How do you keep your remote workers engaged and productive when they’re working from home or out of sight most of the time?
Telecommuting isn’t just reserved for IT professionals and C-level executives anymore. In fact, the remote workplace is becoming so common that driving miles across town to an office, parking in the lot, taking the elevator up to the office level, and then settling in amongst a sea of cubicles seems almost outdated. Conference calls, once the hallmark of office life, are now giving way to WebEx sessions, video chats, and other collaborative meeting options. Technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely – and studies show productivity increases substantially when workers are allowed to work from home or otherwise sign in remotely.
“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” – Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group
Ways to Keep Remote Workers Engaged
Now that you’ve created a remote workplace environment for some of your direct reports, keep the following eight essential tips in mind to keep employees working from home engaged:
- Touchpoints are Everything
It’s easy to make small talk with your employee down the hall over a morning cup of coffee or donut in the breakroom, but what about the worker who is logged in from home? In this case, you’ll boost engagement and the personal buy-in of the employee by creating planned touchpoints throughout the workweek. Use these connection points to do more than simply check in on the employee, though – learn more about them on a personal level, ask for feedback and their thoughts on the remote workplace process, and demonstrate that you care about them and their development.
- Include Remote Workers Virtually
Remote employees can easily start feeling like they aren’t truly part of the team when interfacing with the physical office, possibly leading them to resent those who meet onsite. Potlucks, birthday celebrations, company announcements and more can begin to feel like they’re geared toward those in the office – and not all employees at the company. Instead, use live video streams to link up employees working from home with those on location to create one, unified team. Once you eliminate the “us vs. them” mentality that can be common among remote workers, you’ll enhance productivity, reduce turnover and create a more cohesive team.
- Encourage Conversations Between Onsite and Remote Employees
Use available tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to promote casual conversations and “getting-to-know-you” sessions among both on-site and remote workers. Even those who do work at home will likely visit the physical office at least a few times per year, but the lack of daily interaction with peers can quickly alienate even the most independent of employees. To create a collaborative workplace, even when remote workers are part of the equation, encourage employees to chat virtually and discover interesting tidbits about their peers. You can host a bingo game that prompts players to find out unique or exciting things about other employees; then, the first two winners could receive a prize – like lunch or a gift card to a favorite coffee shop. Try to balance the number of work-related conversations and personal chats to drive serious camaraderie and collaboration.
- “Swag” Up Their Home Office
As mentioned earlier, remote workers often feel disconnected from the main office, but showing them that they are valued and appreciated will go a long way toward keeping morale in check. One way to do this is by outfitting their home office with company swag and branded goodies to remind them of their teammates. We’re not suggesting they sit at home wearing company-logo apparel from head to toe (though that is certainly an option), but something as simple as company-branded pens, notepads, calendars, and other handy office items will elevate morale, performance and the sense of team among home-based or remote workers.
- Think Employees, Not Hired Hands
One of the greatest things about agreeing to a remote working arrangement with one or more employees is the boost in productivity you’ll likely see. Simply put, remote workers get more done in less time – and that’s all you can ask for as a leader of home-based employees. But this high-efficiency approach to task completion can leave many remote workers feeling like “hired hands” – not full-fledged company employees who have unique aspirations and clearly-defined goals. To overcome this concern, make it a point to meet with your remote workers at least twice per year to conduct focused coaching sessions around their personal and professional development plans. Make sure they are making adequate progress toward their goals. Follow up with a future meeting dates to reevaluate the plan. Keep it about their personal growth and careers, and you’ll instantly solidify the strength of your team.
- Create a Culture, Not a Mission Statement
To foster a culture of engagement and performance among remote workers first requires defining, creating, and supporting a culture at your business or organization. Forget the mission statement – your remote workers must understand what your company stands for, what the ultimate goals are and the metrics used to define them, the overall company vision as created by senior leadership, and how each worker can integrate with the company to support the organization’s defined goals. By more intimately understanding the company culture, remote workers will feel a greater sense of empowerment to make decisions for the good of the company. This reduces the need for managers to micromanage employees, too.
- Provide Sufficient Autonomy
Your remote workers expect some level of autonomy. After all, they operate under a commonly-agreed upon work schedule and must deliver results to keep their jobs. Treat them like the adults they are and afford them as much autonomy as possible. Find the ideal balance between a moderately hands-off approach and accountability to create an engaged remote worker who feels valued and trusted. Though autonomy is a good thing, there will be times when your home-based employee will have to react quickly to company demands – requiring you to come to an agreement as to what constitutes a work emergency or compressed deadline and what doesn’t.
- Put Appropriate Systems in Place
Your remote workers will feel engaged if they are supported by you, their peers, and also a robust technology package that keeps them connected and organized at all times. Virtually all businesses with remote workers opt to use popular project management tools like Basecamp, Trello, Jira, Microsoft Project, Smartsheet, Active Collab and more, to keep employees connected to one another and actively collaborating on projects.
Working remotely doesn’t equate to a holiday from the office. Instead, home-based or remote access workers may outwork and out-produce those who opt to work in a traditional office environment. Statistics prove this assertion, showing remote workers work longer hours, are more productive, take fewer sick days and return to work quicker after medical concerns. If you’re ready to create an engaged and high-performance team who just happens to work from home, keep the eight tips above in mind and you’ll boost your company’s performance in no time.
If you’re an employee interested in remote work, check out Working From Home Part 1 to find tips on how to get your boss to approve working remotely!
