Technology and logistical arrangements get a lot of attention when it comes to ensuring remote workers’ success. It’s important to also factor in one of the most crucial elements of any positive employee relationship – engagement. According to Huffington Post, employee engagement impacts companies in 10 crucial ways.
Tips for Avoiding Out of Sight Becoming Out of Mind
Ultimately, both employees and their managers share responsibility in making and maintaining the critical, authentic connections that drive higher engagement.
If you manage virtual employees or teams, be sure to:
- Empower virtual employees to have leadership presence: Participation in corporate leadership training programs and virtual presence programs is an ideal way to ensure your virtual teams have the skills they need to effectively communicate and build strong relationships with team members, clients, or prospects. This ultimately makes them more productive and engaged.
- Schedule regular “temperature checks”: When you can’t count on bumping into the person in the hall or dropping by their office, you have to be deliberate and plan these communications.
- Monitor the virtual signals you’re sending — and receiving: Especially when there are no visual cues, tone, vocal style, and pacing can speak volumes. You also have to be more aware of how your messages are landing. Did the nuances come through? Is the message resonating? Pause for a check-in to make sure.
- Encourage virtual employees to initiate reaching out to you and others: Suggest that they make an effort to connect with their colleagues for the sake of keeping in touch. This could be in the form of calling with birthday wishes or asking someone to be a sounding board for an idea. This is a great opportunity to help your employees build their confidence and presence by taking ownership of their engagement.
- Include virtual teams when planning company events and activities: While they may not be able to attend activities in the office, you can still find equivalent alternatives for your remote staff to participate in and feel a part of the culture.
If you are a virtual employee, make a point of:
- Staying tuned in: It’s up to you to be present in the moment and also be aware if you’re feeling disconnected or isolated. If you are, take a moment to reach out.
- Communicating expressively: Because you won’t always be able to rely on face-to-face interactions when you have ideas or concerns you want to get across, your ability to communicate in a clear, compelling way is more important than ever.
- Taking advantage of the tools: Email is great, but don’t let it be your sole method of contact. Schedule opportunities for verbal (phone) and visual (Skype/web conference) communications when possible.
- Not letting your imagination get the best of you: Without context, there’s a tendency to “fill in the blanks” of what’s going on. Any time you notice you may be doing this, it’s a warning sign that you need to reach out and converse with your team mates or manager.
The Future of Remote Workforces
It’s tough to pin down just how many employees are working remotely, but one thing is certain – the numbers keep increasing. A 2016 Gallup survey found that 43% of employees spent at least some time working remotely. Over the next few years, 50% of all employees will be working remotely according to MarketWatch. This is not surprising considering the many benefits working remotely offers including enabling companies to hire the best talent and cut costs, while giving employees more freedom.
Most studies show virtual workers are typically no less productive than their office-bound counterparts; in fact, they’re often more productive and happier. OWLLabs Global State of Remote Work study found that employees who work from home at least once a month are 24% more likely to feel happy and productive at work than their colleagues who don’t. As companies iron out the kinks that can make working remotely challenging, this figure will surely climb.