6 Best Ways to Engage Your Remote Workers to Increase Productivity
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of adding remote workers to your payroll, including being able to source top talent from anywhere and having lower overhead costs. But to get the biggest boost from hiring telecommuters, you need to set up every member of your team for success.
Even if you’ve already dabbled in working with remote personnel, a few techniques help support remote employees to do their best work. With only a third of employees being actively engaged, it’s vital to make upgrades to your office operations and protocol to promote higher levels of work satisfaction and productivity among all staff.
1. Establish a Remote-Friendly Work Culture
You’ve hired superstars to work from home. That’s a good first step. But do the rest of your people understand how to make those workers feel at home as they perform their virtual duties?
Setting up remote workers is only the first step to establishing a positive remote work culture. Remote employees should feel part of the whole, not like add-ons. Making remote workers feel at ease starts with their onboarding. Treat them as you would any new employee, introducing them to their co-workers online and setting them up with access to all the platforms and systems they need to succeed. That way, you’ll take away barriers to their assimilation to the team.
Be aware that managers may need to change their supervisory policies when their direct reports aren’t visible on a day-to-day basis. Case in point: An open-door policy works well in traditional settings. When a team is scattered across the internet, it’s harder for staffers to know when to drop by for a virtual visit. Have a talk with leaders to help them understand how to best guide teleworkers.
2. Add Remote Workers to All Communication Streams
The old saying “Out of sight, out of mind,” has a ring of truth to it, particularly for individuals who work from home or another remote location. It’s not uncommon for in-office employees to forget to add virtual colleagues to communications like emails or meeting invites, a problem that leaves remote workers feeling disengaged or excluded.
Before sending correspondence, whether on Slack or through your intranet, ask yourself whether you’ve looped in everyone who needs to know. Pass along this practice to your team leaders, too, to keep remote personnel abreast of corporate knowledge.
In addition to keeping remote workers involved in online discussions, bring them up to speed about informal water cooler-style decisions. Many times, employees make changes to a project or idea while taking a break or during idle chatter. Those changes must be passed along to all personnel, including people who don’t have a desk in the building.
3. Allow Remote Workers to Establish Set Hours
According to OWLLabs research, 40 percent of remote workers report working more than 40 hours per week. Ironically, they don’t stay on the clock because they feel they have to, but because they enjoy what they’re doing. While that’s certainly positive, you still need to be careful not to burn out your remote personnel.
A huge issue with having a virtual office is that the lines between work and home tend to blur. This can cause remote staffers to stay on their devices far longer than necessary or to “just check my email” before bedtime, which may lead to overwork and underperformance.
Remind all workers, including those who are telecommuting, to take breaks. Some companies encourage virtual team members to set up in-office hours and share their calendars with co-workers. That way, everyone can set healthy barriers.
4. Consider Changing Your Benefits Packages for Remote Workers
If you want your remote workers to be happy and stick around, you need to offer them benefits that matter. It’s great to offer free healthy snacks in the break room or an on-site fitness facility, but those perks won’t mean anything to telecommuters.
Work with human resources personnel to give your benefits plan a once-over. Could you offer remote workers stipends to cover gym memberships, paid volunteer days, or even a pet’s veterinary visits? Are there other options that would be meaningful to a team member working from home? A Buffer survey showed that 75 percent of remote workers said their companies didn’t cover internet costs. Knowing this, your business could operate ahead of the curve and offer to cover telecommuters’ Wi-Fi.
5. Set up Remote Workers with Top-Line Equipment
When you’re relying on some of your team members to work remotely, you need to be sure they have the tools and technology to work at peak efficiency. This may mean purchasing laptops, desktops, monitors, printers, scanners, routers, and related devices. Otherwise, they might suffer from a productive standpoint.
In addition to tech-related equipment, remember that some remote workers’ furnishings are downright pitiful. Plenty of people work from old dining room tables or makeshift desks. Though you don’t necessarily want to pay to outfit a telecommuters’ house, you may want to loan your people furniture. Alternatively, you could offer employees who stay for six months or a year a one-time amount to upgrade their home office.
6. Show Consideration During Meetings that Include Remote Workers
It might seem easy to simply add remote workers to all your in-person meetings, but be aware that your etiquette will need to change. Telecommuters deserve to be brought into the conversation, which could mean prompting them to add their thoughts if they’ve been silent. You should also occasionally make sure they can hear everyone clearly.
Meetings often continue in the hallway after they’re technically finished, and that’s a problem if you have a remote worker. Let’s say your meeting disperses at 2:00 p.m. You and a team member stick around to chat. During your conversation, you decide it would be a good idea to make changes on a project that involves your remote co-worker. It’s up to you to contact the colleague to seek his or her input, just as you would if the employee worked on-site.
As a final suggestion, invite remote personnel onsite whenever possible for team-building days or networking events. If that’s not feasible, meet up with telecommuters at an annual conference. Regardless, your goal should be to make everyone on the team feel welcomed, empowered, and needed — including individuals whose commute is measured in steps, not miles.