback

Seeking feedback from your remote employees is the best way to find out how you can serve them better. Once you start asking questions, you start to understand their state of mind, their approach to work and their overall level of satisfaction. As the aim is to engage with them, you need to understand them first. Ask questions directly, send out a survey, or use a tool like 15Five to find out how your people really feel. 

Prepare For Tomorrow’s Workforce Today 

As technology is advancing every day, remote jobs are becoming increasingly more common. However, it can be quite challenging to have an engaging work environment when your employees aren't sitting 10 steps away. 

As an office manager, your role is to keep your people happy, productive, and functioning on behalf of the company. If this includes remote employees, you may need to make an extra effort to keep them integrated into the team and performing their best. 

Looking for a way to manage your workplace more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Office Management Software can do for your office.

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