Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. It allows employees to have a better work-life balance, saves on office costs, and can even lead to higher productivity levels.
But remote work isn't without its challenges. It can be difficult to create a sense of camaraderie and connection when everyone is working from different locations, and that means it's easy for employees to feel isolated and disengaged.
So, how can you keep your remote employees engaged? In this article, CoffeePals will be sharing a few of our favorite remote employee engagement ideas.
Let's get started!
Do Remote Employees Feel Engaged at Work?
Before we dive into our remote employee engagement suggestions, we need to take a look at the state of remote employee engagement.
Since remote work went mainstream with the onset of the pandemic, there has been quite a bit of research into how working from home affects engagement. According to a recent study by Gallup, 23% of employees feel less engaged when working from home than they do when working from the office. This same survey also found that 77% of workers would feel more engaged with a hybrid model of remote and in-office work.
These findings definitely aren't ideal. However, many people (both employers and employees) feel that the many benefits of remote work outweigh the costs. So, the takeaway should be that we need to understand why remote employees feel less engaged, so that we can address the problem.
Why Do Remote Employees Feel Less Engaged?
The survey we covered above offers great research for diving into the factors that can lead remote employees to feel less engaged than their in-office counterparts.
The study found that the top three reasons for lower engagement among remote workers were:
- Loneliness / Lack of in-person connection with co-workers (40%)
- Spending longer waiting for decisions (22%)
- Stress from juggling work and home demands (18%)
These findings make a lot of sense. When you're not in the office, it can be easy to feel isolated from your co-workers. And, when you are juggling work and home demands, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
So, how can we address these problems? Here are a few ideas:
1) Create Opportunities for Social Interaction
Just because your team is remote doesn't mean they can't interact with each other on a social level. There are a few ways you can create opportunities for social interaction, such as:
Hosting regular video chats
Your remote employees are probably used to hopping into scheduled video calls to talk about work. That's not enough to create a deep sense of connections with their co-workers, though.
You should also host regular (perhaps weekly) video chats that are purely for socializing. This can be an informal time for employees to catch up with each other, talk about their hobbies, and just generally get to know each other better.
With CoffeePals, you easily set up one-on-one or group video calls for your employees through Microsoft Teams. Participants are matched based on whatever rules you'd like (e.g., experience, department, etc.) for informal chats, so they can socialize without the pressure of a work meeting.
They're great for:
- Catching up with colleagues
- Bonding over shared interests
- Brainstorming ideas (for work or fun!)
- Breaking down communication silos
The result is a more fun and interconnected working environment for your remote employees.
Creating dedicated chat channels.
Another way to encourage social interaction among your remote employees is to create dedicated chat channels in Microsoft Teams for things like posting photos, talking about sports, and sharing memes.
This gives employees a place to socialize without interrupting work-related conversations. It also allows employees to get to know each other on a more personal level, which can lead to stronger working relationships.
Tip: Are you looking for a way to get the conversation going in your Microsoft Teams chat channel? Try enabling CoffeeMaker Icebreaker Questions! We'll post fun, thought-provoking questions to whatever channel you'd like to get people talking (and connecting).
2) Make Communication and Decision-Making More Efficient
One of the biggest pain points for remote employees is the perception that communication and decision-making take longer when they're not in the office. If you want to keep your remote employees engaged, it's important to make sure that communication and decision-making are as efficient as possible.
Here are a few suggestions:
Institute a “core hours” policy
For those that aren't aware, setting core hours means choosing specific times when all employees are expected to be available (either in the office or at home). This allows employees to have more flexibility with their schedules, while still ensuring that there are enough hours in the day for everyone to overlap and communicate as needed.
At a minimum, you should set core hours for stand-ups and team meetings. But, you can also institute a policy where all employees must overlap for a few hours each day so that they can easily communicate as needed.
Use video calls instead of (or in addition to) email or chat
When you're communicating remotely, it's often easier (and faster) to hop on a quick video call instead of trying to explain something over email or chat. This is especially true if the topic is complex or sensitive.
Use a tool like Microsoft Teams to quickly start a video call with any colleague, no matter where they are. This strategy works well with a “core hours” policy because it means there are set times throughout the week when your remote employees know their colleagues are at their desks and able to respond in a timely manner.
3) Encourage Collaboration Across Departments
When employees are in the office, it's usually easy (and natural) for them to collaborate with colleagues in other departments. But when they're remote, they might not have the same opportunities to do so.
If you want to keep your remote employees engaged, it's important to encourage (and facilitate) collaboration across departments. This will help employees feel like they're part of a larger team and give them the opportunity to work on interesting projects with colleagues they might not otherwise get to work with.
The easiest way to do this is by setting up regular meetings or chats between employees from different departments using a tool like CoffeePals. But you can also encourage collaboration by creating cross-functional teams for specific projects or tasks.
4) Encourage employees to take breaks and unplug from work
When you're constantly connected to work, it's easy to burn out. That's why it's important to encourage your remote employees to take breaks and unplug from work when they need to.
There are a few ways you can do this:
Set clear boundaries between work and personal time
Encourage employees to set clear boundaries between their work life and personal life. This could mean setting specific hours when they will not check work email or taking regular breaks throughout the day to step away from their work.
It's also important to respect these boundaries yourself as a leader. If you're constantly sending emails late at night or on weekends, your employees will feel like they need to be available all the time as well.
Encourage employees to take vacation days
While it's important to set clear boundaries between work and personal time, it's also important to encourage employees to take vacation days when they need them. After all, vacations are important for both mental and physical health.
If your employees are feeling burned out, suggest that they take a vacation day or two to recharge. They'll come back feeling refreshed and ready to work.
4) Keep employees informed about company news and updates
When employees feel like they're in the loop, they're more likely to be engaged with their work. That's why it's important to keep your remote employees informed about company news and updates.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Send out a weekly update email
One way to keep your remote employees informed is to send out a weekly update email with all the latest news and updates. This could include new product launches, upcoming events, or changes in company policy.
Make sure to include a personal note from the CEO or another senior leader to show that you're invested in keeping your employees informed.
Post news and updates in a company news channel
If you use a tool like Microsoft Teams, you can create a channel for news and updates. This is a great place to post announcements, new blog posts, or anything else that would be of interest to your employees.
You can also use this channel to answer any questions your employees might have about the news or updates.
5) Offer opportunities for professional development
When employees feel like they're learning and growing, they're more likely to be engaged with their work. That's why it's important to offer opportunities for professional development for your remote employees.
There are a few ways you can do this:
Encourage employees to set aside time for professional development
One way to encourage professional development is to set aside time for it. This could be an hour or two each week where employees can read industry news, take an online course, or work on a project they're passionate about.
You could also offer to pay for employees to attend conferences or workshops related to their field.
Create opportunities for mentorship and coaching
Another way to encourage professional development is to create opportunities for mentorship and coaching. This could involve pairing up more experienced employees with newer employees or offering group coaching sessions led by a senior leader.
Alternatively, you can use CoffeePals to connect employees with mentors or coaches in a more low-key setting. This is a great option if you want to see the benefits of a mentorship program without the pressure of a formal mentorship program.
Make Employee Engagement a Priority
Employee engagement is essential for any business, but it can be a challenge to keep remote employees engaged. By following the tips above, you can start to create a more engaging and supportive environment for your remote employees.
At CoffeePals, we believe that meaningful social interaction is essential to strong remote work culture. That's why we created a tool to help remote employees connect with each other over coffee (or tea!).
Add it to Microsoft Teams for free!