How does remote work affect employee engagement?
Nearly 6 in 10 US employees work remotely at least once a week, according to McKinsey. Whilst having a remote workforce is part of today’s flexible and hybrid approach to working, and many remote workers say that home working improves productivity and work life balance, it can be hard for employers to keep remote employees engaged. Whilst video conferencing and communication tools usage accelerated during the pandemic and have led to opportunities for businesses to diversify their team, attracting talent from all over, it can raise challenges when it comes to employee morale and employee engagement. Because we’re all different, the experience of remote working is varied, but some common aspects of employee engagement that can be affected are feelings of isolation, difficulty collaborating, and challenges in maintaining work-life balance.
The role of senior leadership in remote employee engagement
Traditionally a person’s manager played a very clear and regular role in an individual’s working life. But with remote work more common, regular updates have become rarer and as such the working relationship may not be as strong. Which can lead to challenges in keeping a remote workforce engaged.
Senior leadership plays a crucial role in remote employee engagement by setting the tone for company culture, prioritizing employee well-being, and ensuring that remote workers have access to the resources they need to thrive. It’s crucial to lead with confidence and care so that remote workers feel part of the team, whether they are new hires or old hands.
What are the 3 C’s of employee engagement?
We often speak about the 3 C’s of employee engagement. These are specific aspects that contribute to help employees feel engaged, whether they are working from the office environment or from home. They are:
- Connection: Building strong relationships among team members and fostering a sense of belonging.
- Communication: Ensuring open, transparent, and regular communication between employees and leadership.
- Contribution: Empowering employees to contribute to the organization’s goals and recognizing their achievements.
These aspects should be central to any workforce management strategy, for remote workers, office workers, and everyone in between.
Challenges with remote working
Lack of face-to-face communication
Those working remotely can struggle to maintain motivation due to the lack of face-to-face communication. We know that psychologically we thrive from human interaction, and screen interaction just isn’t the same. This can impact working relationships, particularly when it comes to direct reports or new team members. A virtual team can face difficulties in collaborating and communicating effectively, find it hard to discuss projects, and ensure that they are on the same page.
Feelings of isolation
Remote employees may experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, impacting their mental health and wellbeing. Although many remote workers say they are some of the most productive employees, after a long period of not engaging with co workers it can be easy to become disengaged, affecting job satisfaction, which in turn can trigger higher employee turnover. They may also feel that by not being in the office their employee accomplishments are overlooked affecting career growth opportunities. It is crucial to our wellbeing to have meaningful connections in our relationships, which may be harder for a remote team worker.
Lack of boundaries between work and personal life
Remote employees may struggle to establish boundaries between work and personal life, leading to burnout or stress. This can also impact physical health, as people spend long hours at the desk and don’t exercise or take time away from the screens. And of course, there are technical factors, and remote workers may encounter technical issues or inadequate infrastructure, hindering productivity and collaboration.
8 ways to engage remote employees
There are lots of employee engagement ideas available, many of which can be applied to those working remotely as well as people on site. To create engaged employees and improve employee engagement, think about what your employees need, what they would most benefit from, and how to keep them engaged in the long run.
1. Respond to employee feedback
Listen to employees about what they are loving and hating about remote working, and its impact on not just project management and team progress but the entire company’s culture. Gather intelligence through surveys and one to one meetings, as well as informal communication. Once you know more you will be able to increase engagement efforts in a way that is valuable for virtual teams. This can be everything from better collaboration tools to new ways to host virtual meetings to better onboarding for new remote employees.
2. Implement an employee recognition & rewards program
Sometimes it can be challenging for company leaders and managers to recognize when a remote worker has done a great job, simply because they are not there to see it. Make sharing a success a key standing item on team meetings. Ensure that your remote teams are not forgotten when it comes to employee rewards and have options such as a gym membership to use in their area, or online meditation sessions, or any other options that have been identified as valuable to your company.
3. Prioritize employee wellness
If you want to get the best out of remote employees it’s crucial to make employee wellness a critical aspect of engaging every team member. There are numerous employee wellbeing strategies to undertake but what is key is making sure they work for both remote employees and those who are seen in person.
Some of the Wysa employee benefits include always on access to support, clinically validated self help exercises, packs for specific issues and meditation and wellbeing sessions – all of which can engage employees no matter where they are. To increase remote employee engagement it’s important to make people feel valued, and priortizing their physical and mental health is an important way to do this.
4. Offer work-from-home benefits
Some studies have shown that working from home has detrimental effects on physical health. Priortize remote workers’ health by offering stipends for a good desk setup, or local gym access for example. Allow employees autonomy over their own schedule by enabling flexible working schedules, perhaps with core overlap hours. As everyone has energy at different times of the day, this can improve employee productivity.
5. Keep virtual meetings short and effective
Company leaders should instill a culture that if a meeting could have been an email, it should have been an email. Sometimes a whole remote team will be invited to a meeting when one on one meetings would have been more effective. Set an agenda for every meeting, decide who needs to be there, and what their role is, and keep the meeting focused. One way of doing this is to have a mindful meeting.
6. Encourage employees to socialize and network online
One of the best ways of engaging remote employees is to increase positive relationships with coworkers through social events. This can be anything from a regular online coffee morning to a monthly quiz. Improving the social offering of your company can also encourage a better work life balance as well as going a long way to boost engagement of all employees.
7. Check-in with employees through a survey
Regularly gather feedback from remote employees and address their concerns, demonstrating that their opinions are valued. Wysa’s mental health barometer allows leaders to take a snapshot of their employees mental health. Armed with this data and insight they are then able to address key needs through structured wellbeing programs. By measuring wellbeing you are able to create a benchmark and then do surveys on a regular basis to measure efficacy of interventions.
8. Offer online group meditation sessions
Encourage downtime through mindfulness and meditation as part of remote workers wellbeing activities. Anonymous online meditation sessions through Wysa can enable people to relax and focus and create opportunities for a more reflective and mindful approach to their working day. This helps improve mental health which results in better productivity, relationships and engagement.
Wysa’s employee offering has been shown to have numerous benefits. While talking to Wysa, 42% of employees opened up about their declining mental health, there was increased engagement, 91% improved mental health and after a period there were 33% fewer lost days as a result of better wellbeing.