Explore the benefits of remote workers and learn key tactics to keep them engaged
There is a growing number of the workforce population working remotely. That is, a situation in which an employee works predominantly from home or away from the central office. There are a range of benefits associated with telecommuting! Here are just a few:
Research has consistently shown remote working to reduce stress. A study by Staples found that employees experience up to 25% less stress when working from home. Another study by Connect Solutions, the private cloud solutions provider for Adobe Connect, found that over 50% of employees reported less work-related stress. In 2014, PGi found that 80% of remote workers reported that it helped to reduce levels of stress.
It could be argued that remote workers have a better work-life balance as they can build their working hours around their lives quite flexibly. Employees with a better work-life balance usually feel a greater sense of ownership, control and responsibility of their working life. Remote working grants a greater level of freedom for employees.
There is a growing pressure on organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. Remote working offers a simple, easy and cost-effective method of reducing carbon-footprint. How does this happen? Remote working means that there are fewer devices running onsite, which in turn significantly reduces the energy consumption of the organisation. Plus, commuting to work on certain types of transport creates an excess carbon footprint. There is evidence of a reduced carbon footprint via an increased remote workforce at the organisational level, such as Dell’s ‘2020 Legacy of Good Plan’. In 2012, Dell made a pledge to reduce emissions by making 50% of its workforce remote by 2020. In 2014, it was revealed that this program had reduced Dell’s greenhouse gas emissions by 6,700 metric tons.
Remote working has benefits across the generational spectrum. By 2025, roughly 75% of the workforce will be millennials with an increasing proportion currently acquiring leadership roles. Remote working is highly valued by millennials, for a number of reasons. There are also benefits of remote working for the older generation. With the cost of living and life expectancy increasing, more and more of the older generation postpone retirement. Remote working provides a viable alternative for working at older ages, maintain a healthy work-life balance and have a continuous flow of income.
Perhaps most importantly, remote working has the ability to isolate staff, which has residual effects on team performance, individual productivity, communication and employee engagement. Intrinsically, remote working is physically less connected to a central company base, which leads to remote employees missing out on events, birthdays and even trivial moments like water-cooler conversations. In a recent study, Slack found that 85% of workers wanted to feel closer to their remote colleagues. But these feelings of detachment aren’t restricted to the workplace employee alone. Disengagement in the remote worker poses a problem. One study has shown that remote workers often feel shunned and left out compared to their in-office colleagues. We have talked in depth in previous blogs about the dangers of disengagement. So how can we boost employee engagement in the remote worker?
Communication is arguably the most important workplace competency. But to keep in contact with remote workers can sometimes feel forced. It is imperative to keep in regular, good contact with remote employees to increase engagement. These communication strategies have proven their ability to increase engagement:
Most laptops, computers and smartphones come built with free video conferencing tools or webcams which make video calls all the easier. Seeing a face makes a huge, often understated difference. You can even try occasional physical face-to-face meetings, either visiting the remote employee or scheduling semi-regular in-office meetings.
Simple, inexpensive and useful, online communication tools can make all the difference in keeping your remote employees feel engaged and valued. Tools that you can use include Slack, Zoom, Yammer, Go-To-Meeting, Google Hangouts and Skype.
An often-undervalued skill, exemplary communication skills provide a different dimension to improving employee engagement. A recent study demonstrated that remote workers emphasize the importance of regular communication with their colleagues and management. The best managers are good listeners, fair in their judgement and communicate respect, trust and interest.
Feedback and recognition in the workplace most of the time is quick, if not immediate. This is not the case for remote workers – reviews and recognition can go dry. Remote workers continue to do their work to a good standard, but may be neglected virtual appreciation. Invest in a simple feedback and recognition tool to encourage regular appreciation between colleagues.
From decent quality office supplies to a nice desk, any money you spend on your remote employee has almost a double effect on employees’ work: it is not only a gift, but also provides your employee with the tools to be more effective at their job.
Entering the office very occasionally can be a daunting prospect for a remote employee. Any effort that managers and employees give to make remote employees feel at home is always appreciated. There’s different levels of effort you can give, from making sure they are feeling okay and relaxed whilst at work, to taking them out for lunch as a team.
Having remote employees means that you can slightly change your reward packages. Obviously, you can keep them on the same programme as in-house employees, but you can also change it up if you wish. Ideas here include: home/office equipment; broadband subsidies or location-specific perks.
As well as improved communication and showing your appreciation, increased participation provides another element which improves remote engagement. It is perhaps the most difficult element to improve. Here are a few tips:
The onboarding period can be considered a critical period to improve participation. During the first few days/weeks of the remote employee’s tenure, take advantage of the employee being present. It is likely that onboarding and training will take place in a centralized location, providing the opportunity for the remote employee to meet and greet their new co-workers. Making sure that the onboarding experience is highly interactive and memorable provides the employee with the means, tools and will to engage with their team and employees.
Extracurricular activities are a proven method of increasing engagement in the workforce. Try to get remote employees to come to these activities to increase team and employee cohesion. In a time that business is heavily reliant on the internet, think about expanding more low-level extracurricular activities that rely on the internet too. Think fantasy football league, online gaming or even something as small as a group chat.
No one wants to feel like a cog in a big wheel, and for remote employees this is even more of an issue. Making sure that their task actually conveys real responsibility, with real risk, shows a level of trust and respect. Assigning a greater level of responsibility to remote staff results in the employee feeling more valued, provides greater career experience, subsequent professional development and guaranteed communication.
With all this being said, it is still difficult to know whether your remote workers do feel engaged. There are two possible methods for measuring remote employee engagement: eNPS and pulse surveys…
eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) is a two-question survey meant to gauge employee willingness to be ambassadors for the company by advocating employment there. eNPS provides organisations with a quick performance rating to discover how employees are feeling about the company and why they feel this: good or bad. This survey allows you to track satisfaction and understand what you need to be doing, particularly in the case of remote employees.
Pulse surveys are super simple, short, multiple-choice questionnaires. It should only take a few minutes for anyone to complete the questionnaire. Pulse surveys are easy, quick and can be given quickly to gauge reactions of all employees, but they are particularly for remote employees.