Telecommuting, or work from home, opportunities are becoming increasingly popular.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 24% of employed people performed part or all of their work from home in 2015. For many who take advantage of the benefit, telecommuting provides a needed change in environment, a chance to focus without the constant distraction of office noise, and the flexibility to change work habits to more closely align with everyday life – all while still delivering quality performance.
There is a certain level of trust and confidence employers must have in an employee to allow a work from home situation, but there are ways to make the remote work transition be handled in a way that makes both parties comfortable.
- Be Reliable
It’s not likely that an employer will offer a remote working situation right off the bat, unless previously agreed upon during the hiring process – especially if other employees are expected to be in the office.
One way to show your boss that working from home will not decrease productivity is to demonstrate your reliability when in the office. Are you able to meet deadlines? Have you achieved your outlined work goals? Are you prompt to meetings, have good attendance at work?
Your boss needs to feel you can be relied upon to get the job done wherever you are. If you struggle with meeting the expectations while in a more traditional working environment, making the case for working remotely becomes more difficult.
- Consider Your Position
Remote work situations aren’t for everyone, and won’t be as successful across all industries. Consider how much time you’re required to be in client meetings, team huddles, and other facets of the job where your physical presence is required.
For example, those who work in sales may spend the majority of time on the phone or emailing leads, while also attending conferences or traveling to meet clients at their own offices. This type of work can likely be done virtually anywhere, making an in-office presence less necessary.
- Take Advantage of Technology
With the advancements in technology, it’s far easier to stay connected during work hours. Platforms like Skype, Google Hangouts, and other voice and video conferencing systems can keep the lines of communication open, which is essential when maintaining a positive working relationship among team members.
- Schedule In-Person Visits
While technology allows us to have more flexible work scenarios, it’s still important to touch base in person every now and then as well. Whether it’s to work for a week in the office or to make a visit to be part of a team building activity, people you work with should feel like you are (and want to be) part of the team.
The Shift to Telecommuting
People check their work emails on the weekend. They may take a conference call or two outside of regular business hours. Or, they catch up on deadlines as to not be bombarded first thing on Monday morning. When employees carry over office activity into their home life, there is already the transition of a remote working situation.
According to a Forbes article, there are certain predictions that forecast 50% of the workforce will be working remotely in just three years. Telecommuting was once a special scenario reserved only for the most unique of circumstances, but now is considered more of the norm. It’s up to you to convince your boss that your value at home is just as credible as when you are in the office.
If you are an employer wondering how to keep remote employees engaged, check out Working From Home Part 2, where we discuss bridging the gap between home and office!
Sustainability is a buzzword, which is quickly becoming a best practice used in several industries.
Companies are leaning toward ways to incorporate more environmentally-conscious processes and eco-friendly office supplies. According to a 2015 global case study, 91% of consumers reported that they expect companies to operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. Additionally, 84% seek out responsible products whenever possible; all the more reason to become more earth-conscious.
Setting up your office for eco-friendly success doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul from what you’re currently doing, but rather the implementation of small changes that will have a greater impact over time.
Eco-Friendly Office Tips
Ready to help your team and customers limit their carbon footprint? Here are 5 easy ways to get started and go green today.
- Create Opportunities
This broad categorization can be broken down into smaller steps based on your company’s available resources and dedication to a greener initiative. For starters, supply personal recycling bins or a few central larger bins that are meant solely for recyclable waste in your working space. Reach out to your building manager to ensure you have the right supplies necessary to carry out these initiatives as easily as possible.
Also, simply shutting off lights not in use can cut down on energy waste. Reorganize your space to maximize daylight and help make artificial light less in demand. This helps reduce electricity costs, but can also help improve productivity and health in the workplace.
- Pack a Lunch
Lunch bags aren’t typically considered an office supply, but by providing each employee a customized reusable lunch bag, you may cut down on considerable waste. It encourages others to bring reusable containers and silverware from home rather than relying on plastic utensils and dishes meant for one-time use.
Tip: Reusable bags are also unique promotional gifts that can help set your company apart from all the bags, pens, and notepads handed out at trade show events or open houses this year.
- Provide Education
Make eco-friendly behavior part of your company’s overall messaging. Whether you include tips about conservation in your internal newsletter or include best practices for green living in your email campaigns to clients, there’s always room to share best practices for how to help protect the environment.
Take it a step further, and let others know you’re going digital with documents to prevent waste. Brochures, newsletters, and other marketing materials can all be created online and still have a meaningful impact on your audience.
- Say No to Plastic Bags
Reusable bags aren’t reserved only for farmers markets anymore. In fact, many cities are encouraging the use of them for grocery shopping or other smaller day-to-day errands. Based on numbers from the Wall Street Journal, Americans use and dispose of 100 billion plastic shopping bags every year.
While this number has hopefully declined in recent years as sustainability has increased, the stats are still alarming enough for every business to consider using reusable bags for their business.
As one of the most eco-friendly office supplies, reusable shopping bags help the environment, while also providing a big boost to brands through customization.
- Take Inventory
Employ your office manager or marketing coordinator to take regular inventory of the office supplies you already have. Too often, in preparation for events or meetings, companies will order additional supplies rather than checking on current surplus.A regular habit of tracking inventory will give you a more accurate tally of what’s needed, which helps save on waste and company costs.
Planning for the Future
Companies and consumers are becoming more mindful about the way they treat the planet and understand that many actionable items take little effort at all. As you make plans for an eco-friendly future, start small by swapping out certain office supplies for those made of recycled materials or items that promote sustainable living.
Encourage conservation of utilities whenever possible. And, make sure you’re also providing earth-conscious options for customers who wish to buy from companies that care about the environment.