6 Tips to Keep Remote Employees Engaged

People teams know this already: employee engagement is not the same for workers sitting in an office and remote employees. The problems, opportunities, and tactics to tackle engagement are entirely different in a remote setting. Read on to find out what’s different and how to boost that engagement all the way up.

The problem with employee engagement and remote work

Put simply, we can define employee engagement this way: how much employees are invested in their work, their team, and their purpose at the company. For remote workers, the first part works well, as connecting with their work is often higher than with their office-based colleagues.

Productivity goes up, and engagement goes down

Remote workers do their core jobs really well, which leads to the famous productivity spikes companies seem to love. But with the other two factors - team connections and a feeling of purpose - remote has its barriers.

For many employees, working remotely means fewer or no face-to-face encounters with coworkers, leading to Zoom fatigue and a feeling of disconnect, burnout, and disengagement. Employees get focused on doing their jobs but can lose the sense of belonging along the way, negatively impacting the employee experience.

Challenges with maintaining company culture

It’s hard to build and maintain trust and relationships when coworkers are merely a box on the screen, and this disconnect can lead to a difference in how employees perceive the organizational culture. Therefore, employers need to be proactive and intentional in maintaining company culture, as it is one of the essential pillars of the experience and engagement of employees.

Why engaging remote employees is essential for companies

When the Covid-19 pandemic first started and most companies switched to working from home, employers were impressed with employees' increased productivity. Soon enough, everyone was focused on extracting more work from employees, and engagement was sidelined.

Fast forward two years and most People experts realize that high productivity and low engagement levels are not what a company needs. Remote teams who feel pressure to always be available can only be productive for so long before burnout catches up with them. Instead, companies are now aiming for a balanced mix of the two.

The data from recent studies also shows why engagement is essential for companies, especially remote ones. Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their employers, and companies with engaged employees have 2.5 times higher revenues than those where employees are disengaged.

Engagement brings better performance, improved employee retention, and lower attrition. In the age of The Great Resignation, retaining employees has significant cost implications and can impact the company’s business results directly.

Tactics to keep remote employee engagement high

Now let’s cover what you came to this article to get: practical tips on engaging your remote team members - with examples!

1. Ask for employee feedback

In a distributed workplace, taking the pulse of employees is more important than ever. With team members spread out across locations and time zones, it’s essential to carve out time and tools to get regular feedback.

How to do it: Implement quarterly company-wide engagement surveys for all employees to fill in, which will give you initial benchmarks to compare future results with. In addition to these surveys, you can send out employee feedback questionnaires twice a year. The questionnaires can cover multiple topics, from workplace flexibility and employee experience to employee feedback on processes like onboarding.

Finally, make it easy for employees to give feedback to their managers during one-on-one meetings and check-ins. A holistic way of gathering employee opinions from multiple angles will help you catch pressing issues whenever they arise and tackle them quickly.

2. Promote work-life balance and employee wellness

Employee well-being is quickly becoming the essential request of new hires and existing employees when evaluating any company. Millennials and Gen-Z employees are leading this change as work-life balance is critical to them, and the hustle culture has lost its popularity.

How to do it: Judging by the studies and surveys, there are three vital things remote employees want to see in their companies: flexibility, more time off work, and strong DEI initiatives. To provide flexibility, start by creating a hybrid work policy to help employees set up a productive remote work schedule. Next up, ensure employees can set boundaries around when they are available and guide them on best practices to communicate availability with their team.

And last but not least, take diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously and build a transparent strategy to work on it. DEI matters to employees, and they want to see clear steps companies are taking toward a better work environment for everyone.

3. Integrate employee recognition into everyday work

With remote teams, casual office encounters and watercooler chats don’t happen by chance — they need to be intentionally planned. The same goes for employee recognition, which is one of the easiest ways to get employees excited and enhance their sense of belonging.

