According to Gallup, over the past four years in the U.S., the percentage of employees who work remotely 100% of the time has risen from 15% to 20%. While these employees enjoy remote work benefits like a more flexible schedule, the ability to work from anywhere, and the elimination of the daily commute, there is something they may be missing out on—connecting with their coworkers.
Having people build relationships at work will help them grow friendships, increase trust, and make them feel like part of a team, all of which leads to increased employee engagement. But, because remote workers aren’t able to build relationships with their coworkers in-person, remote workers can be less engaged. In fact, the same study by Gallup says that employees who work remotely 100% of the time are among the least engaged.
So, how can you get your remote workers to feel more connected with each other and your business from behind their computer screens?
Whether you have an entirely remote team or just a few remote team members, here are 4 ways to improve engagement within your remote team.
Use Chat Tools for Communication
One of the biggest downsides to working remotely is the solitude; you aren’t able to go to the office next door and chat or have fun water-cooler conversations with your co-workers. So, remote workers often feel isolated. In fact, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2018 Report, 21% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. To increase engagement and make remote workers feel connected to each other, you need to use chat tools for communication.
With chat tools like Slack or Google Hangouts your remote employees can easily keep in touch with each other throughout the work day no matter their location. But, don’t use a tool like Slack for just work related conversations—encourage your remote workers to get to know each other and have a little fun by talking about non-work related topics. For instance, at our company we have a separate Slack channel called “Family.” This channel was created specifically for our remote workers to talk about non-work related topics. When your remote workers know that they can easily start a fun conversation with their coworkers anytime they want, engagement is sure to rise.
Hold Regular Video Meetings
Instant messaging is a great way to help your remote team build stronger relationships with each other. But, do you know what helps grow even stronger relationships? That’s right, face-to-face interactions. Unless your remote team is able to get together regularly for an in-person company retreat, they aren’t able to participate in many face-to-face conversations though. But, you can remedy that by holding video meetings on a regular basis.
Using a video conferencing tool like Zoom or a VoIP provider with video conferencing features, you can keep your team up-to-date on company issues and your remote workers can ask questions or share their progress—all face-to-face. We often start our video meetings by asking if anyone has any good news to share, which can be something like reaching a work related goal or simply a fun activity they did on the weekend. Sharing good news is a great way to increase engagement during your meetings and help everyone feel involved and included.
Create Extracurricular Activities
Did you know you can set up extracurricular activities for your remote employees? While your remote workers can’t go to an arcade together after work or play board games in the office, there are a ton of extracurricular activities you can set up to boost engagement and build relationships.
Here are some extracurricular activities your remote team can participate in:
- Book club
- Fantasy football league
- Multiplayer online game
- Movie streaming night
- Virtual fitness challenge
- Photography competition
Getting your remote team together for some fun isn’t hard, it just takes a bit of creativity. Consider creating a survey or a poll for remote team members to find out exactly what type of extracurricular activities they’d be interested in.
When a remote worker is doing a great job, be sure to recognize them for it. But, don’t just praise the worker in a one-on-one meeting or chat. Instead, celebrate the successes of your remote team members with the entire company. For example, we announce the employee of the month in our general Slack channel and share employee success stories in video meetings. We also have a dedicated Slack channel called “Cheers for Peers” that allows team members to share praise for each other.
By celebrating successes (big and small) in a public forum, your remote team members will feel recognized. Plus, the rest of your remote workers can discover the amazing things their peers are doing and it inspires them to do awesome work themselves.
Over to You
With these tips, you can easily improve engagement in your remote team and you don’t have to sacrifice human connection for the flexibility of remote work. And when your remote workers are engaged, they’ll be happier and they’ll perform better, which will make your business more successful overall.