As most of the world settles into their new remote work reality, you may be wondering how to keep employees engaged and productive. Good idea. Businesses that focus on how to best help their remote employees enjoy higher productivity rates and employee satisfaction, fewer unscheduled absences, and lower attrition rates, according to this study.
Keeping employees connected and engaged has a significant impact on their productivity. Mainly because there are fewer distractions and interruptions (maybe not now, but usually), they’re less stressed because they don’t have to commute or deal with office politics, and can work in a personalized environment.
Since it takes more than an online chat tool to keep your remote workforce engaged, here are a few tips to consider as you navigate this brave new online world.
Give Them Permission to Work Remotely
Not every job can be done from home, but if it can, let your employees stay home. You’ll reduce their stress immediately because they’re not worried about how they’ll get to the office (or if they’ll be temporarily laid off.) Nearly 100 percent of respondents (99, to be exact) to this survey said they’d choose to work remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers if they could, so give them the option now.
Real World Example
In regular times, 44 percent of global companies don’t allow remote work, even for roles that could be done remotely. Most companies who do are in the technology or internet and marketing industries, but the online education and insurance industries are rapidly gaining ground too. For example, Automattic, the company behind the CMS WordPress; Zapier, the automation app company; Basecamp, a project management software company; and the education companies Kaplan and Pearson are all regular remote working companies. Others have followed suit recently, such as Ford, Cisco Systems (where only part of their workforce was remote before this), and IBM, who previously banned remote work just several years ago for U.S. employees.
Empower Employees to Set Their Schedules
Everyone’s body is different and affects the way they work. Hemingway used to write just after dawn every morning, as that’s when he was freshest. Medium founder Evan Williams goes to the gym in the middle of the day. When he was in office, President Obama made sure to carve out time for meals with his family in the mornings and evenings.
Successful remote employees understand their body’s energy levels and schedule their work accordingly. So, give your employees the freedom to do the same.
Yes, everyone should be available for scheduled meetings and meet all deadlines, and some roles (like customer support) might have defined work hours, but generally speaking, leave it in your employee’s capable hands. If you’ve done your job right and hired the right people, they already know how to manage themselves and their schedules.
You may be wondering how you can create or sustain a corporate culture with remote employees, but as the co-founder of a 100 percent remote business, I can tell you it can be done. It starts by defining your values and mission (or rediscovering it if you’re an established business switching to mainly remote work right now.)
See if there’s a way to adapt this to be a sort of mission statement for your remote workforce. This doesn’t have to be a mandatory kind of thing, but just a guiding statement or two that you can use as a benchmark for what kind of attitude you’re looking to inspire.
Next, infuse this attitude and language into your hiring processes. I’ve heard of some companies administering a test to prospective employees that surfaces insights about their perspective on things like problem-solving, language, and more. There were no right or wrong answers; it was just a way of ensuring everyone would be able to work together towards common goals, even if we arrived at the goals differently.
Real World Example
At my company, we require all new hires to read the Entrepreneurial Operating System™ book, which guides how we work on projects, campaigns, team and employee goals, and more. We share it through a communal Kindle account, which every employee can access from wherever they are.
Rally Employees Around Reachable Goals
It’s easy to feel like you’re working towards overall business goals by yourself when you’re alone in your home office. It can be lonely working at home, and it’s why loneliness is always one of the top obstacles to remote work. In the latest Buffer survey, it tied with collaboration and communication obstacles for the top spot, with 20 percent of respondents saying it was a problem.
To combat this, prioritize and communicate business goals through online resources everyone can access, like shared spreadsheets and data portals. Highlight wins and offer both team and individual encouragement through your communication channels like Slack, Workplace by Facebook, and video chats through Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet.
Real World Example
We hold a company-wide meeting every Monday where our leadership team goes over the past week, celebrates our wins, highlights great news, and shares business roadmaps. That visibility and transparency are essential for us and helps communicate more effectively than an email newsletter.
Employee performance business Reflektive commissioned a survey that found that over half of all employees would like to have performance check-ins with management at least once a month. Nearly 94 percent of respondents said they want managers to address mistakes and offer development advice in real-time, something that you might struggle to do with a remote workforce.
Real World Example
Our team leaders hold regular one-on-one meetings with employees to go over individual goals, answer questions, and offer encouragement. You should consider doing the same with your remote workforce, at a pace that works for you and your employees. We use Asana to track work tasks and team calendars, which helps us stay connected and accountable to the goals we’ve set.
We use the Standuply add-on in Slack to hold a daily stand-up meeting at 9 am. Employees answer questions about what we’re working on, how things are going, and if we have any obstacles to our tasks. Responses are available for everyone to read on a dedicated Slack channel, so everyone can offer suggestions if we know of a solution that might help. It breaks down the work silos that can happen when working remotely.
There’s no doubt it’s a challenge to manage a remote workforce, especially if you’re not used to it. Hopefully, these considerations and tips will help you set up your remote employees for success, no matter your size, industry, or goals. You’re in this together, so use everything available to you to help them succeed. After all, when employees succeed, so does your business. Good luck!
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