How to do it: Some companies practice spontaneous recognition like giving shout-outs in Slack channels for a job well done or a team project finished ahead of a deadline. But as your team grows, you’ll need more structured ways to do it. Try using one of the many employee recognition tools and start celebrating remote workers' milestones, anniversaries, and achievements in a way everyone can take part in.

4. Create a clear communication strategy

Establishing lines of communication and processes around them is essential in remote companies. Employees can’t just tap each other’s shoulders and ask for advice or clarification when they are remote, and they shouldn’t have to. People leaders and team managers need to establish effective communication channels for every situation and requirement employees may have.

How to do it: Think about the processes and workloads each employee is part of, and try solving them individually. For example, project management and daily tasks will require the company to implement productivity tools like ClickUp or Jira. Likewise, brainstorming and creative processes will benefit from a collaboration tool with whiteboarding capabilities, while company docs and knowledge need to be stored in a Wiki-like system like Notion.

Bonus tip: For remote workers, good communication tools can save time, speed up solutions and processes, and improve team relationships. And as video conferencing and virtual meetings aren’t always a good idea, more and more companies rely on user guides. User guides are handy documents where every employee lists essential info about them, their preferred communication style, and the best way to reach them. A game-changer in remote team communication!

5. Organize virtual team-building activities

Every team needs time to rest from work, recharge with coworkers, and have a little fun — and remote employees are no different. And when they can’t grab drinks after work, many of them will be happy to attend a virtual team event in real-time.

How to do it: This one is relatively easy: organize happy hours, quizzes, and trivia nights for your remote team. But remember: don’t overdo the team video calls! Zoom fatigue is real, and you don’t want employees to feel like they have another meeting to attend. Try to keep team bonding activities on a biweekly level at most, and do it during work hours. Oh, and don’t make it dull: make sure to choose a different activity every time - there’s plenty to choose from.

6. Foster in-person connections

Remote workers experience numerous benefits, especially if they usually work from home: saving time on commuting, a home office stipend, more time for friends and family, and (usually!) a distraction-free work environment. But the downside is reduced social interactions and a feeling of disconnect from their teams. At the same time, remote workers want to keep their flexibility and remain connected to their team, which is no easy task for companies to provide.

How to do it: Provide your employees with access to flexible workspaces, regardless of where they live, and let them decide how often they want to come in and connect. In the new workplace, the office environment isn’t needed to get work done, but it is an important place for human connection.

One of the ways to make connecting with coworkers easy is to use Gable - especially our Team View feature and Slack integration. With Team View, employees can see where their coworkers are headed and join them for a collaborative workday with just a few clicks.
In addition, our Slack integration makes it easy to catch up on bookings, make plans together, and even set up location-based channels without ever leaving Slack.

Gable team view

Why remote workers need face-to-face connections

For remote teams, seeing each other in person is often the most effective way to build authentic relationships and extend trust. And whether it’s a once-a-year company offsite or a regular in-office meeting, remote workers enjoy putting the names and faces of coworkers into context.

It makes it easy to get to know the team, laugh with them, engage in small talk, and build a sense of belonging. In addition, it makes future collaboration easier, as you won’t be left wondering about the tone of an email if you already know the person and have some connection.

Additionally, companies that use remote workspaces often say their cross-department relations have improved. With flexible workspaces, it’s easy to connect with coworkers from the same city, even if they aren’t in the same team.

And most importantly, seeing each other in person impacts employee engagement: companies like Postclick see a connection between meeting in person regularly and team engagement scores.

Bottom line: Employees want to be engaged. Employers need to make it happen.

Employee engagement is essential to your company culture and employee experience in remote teams. Employees want flexibility but also crave engagement and connection opportunities.

It’s on People teams and experts to empower employees, engage them, and ensure they say happy and excited for their work, team, and broader purpose. One of the most effective ways is to provide workspaces for remote workers to connect and collaborate.

A distributed workplace strategy should consider the needs of your remote workforce, the budget and costs of using workspaces, and administrative tasks and workload of the People team.

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Andrea Rajic