The way we work is changing.
Faced with evolving challenges and opportunities, businesses are looking for new ways to work efficiently while also providing a positive, productive working experience for their employees.
The home office has become a staple feature in more UK living spaces than ever before. More and more companies are waking up to the benefits of offering flexibility and home working, a shift sped up by the forced adjustments that COVID-19 has brought about.
This in turn has created a challenge for companies looking to succeed in the modern era: How do I keep remote teams engaged?
Let’s take a look at why you should be considering remote working as a long-term sustainable employment strategy, and how you can ensure your remote workforce remains engaged, happy and productive.
What are the benefits of remote working?
As well as the positive environmental effects of reduced congestion and pollution, allowing your employees to work from home can improve work-life balance, boost productivity and creativity, lower employee turnover and reduce overheads. It also allows you to build a more balanced, talented workforce by attracting the best recruits from a broader talent pool, beyond the range of usual commuting distance.
However, these benefits come with an important caveat – employers must manage, support and engage remote workers for the arrangement to be effective.
With recent events causing the trend towards home working to move faster and faster, the question on how to engage remote employees is more relevant than ever. Here are some tips on how to keep your employees engaged while working from home.
How to keep remote teams engaged and productive
Keeping remote workers motivated and happy is an ongoing, end-to-end process that needs to be embedded in your organisation and supported by the right tools, activities and procedures.
Get off to a good start
Starting off on the right foot is important when it comes to keeping remote teams engaged and productive. The first days of a new job can be fraught with anxiety as well as excitement, and this can be compounded by the fundamentally distanced nature of remote working. Making sure your new starters are made welcome through highly interactive virtual onboarding activities and face-to-face online meetings with a range of key colleagues is a great way to make them feel part of the team straight from the off.
Create a strong company culture
Feeling part of a team is proven to improve engagement and productivity. To facilitate this in your employees, it’s important to create a strong company culture that remote workers can feel a part of even though they’re not all together in one space. As there won’t be the opportunity to have your company values emblazoned across office walls, it’s important that the values are not only authentic, inspirational and aspirational, but also active and present in everyday interactions. For this to work, business owners must lead by example.
Spelling out a strong, positive company ethos that is not only aligned with your brand but also backed up by the language, values and standards you employ each and every day will go a long way towards helping your remote employees feel part of a team.
Embed communication into your ethos
Communication is key to maintaining engagement with all employees, not only those who work remotely. Yet staying in touch with home workers brings extra challenges and can sometimes feel strained or unnatural. For this reason, it’s crucial that as a business you go the extra mile to embed communication as a policy initiative, finding more opportunities for open and discrete ways of keeping in touch.
Create or choose channels that are most suitable for specific work and social situations to make it as simple and intuitive for your staff as possible. For example, chat software such as Slack and Hangouts make it easy to keep in touch and share feedback and ideas. Voice chat software like TeamSpeak is great for quick one-to-one chats as well as team meetings, while video calls are great for virtual face-to-face team bonding activities.
Give clear, regular direction
Everybody needs a sense of purpose and achievement. For employees working from home, a lack of clear direction can easily become a source of stress and detachment. Be sure to establish clear and measurable goals, both in the short and longer term. Set clear expectations for tasks while still keeping a level of autonomy that’s grounded in trust. This allows your employees to shine while also making sure that everyone is on the same page. Foster strong, two-way communication with regular feedback on project tasks and keep remote employees abreast of how their work dovetails into the wider strategy as appropriate.
Whether over the phone or via video calls, regularly scheduled catch-ups not only help maintain focus and alignment, but they also provide a preplanned space to get up to speed on non-work-related topics and gauge levels of engagement and happiness after tasks are completed.
Ramp up recognition
A key part of an effective strategy for keeping remote employees engaged is ensuring that they are recognised appropriately and promptly for a job well done. Highly visible and authentic recognition that makes your teams aware of the valuable contributions they’re making will go a long way towards keeping them engaged, happy and productive and will help them take pride in their work. Personal thanks and one-to-one recognition is a great way to show appreciation and foster strong working relationships built upon mutual respect. There are a wide range of communications platforms that can be used for this, so be sure to call out those wins on both one-to-one and company-wide channels, and encourage your team members to do the same.
Empower employees with quality equipment
Make sure you’ve got the best technology you can afford to keep your team connected – nothing is more frustrating than blurry, laggy video calls, voice dropouts and disconnections.
From simple gestures such as providing your remote working teams with quality stationary to investing in laptops, standing desks, webcams and Bluetooth headsets, improving the daily experience of your remote workers will provide returns in higher engagement and productivity. Quality technology will make your homeworkers feel appreciated as well as enable them to be more effective at their jobs.
Optimise your telecommunications
Having a reliable and flexible telecommunications setup that can work seamlessly at your employees’ homes will enable you to connect your staff with each other as well as customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. This will empower them to do their job to the best of their abilities.
Using the Dial 9 Business Phone system powered by our in-house built VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) platform ensures your homeworkers can answer business calls professionally and privately using all the features of a business phone while keeping their personal mobile as a personal phone. Being cloud-based, it just needs an internet connection to allow your staff to make or receive calls through your business’ phone network and perform tasks that they would normally do while in the office.
What’s more, with Dial 9 you can forward calls to your mobile while you’re out, and thanks to our Dial 9 Anywhere app, remote workers can carry their business phone line anywhere using Wi-Fi or 4G. Advanced call routing tools also ensure your hard-won reputation for customer service can be maintained when your staff are otherwise engaged. The Dial 9 Business Phone system offers the flexibility you need to make the most of remote working and help your team do their best.
Focus on ‘what’ more than ‘when’
One of the perks of homeworking is the chance to take more ownership of your time management. Giving your staff the responsibility to manage their output remotely means also giving them an element of freedom. In order for the relationship with your remote staff to be the best it can be, you need to focus more on what they produce than when. This doesn’t mean missed or moved deadlines, it means relaxing the 9-5 clocking in and out and focusing more on whether the work gets done. Maybe some team members work better in the evenings and others are early risers. If their role isn’t customer-facing, then perhaps you can be a little more flexible to get the very best from them. Give your staff the responsibility to own their own schedules and – if you’ve employed the right people – you’ll be rewarded with greater productivity in return.
Put the extra into ‘extracurricular activities’
Humans are social animals, and our working relationships are some of the most important to our happiness and therefore our career decisions. As a business owner, you should be looking to facilitate positive, productive relationships among your staff. In this sense, it’s important to see expenditure on social staff events as a sound investment that will pay dividends in increased engagement and productivity.
Once the current social distancing rules are relaxed and life begins to get back to normal, there will be plenty of opportunities for remote teams to meet up and socialise, and this should be (safely) encouraged as much as possible in order to strengthen team relationships and build company culture.
However, there are also plenty of options when it comes to more virtually oriented activities, ideal if your remote teams live particularly far apart. Book clubs, online gaming tournaments, online escape rooms and quizzes are great for building social connections and increasing engagement, allowing your remote employees to share experiences and connect outside the usual nine-to-five.
Keeping remote workers engaged, happy and productive is a key challenge for modern business owners. But with a few wise investments in the right equipment and a considered approach to communication, you can reap the many benefits that remote working can provide.