The days when remote work opportunities were a perk or a privilege offered to select employees are long gone. The influx of millennials and Generation Z into the workforce, along with changing employee expectations, have resulted in remote work’s going mainstream.
In a 2019 IWG global workspace survey, 80% of respondents said if they had two otherwise similar job offers, they would turn down the one that didn’t offer flexible work options. The survey also reported that 50% of the global workforce spends at least 2.5 work days per week outside of its main office headquarters.
Whether you choose to go fully remote or to offer remote working options selectively, incorporating flexible work opportunities in your business has multiple advantages. Remote working gives you access to a global pool of talent and results in significant infrastructural savings for the company and time savings for the employees who no longer have to commute. It can also boost productivity and employee retention.
While the perks associated with remote work are numerous, there are downsides as well. Remote employees are more likely to work in isolation and experience burnout in the absence of frequent workplace interactions. Engaging remote workers is a challenge that most organizations using flexible work face. It is also where technology can make a big difference. Here are three ways you can leverage technology to keep your remote workers actively engaged.
1. Extending the Company Culture
A strong company culture results in improved customer and employee engagement. Making remote employees part of your culture starts with embracing remote work in the first place.
Employees’ introduction to your culture starts with effective recruitment and onboarding. Whether you do it via email or online chat channels, it’s important to welcome new employees in front of the whole team. This approach starts to encourage a culture of open communication and demonstrates how employees can leverage technology to communicate ideas and feedback.
2. Continuous Learning Programs
The current workforce, whether remote or not, considers training and development to be critical for long-term employment with a company. Providing ongoing learning opportunities to employees can improve their engagement with the organization.
Remote Employee Training Programs
Hosting live virtual training sessions and webinars for remote employees is a great way to engage them. Make learning interactive by incorporating interactive elements such as videos, infographics, and immersive learning technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
Take a “show, don’t tell” approach to employee training. Leveraging technology tools like live demos and screen sharing can engage employees in real time and enable two-way, interactive learning sessions.
Remote employees value mobile experiences. Breaking down learning into small, bite-size segments that remote employees can consume on their mobile devices while on the go can amplify your engagement efforts.
Mobile applications are a great way to offer customized learning experiences for your remote team. Recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning can give your learning applications an added edge by making customized learning offering to every employee based on his or her individual goals and preferences.
You can also add elements of gamification to take this strategy to the next level. For example, after T-Mobile incorporated gamification in its employee collaboration platform, participation increased by 96%, according to a case study with Bunchball. You can gain similar results in learning by offering rewards-driven training through mobile apps.
Virtual Progress Check-ins
As Peter Drucker famously wrote, “What gets measured gets managed.” Setting learning goals and measuring employees’ performance against them is crucial for performance improvement and employee engagement. Holding virtual progress meetings with remote employees at regular intervals keeps them motivated.
Make sure that you include rewards and recognition as a part of your employee engagement strategy as well. Recognition events, held in person or virtually, can result in valuable shared experiences and act as a motivator and engagement-booster.
3. Team-building and Collaboration
Communication and collaboration are critical to your remote team’s morale and engagement.
Building Trust In a Remote Team
Building trust takes time, and establishing channels for formal as well as informal communication is important for any business that employs remote workers. The water-cooler effect seen in traditional workplaces, where employees have informal communication during break times, is missing for those remote team members.
To overcome this challenge, GitLab implemented virtual coffee breaks, encouraging employees to take a break and chat with one another via video calls. It even randomly pairs remote workers for these calls, ensuring that the team, which spans 39 countries, stays connected.
Establishing Internal Channels of Communication
Using video conferencing tools to hold regular meetings reduces distractions, promotes face-to-face interactions and, as a result, boosts remote employee engagement. If your business workflows involve sharing sensitive information, a custom-built messaging app with end-to-end encryption ensures data security while promoting collaboration.
Using Collaboration Tools
File-sharing tools enable remote team members to collaborate seamlessly. There are also a host of project management tools that can help the team stay up to date on tasks and projects. Cloud-based applications can be especially helpful for a remote workforce, as they allow location-independent access to data.
A remote workforce adds an element of flexibility to your business. It gives you access a wider pool of talent, offers a desirable work experience to the employees, improves the business’ bottom line and helps accelerate the growth curve for your organization. However, it’s important to have the resources in place and the right mindset to make the best use of this strategy. Technology helps bridge the gap between your remote employees and helps them realize their full potential, regardless of their location.