As of September 2021, 45% of Americans were working from home (that's compared to just 5% pre-pandemic). It's surely time to face up to the fact that remote working is here to stay, at least for many employees. And planning to make it the best experience for your workforce is a must.
Here's how to engage remote employees and create an inclusive workplace:
1. Involve everyone in your workplace culture
Engaging remote employees (and all staff for that matter) starts on day one. Remember pre-remote working onboarding? Most employees would meet their team, be given a tour of the workplace and possibly even be invited to special networking events. It's important that we don't lose the art of onboarding to home working.
And don't stop there. Positive workplace cultures need to be actively managed and constantly reinforced. Harvard Business Review shared some great examples of how leading organizations are engaging remote employees, but the answer will be different for everyone.
Think first about what makes your organization unique. Does your culture stem from your person-first approach? Your commitment to lifelong learning? Or even a booming social scene? Once you’ve pinned down what really matters to you and your people, build out regular virtual events to champion your ethos and remind staff of your shared priorities.
2. Create the best possible virtual experience for your remote employees
So, now that we know remote working is a more permanent reality for many organizations, it's time to invest in the tech that makes it doable – and consider pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
For example, ‘remote working’ doesn’t have to mean being stuck at a desk all day. Free your staff from their desktops by investing in mobile apps and encouraging them to get outside for walking meetings. Committing to building the best possible employee experience for remote workers reminds them that the organization values them and their work and is willing to invest in their happiness and productivity.
It’s also important to reassure your remote employees that they’re just as much a part of the team as site-based staff. Consider offering them tailored benefits and extra opportunities, such as subsidized membership of a local co-working space. Ensure staff feel they’re being kept in the loop with regular updates and 1:1s.
You could even offer special Q+A sessions with senior leaders from across the organization, designed specifically for remote workers.
3. Encourage leaders to be role models
One of the best ways to level the playing field and engage remote employees is to ensure leaders are working from home at least some of the time. This not only gives the rest of the team ‘permission’ to work this way but creates more opportunities to connect. Leaders could try sharing their own experiences, posting stories on your intranet or at a virtual social event to open up conversations about the struggles of remote working.
Plus, having leaders model remote working isn't just about setting an example. McKinsey revealed not long ago that 40% of [remote workers] pay they've yet to hear about any vision from their organizations, and another 28% say that what they've heard remains vague.
It's easy to see why feeling out of the loop and unsure of their organization's overall direction can leave staff feeling disengaged. If leaders are clear about the benefits remote working could offer, staff are far more likely to engage.
That said, positive workplace culture can't be forced through a top-down approach. Hearing from staff at every level is key. Try running regular surveys and asking employees to share their honest feedback. What's going well? What's not going well? Acting on these issues shows you're committed to making this new way of working work for everyone.
4. Don't let geography stand in the way of recruiting talented employees
One of the major benefits of remote working is improved access to talent. When it comes to recruiting in 2022, the world really is your oyster. Plus, by considering a broader pool of employees, organizations can shake up stale workplace cultures and benefit from new, diverse perspectives.
And with 84% of employees saying they want to work for a company that offers more flexibility around working from home, a remote working package is going to be key to attracting top talent. We’ve already covered the importance of a solid virtual onboarding process – but that’s just the beginning.
A good home working setup can help staff remain calm, creative and focused. Consider allowing staff to expense certain purchases for their home offices. It might be tempting to cut costs wherever possible during these uncertain times but think about it – you’d never ask employees to work from the office without providing them with fast wifi, comfortable seating and an adequate desk. Why should it be any different if they’re working from home?
Studies have shown that as many as 65% of employees don't even know their company's expense policy, so make it clear what they’re entitled to.
5. Develop an ongoing approach to engaging communications
45% of employees say their organization has been ineffective at transitioning culture-building events online as a result of the pandemic. That’s a lot of unhappy workers. To boost engagement, start by planning a long-term approach to genuinely useful and interesting communications.
Crucially, try not to overload your staff. 58% of employees say frequent application notifications decrease their productivity and leave them feeling more stressed out. No wonder so many of us are tempted to turn off our phones and disengage.
Be mindful of overwhelming your staff with updates – instead, try scheduling regular interactive virtual events, which should be as fun as they are informative.
When you do need to message staff, mix it up and break up the endless emails with fun, social media-like communications. Beezy's Stories feature, for example, lets users share company news in a dynamic and visual way.
How can technology energize and engage remote employees?
With remote working here to stay, tools that help level the playing field and bring together the physical and digital workplace are fast becoming essential – for both promoting inclusive workplaces and ensuring a business is able to compete.
A modern intranet that borrows the interactive and familiar features of common social media (liking, commenting, tagging, and sharing) can help keep people engaged. But more than that, it can help integrate the apps and tools your employees rely on to get work done. Make it easier to connect and 'work out loud' in different ways, irrespective of location.
Want to learn more about how Beezy can help engage your remote employees? Schedule a demo today.