In the modern workplace, employers are becoming more flexible when it comes to schedule and location. It’s no longer necessary to sit in the same office next to all of your coworkers from 9 to 5 each day.
For remote workers, loneliness leads to poor outcomes for physical and mental health and productivity. For employers and team leaders, strengthening bonds and connectedness between remote team members and co-located team members can help reduce turnover and improve team collaboration by building relationships.
The remote workforce is growing and doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon. In order to retain remote employees, leaders need to take an active approach to engagement.
Make onboarding interactive
From their very first day with the organization, you should be engaging your remote team members. Customize the onboarding experience to make it interactive. Your entire team should be involved in the process of welcoming new employees and getting them up to speed.
Think about different ways to introduce new team members to their roles, the company culture, and the vision of the organization, while fostering connections early on. Give your new hire a project they can work on throughout the onboarding process so they don’t feel like they’re being lectured for their first week.
Make sure that your onboarding process also includes team members from other teams to build connections and help them see how their role fits within the entire organization. Building these relationships also prevents siloes within the organization.
Set up meetings to make remote workers feel included.
Team managers and co-located team members in the office should make a significant effort to make remote employees feel more included and a part of the team, no matter where they work. When scheduling meetings, co-located team members should always make sure to add a video conferencing link to the calendar event so remote attendees are prepared to join the meeting.
If the team needs to use their computers during the meeting, everyone attending should log into the video conference to prevent side conversations from happening in the physical meeting room.
Facilitate monthly or quarterly visits to headquarters or a common location.
It is important for remote employees to build relationships and networks, and it’s important to make sure teams are working together in sync on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re a fully-remote company or remote employees are distributed around the world, you could consider organizing regular travel to bring remote employees located in the same country or continent together, too. Scheduling a mini-retreat for remote employees to spend time together and share their productivity tips will help them build relationships with peers and feel more connected to a community when they’re at work.
Offer remote workers a co-working space stipend.
The same way you offer perks like free coffee, catered meals, or fitness classes to help retain your on-site employees, set up perks that benefit your remote workers, too. Consider offering remote workers a monthly stipend to cover or defray the cost of membership at a co-working space, or a monthly budget to work out of a coffee shop, to proactively help team members prevent feeling lonely.
Other perks for remote workers could include a budget to outfit their home offices so they feel fully set up and enjoy spending so much time there every week.
If the bulk of your corporate perks are only beneficial to in-office employees, you’ll need to rethink ways to help retain your best remote workers to make them feel included and a part of the community, and addressing loneliness is a great place to start.
Make training a habit
Ongoing professional development should be a pillar of your corporate environment—not just something that exists during the onboarding period. A learning management system can help organize and track employee training efforts.
Encourage your team members to participate in webinars or video courses to continue developing their skills. Hosting internal webinars is a great way to involve entire teams and work on a skill that may be lacking in a larger group.
Group video sessions via a video conferencing tool can help serve as a classroom and allow for lessons to be taught from a variety of teachers. Experiment to find out what works best for your organization.
Give credit where credit is due
Employee recognition is crucial no matter where your employees are located. However, you’ll need to take an active approach to recognize your remote employees since it won’t come as naturally as it does when they’re in person. Improving your remote employee engagement can be made even simpler with an employee recognition platform.
Notice something small that they did above and beyond their normal expectations? Make sure they know you saw it. These little compliments can add up a lot to how valued team members feel in the workplace.
Expectations and goals transparency is the key
A remote team member can easily become disengaged and feel left out if they aren’t clear about what’s expected of their role. There’s a good chance you may not talk to your remote team members each day, and you definitely might not see them that often, so you’ll need to set them up for maximum success on their own.
Provide them with the tools and knowledge to complete the expectations of their role, and if you assign them a new project, give them proper training and expectations.
Being remote, it’s easy to feel isolated and that you aren’t meeting up to your goals as your co-located team members are. As a leader, you’ll need to be extra clear about goals and how your team members are performing towards those goals. Have regular one-on-ones with your team members to communicate what’s happening.