In our modern workforce, employees often have the opportunity to work remotely to service remote areas as well as to increase flexibility. While this offers many benefits it also poses some challenges in terms of connecting with your remote staff and keeping them engaged. This can lead to communication issues, lower retention rates, and a sense of disconnect from company culture and the team. However, a large majority of workers have stated that they prefer access to remote work citing benefits such as being more productive and achieving a better work-life balance.
From a Polycom Inc survey, “Two out of three people said they are more productive working remotely than when they worked at an on-site office. Three out of four said working remotely helps them with their work/life balance.”
The trick is finding the right balance between allowing/encouraging remote work and ensuring there is the right level of communication. There are many ways to leverage technology and modern processes to achieve this.
Here are some strategies companies can use to keep in touch with their remote staff.
Channel-Based Real-Time Communication and Collaboration
The emergence of tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams have made communication, collaboration, project management, and asset organization much simpler and straight-forward.
They combine the active, real-time instant messaging that had previously been the domain of services like Skype with the organizational capabilities of intranets and dashboards. It reduces the need for sending clunky emails with files internally and allows for project-based communication to be sorted by project, team, department, and other categories.
By leveraging a true collaboration platform, businesses can take their physical office digital and simplify the number of tools needed to collaborate.
Virtual Interviews and Video Conferencing
While video chat has had its challenges in the past, modern video conferencing has come a long way. Users can now invite other staff and customers to a video meeting with a link, often without needing to download additional software. Browser-based video calling is a great way to still connect face-to-face with remote staff who may miss that interaction within text-based digital platforms or audio calling.
Leveraging video software is also a chance for businesses to get a face-to-face audience with candidates for both in-office or remote workers. Video interviews give organizations a way to assess communication skills and styles that can’t be replicated by phone or email communication. It also opens up the candidate pool for remote workers outside of the geographical location of your business.
Video chat isn’t for everyone but it’s an important tool to have for those who prefer to communicate face-to-face remotely. Some of the best-in-market video conferencing tools include Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco’s WebEx. However, the right tool will depend on your individual business needs.
Congratulate Your Remote Staff Regularly
It’s important to share kudos with staff for a job well done. While it’s easy to do that in passing when working in the same building, it can often get forgotten when staff are working remotely.
Most people like to hear that their work is appreciated and taking the time to share some kudos when remote workers finish a project, do a good job, impress a customer, or achieve some other milestone will go a long way.
It can be as simple as a quick personal message, or more involved by sharing their achievement on LinkedIn, an office Slack group or another public channel. There are plugins companies can tie into your collaboration platform to make sharing and keeping track of kudos even easier.
A fun way to keep excitement up in the office is to have staff contests. Holding an ‘enter-by-email’ contest gives both in-office and remote staff the opportunity to participate. Try to line up contests along with common themes that most staff will relate to like holidays, community initiatives, trivia, etc. to increase participation. Offer gift cards or something related to your business’s industry as prizes.
Regular Company Updates
For staff who are genuinely interested in how the company is doing, an annual update is not enough to keep them engaged throughout the year. Consider sending out regular staff communications at a more frequent rate (quarterly, monthly, or whatever makes sense for your business).
These company updates can include recent news, plans for the coming quarter, staff changes, social / community initiatives and whatever else makes sense to keep staff comprised of – both in-office and working remotely. It builds a better community when staff have an idea of what the specific goals of the company are and get updates on how they are tracking to those goals.
Through a variety of digital tools and internal processes organizations can try to recreate the office experience for remote workers while still providing the flexibility of working outside the office.