More and more employees are switching to remote working. Many believe that the pandemic accelerated the inevitable, and people were always likely to move towards a working week that spends less time in the office and more at home. It’s not restricted to just home working either – some people have even become digital nomads of sorts, taking their work with them no matter where they happen to be.
The sheer number of people working from anywhere but the office is expected to have doubled by the end of 2021, with as much as 70% of the US workforce working from home by 2025. That will come with plenty of challenges and decisions along the way for entrepreneurs, managers, and the employees themselves alike. One such challenge involves ensuring that those employees still feel like they’re part of the team. Engaging remote workers can be different but not necessarily challenging.
So we’ve pulled together five ways to ensure that productivity among those workers remains high, no matter how long they’ve been out of the office.
Keep in Touch Without Getting in the Way
Remote work means a balancing act for everyone involved. Workers want to get on with things under their own supervision, but managers need to keep in touch and be there when needed, without appearing like they’re interfering.
If your business has already moved into remote work, there’s every chance that the likes of Slack, Teams, and Zoom make up part of the daily routine. However, just because the tools are available, that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to use them.
Make a point of holding regular meetings, events, or just general get-togethers, and ensure that nobody is left behind. Sure, some employees might wish their employer forgot about them while they continued to receive their checks, but that won’t do anyone any good!
As a leader, try to ensure you engage with every employee you work with at least every couple of weeks to remind them that they’re valued and you’re interested in what they’re up to. Conversely, don’t feel like you need to check up on them every day – most workers have a habit of being more than capable of managing their own workloads and dividing up their days.
Take the Lead on Breaks and Time Away
One of the biggest challenges facing workers that aren’t accustomed to working remotely is ringfencing their work time and remembering that they too deserve time off the clock.
48% of Americans profess to be workaholics, and when there’s no natural closure to a working day like leaving the office and heading home, it can be challenging to switch off.
Employees that feel overworked are highly susceptible to reduced morale, so it’s up to you to make a point of providing that kind of natural barrier on their behalf. For example, you could send out an email stating that it’s now corporate policy for no work emails after 5 pm. In addition, you might mention work/life balance on one-to-one calls to ensure your team is taking care of itself.
Once again, letting people know you care and that there’s nothing wrong with using their newfound flexibility however works best for them can make all the difference when keeping spirits high.
Don’t Focus Solely on Work Even During the Workday
That freedom means that some people might struggle to adapt between work and play, and that’s another opportunity to take the lead.
A substantial number of office employees feel it’s so unprofessional to go and do something else during the day that they never even think to ask. Metaphorically chaining people to their desks during office hours was ridiculous then, and it’s even crazier now.
If someone doesn’t answer the phone even when they’re “at work”, they might be doing something else, potentially wholly unrelated to their job, and that’s ok. 76% of employees claim they’re more productive when working remotely, and it’s essential to trust them. They have no commute and no eyes on them all day. If they decide to do something else for a while, don’t jump to the conclusion that they’re not doing their jobs right.
Instead, encourage it and let them know you support their time management skills – it can do wonders for their morale.
Make it Easy to Give Feedback
Whether you’ve just started a business or you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ve seen enough to know that everyone is different. Low morale is one challenge facing remote workers, but everyone is different. You could read every article on the internet about keeping these employees happy, and you still wouldn’t capture the nuance of different personalities to the fullest extent.
A common thread between these tips is a willingness to listen to employee feedback, and it’s one of your main jobs as a leader. For example, someone might face a challenge that’s seemingly unique to them. If you can help them solve it and make their life easier, you’ll both benefit at that moment.
You might even come out further ahead, as the more problems you solve, the greater your experience when something else arises.
Provide Development Opportunities
Some employees are happy to turn up every day and collect a salary. The majority, however, always have one eye on the future. It’s human nature to have ambitions and aspirations, and if you can make them happen, they’ll be happier.
There’s an old joke about a manager questioning the value of training employees, wondering what if they invest in them and they leave. Someone else raises the valid concern of what if they don’t train them and they stay. Invest in your people, make them better, and, once again, everyone will benefit.
Remote working means it’s no longer as simple as getting everyone together in a training room. However, education and development were some of the first components of remote work to really take off, and there’s no shortage of resources.
Out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind, and remote work means taking a hands-on approach to ensuring your employees are happy and fulfilled. The more you can do, the better your business will perform.