Well, even for companies that never thought much about having a remote workforce, that day has finally come. The coronavirus has turned organizations upside down. They are doing everything they can to keep as many business operations running – even when this cannot happen in the office. It is likely, as more and more companies adapt to a remote workforce, that even after coronavirus concerns abate, companies will be more open to remote working. One issue that cannot be forgotten is recognizing and engaging this off-site workforce.
Even before coronavirus concerns, the percent of US workers working remotely had been growing (an astounding 44% growth rate over the last 5 years). For most industries, human resources are the most expensive part of their business, so attracting the best workers and retaining them is of the utmost importance. Part of attracting top talent is offering benefits like work-from-home. But once your workers are remote, you need to keep them happy and engaged in order to retain them.
Whether you manage a fully-remote team or a hybrid of some in-house and some remote employees, you need to think about recognition and engagement a little differently.
Keep Informal Communication Open – Off-site workers don’t have the informal communication opportunities that on-site workers have everyday. They can’t just pop their head over the cubicle to ask for advice or bond with co-workers over last night’s game in the hallway. So managers must create these connections virtually. With today’s technology, managers can create informal video chat/work sessions as part of more formal meetings or between smaller teams throughout the day. Giving your team time to informally chat about non-work related as well as work topics will bring the team together and boost morale.
Support Remote Workers Just Like In-House Workers – Don’t treat a remote employee’s work space as “their problem.” If you provide something to an on-site employee, provide it to remote workers as well. This may mean a new chair, a second monitor, etc. If remote employees feel like they are second-class citizens then they will look for better treatment elsewhere. Let them know that you value their work environment as just as important as those working on-site.
This includes training as well. Training can be online or at in-person locations near them. But remote workers need to know they are being given just as much opportunity for skills growth and advancement as on-site workers.
Visit Your Remote Team Members – Make the time and the budget to visit face-to-face with your remote team members throughout the year. Take them to lunch near their home for their monthly one-on-one meeting, or to present a special award (you can even Skype the rest of the team from the remote employee’s house – or the restaurant). Knowing that you went out of your way to travel to them will show your employees that you care.
If this is really not practical (ex. your team is all across the globe), then send them a gift certificate to a local restaurant near them to share dinner with their spouse or significant other. You still need to “meet” with them regularly though. Having frequent (at least once a month) one-on-one video chats give remote team members a chance to discuss their goals, current challenges and frustrations before they become bigger problems. It is also a great opportunity to offer praise for a job well done (although this is even better in your group chat sessions – as public praise is better than private praise any day!).
Recognize Accomplishments on a Regular Basis – Offering regular and consistent praise and reinforcement is an excellent way of keeping your team engaged and motivated. However, it is easy to forget for remote workers. So time doesn’t pass before giving your team members the cudos they deserve, schedule time at least weekly to review who deserves to be recognized for their accomplishments and find ways to offer this up throughout the week. It could be at the morning team video call, in a team email or as mentioned earlier – in a visit. Also, be specific in your praise. Employees want to feel valued, and pointing out the specific ways an employee went above and beyond or excelled on a project is much more powerful than a generic “thank you.”
Employee recognition and rewards take on even more importance when workers are out of the office. Your actions show employees that their efforts truly make a difference. In fact, recognition has the biggest impact on employee engagement.
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