Since COVID-19 expectedly forced many employees to work from home, it important to engage the remote workforce to ensure more productive and committed workers.

In today’s digitally advanced world, the modern workforce is increasingly becoming mobile, collaborative, and dynamic. The world of the traditional 9-to-5 work is slipping away, more companies are looking at remote working options to provide their staff with flexible working conditions. In light of recent events, many staff members today have grown to become accustomed to the working-from-home arrangements and the adjustments that come with it.

Adopting remote working capabilities is essential for organisations to shift towards a more advanced and modern digital workforce. Still, they are hesitant to consider remote work settings as the new norm, as some think remote employees are impossible to engage with and worse, unproductive. In some cases, this may be true, however, poor engagement by organisation leaders can lead to reduced productivity, lowered morale, and high rates of turnover.

It is essential for managers to develop habits and skills necessary to effectively connect and engage with remote employees. Here are three strategies to consider that can help managers engage their remote workforce,

1.Provide and use communication tools

Communication is critical for establishing and maintaining engagement with employees, regardless of whether they are working onsite or at home. Reaching out to remote workers can often feel like a laborious task, however not every communication needs to be work-focused. It is essential for managers to take steps to develop ways for employees to interact both socially and professionally.

Consider using chat programs such as Microsoft Teams. Since its launch in 2017, Microsoft Teams was developed to improve workplace productivity and collaboration. It is essentially a digital hub that brings people together. One of the many features built into Microsoft Teams is its ability to separate internal communications using channels. Using these channels to create groups between onsite and remote employees is a great way to engage and bring people together. It also allows you to send GIFs and customise channel names, so have a little fun with it the next time you get your remote teams members together for a chat.

Also, consider scheduling virtual face-to-face meetings. Built into Microsoft Teams is its ability to host virtual face-to-face meetings. With the advancements in technology, virtual meetings have become far more personalised and engaging. It can be used to support online video conferencing, webcasts, or training activities, the possibilities are endless. With guaranteed communication, managers have far greater reach, allowing them to connect with remote employees located in any geographical area.

2. Get your remote workers more involved

Building the right culture in your organisation is important however, this can prove difficult to duplicate in your remote workforce. In addition to using chat programs and virtual face-to-face meetings to engage remote workers, it is important to ensure they are also interacting with other team members, participating in crucial training and development, and other business activities, just like they would in a normal office setting.

Training and development can be a tedious task, especially when it covers topics regarding compliance, policies, and procedures. However, like any organisation, its important for their onsite and remote employees to stay ahead to reduce legal and financial repercussions. Getting your remote workers to complete important training and tasks can seem difficult, consider delivering a blended learning experience. By simply offering alternative workspaces with the combination of online training, can encourage them to get more involved. Workspaces such as satellite offices or communal workspaces offer long term benefits to your remote workforce. Moving away from the confinements and distractions of their homes, these spaces offer atmospheric change and provide your remote workers with the ability to connect and collaborate with other remote employees. This will also help organisations set the right social and collaborative culture they would like in their remote workforce.

One of the many advantages of this digital age is the range of digital tools that can help facilitate virtual social and team building activities, that help develop and enhance remote workforce culture. With this modern generation of workers, being able to balance socials and work is the preferred lifestyle, and generally helps create happier and more productive employees. Consider virtual group fitness classes, a great way to get your remote teams active at home, or virtual Friday night drinks, a great way to get your onsite and remote workers socialising together after a long week of work. As mentioned previously, using virtual meetings platforms such as Microsoft Teams can support these activities. Virtual activities are drivers of social connections among your employees, which will ultimately increase engagement and productivity.

3. Recognise, appreciate and reward

The best way to motivate your remote employees is to recognise, appreciate and reward them for their positive behaviours and work. This might seem like the most obvious thing to do however, most companies fall short in this area. Conventional recognition and reward methods do not work for the modern-day workforce, especially those who work remotely, as they often seem generic and impersonal. Creating personalised recognition and reward incentives and programs is a unique and powerful way to engage your remote employees.

Begin by getting to know your remote workers. Managers should already have a relationship with their staff, however, the challenges of the remote workforce are the inability to learn about the unique details of their remote employees, due to the lack of small talk that would often occur in an office setting. Instead, sending out ‘getting to know you’ surveys or questionaries is a great way to help managers collect unique data, specific to an individual staff member. Some of the data that can be collected can include personal preferences such as an employee’s favourite sports team, colour, food, and hobbies. With this information, managers can recognise and reward their remote workers with the information gathered to add a personalised touch.

One of the challenges of working remotely can sometimes include the difficulty for co-workers to see the success and accomplishments achieved by individual and remote teams. However, more organisations are moving towards recognising and celebrating achievements using enterprise connectivity platforms. In other words, it is a private company Facebook platform that allows team members to connect with one another. It also has similar functions, individuals have their own profile they can customise, ability to join groups and post, comment, like and share. It’s a great way for employees who work onsite and remotely, to connect and engage with the wider organisation.

Many organisations have traditionally under-appreciated the importance of employee engagement, with recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more than ever important to sustain your remote workforce.

Organisations need to reimagine new and unique ways to connect with their remote workers. Those who act quickly with new modern-day remote working trends will reap significant performance gains and benefit from happier and committed employees.

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