How to Engage Remote Employees and Keep Them Motivated

Are you shifting to a completely remote workforce?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers were forced to make some adjustments when it came to how they ran their businesses. While some businesses stayed “in-person” and others went “hybrid,” others still were forced into an online workforce.

This means that they had to adapt to a virtual world. 

Learning how to engage remote employees, how to do good remote onboarding, and how to keep your team feeling like a “team” despite your physical distance isn’t always easy.

That’s why we’re here. We have a few tips to help you figure out how to manage remote employees so everyone is happy and productive. Keep reading to learn more.

Good Onboarding

how to engage remote employees

One of the first things that you have to change when you’re moving to a remote workplace is your onboarding methods.

Keeping up-to-date onboarding best practices is crucial if you want a productive and confident team. After all, good onboarding leads to successful employees.

Your onboarding won’t look the same as it once did when you had “real-life” onboarding opportunities available. Instead, you’re going to be integrating your employee into your workplace without the benefit of “real” communication. 

Remember all of the things that go into a helpful onboarding process. You need to give your employee all of the resources that they’ll need to succeed in your workplace, even if they’re working remotely. This includes any necessary devices, software, and the resources to talk to team members or yourself if they need help. 

Make your employee feel welcome and comfortable from the moment they start working with you. Remember, working in a remote environment might be completely new to them, so remote onboarding may take extra time.

Set Clear Expectations and Set Actionable Goals

One of the things that can get frustrating for new remote employers is a perceived lack of productivity. If this is something that you’re managing, first consider whether or not you’ve appropriately set expectations for your employees.

In a physical workplace, your employees can hold each other accountable because they’re all sharing space. There are constant reminders of what they have to do and when they have to do it.

Online, they’re relying on themselves. It can be hard to stay focused when you’re sitting at home and trying to work. It’s also possible that they are meeting those goals, but because productivity looks different online, you aren’t recognizing it. 

Put a list of employee expectations (both overall and for each workday) somewhere that’s easy for employees to access. Make sure that you discuss it during onboarding.

Also, create a space for employees to track their own progress. If an employee doesn’t look as productive as you’d like them to be, check their progress before making a comment. It’s possible that they’ve finished more than you think. 

Provide Helpful Virtual Tools

Speaking of expectations and progress, you can provide tools to help your employees with this.

It’s a great idea to invest in scheduling apps for your employees, as well as other helpful productivity apps that can keep them on track without overwhelming them.

One of the top benefits of online work is the ability to use a variety of convenient online tools. Take advantage of the things that weren’t as accessible from within the office. 

Encourage Communication

One of the biggest downfalls of remote work is the lack of communication. You no longer have the benefit of sitting near people, walking around the office, and making eye contact when you’re having conversations.

While this is challenging at first, anyone who’s grown up with the internet knows that online communication is no worse than “real-life” communication. It’s just different.

There are so many helpful online communication apps and services that you’re not limited by proximity. You can get free (or paid) video chatting, voice chatting, and text chatting. 

Many employers try to force certain kinds of chats, but this isn’t a good idea. While you may need to have occasional meetings or group calls, it’s best to let employees gauge their own comfort level when it comes to how those meetings or calls are happening. 

For example, not everyone is going to be comfortable with video calls. Some people may not have a clean working space, or they may worry about their children coming onto the screen. They may also be uncomfortable with video chats in general.

Try to be flexible with your employees and they’ll be happier and more productive. 

Even “Unofficial” Communication Matters

Even the smaller forms of communication are important when it comes to keeping employees engaged. It’s tempting, as an employer, to make jobs “all work, all the time,” especially when it feels like working from home is a luxury, but this isn’t helpful.

Consider what happens in a real-life workplace. Employees cluster amongst themselves to talk about projects, ask for advice, or even have casual chats with each other.

These things don’t halt productivity; they help it.

Because of this, you need to allow and encourage these kinds of chats amongst your remote employees. Let them have breakoff groups in video or audio chats. Make a text chatroom for “casual” conversation so employees can socialize while they’re working.

This is part of creating a healthy workplace culture, even if that workplace is online. 

Use Virtual Team-Building Activities

Speaking of encouraging healthy communication amongst your employees, do you ever actively try to improve their bond?

As an employer, it’s part of your job to build a functional remote team. In the real world, you can have team-building activities to help with this process. Everyone can learn about each other and bond over games, events, and more.

Online, you need to make some modifications, but they’re not hard. While there are plenty of virtual team-building activities to choose from, we’ve broken down a few categories of activities that you can choose from (or mix and match). 

Virtual Events

In the real world, you can have fun events and gatherings to bond your team together. Online, this isn’t an option (unless you have the resources to send employees to an occasional retreat or conference). 

You’re going to have to change things up and make them work for you. 

While you can’t go out for coffee gatherings, consider sending each employee a coffee package (or a voucher for a local coffee shop) and having them all come together for a team coffee break on company time.

This should be a casual event, and it’s a great way to bring everyone together.

You can do something similar for “parties.” Arrange an evening where everyone is free to get into a video call. Have everyone contribute songs to a playlist so you can all “mingle” as if you were at a real party.

It sounds silly, but even this small “event” can make a big difference.

Icebreakers, Games, and More

While icebreaker games sometimes fit into the “cringy” category for many adults, they’re still helpful when it comes to helping employees bond. Moving them online can actually be helpful.

Try to avoid the basic icebreakers that everyone dreads. Instead, try to make them fun.

One great way to take advantage of the digital sphere while also sticking with somewhat traditional icebreakers is to create quizzes. Start with one large personality quiz so all of the employees can get to know basic things about each other in a fun way.

Then, you can have employees make quizzes about themselves for other people to answer. Consider making it into a trivia game with small prizes available for whoever gets the most quiz answers correct.

For a more intense game bonding experience, consider something like a virtual escape room with your team. This fun puzzle game will force your employees to work together. This teaches them valuable skills and gives them a fun experience!

Employee Wellness: Going from Real to Virtual

It’s hard to come up with virtual options because we’re so used to having everything available to us “in real life.” Try to find a good balance between emulating “real” activities and creating new ones that you’d never be able to do without the use of the internet.

Many employers like having real-life “wellness programs” as a part of their employee team-building (and overall goodwill towards employees). These often include healthy lunch gatherings, fun exercise events, and more.

Employee wellness programs are great for productivity and engagement, but how can you do one from the web? 

Consider offering vouchers for employees who are interested in wellness programs. The vouchers can be for local gyms or even healthy food boxes (like produce boxes).

While you can’t have real-life yoga sessions with your employees, why not gather everyone on a video or audio call and work out together with free fitness videos online?

These are fun and unique ways to keep employees engaged and prove yourself as a caring employer. 

Positive Reinforcement 

As an employer, you should already know the importance of positive reinforcement when it comes to employees staying engaged. If employees don’t feel like you value them, they aren’t going to be interested in improving. You may even lose valuable employees if they don’t feel appreciated!

It might seem hard to give positive reinforcement online, but you actually have more options than you would within a physical workplace.

First, if you send out newsletters, consider leaving space for a “weekly praise” section. This is where you call out employees that did great work that week. Try to pick different employees every week so no one feels left out.

You can also offer small bonuses to employees that do good work. These can come in the form of bonus pay or even gift cards.

If an employee is doing something well, make sure that they know that you appreciate them!

Poll and Survey Your Employees 

How often do you take your employee’s opinions into account?

While we already talked about encouraging communication amongst your employees, you also have to encourage your employees to communicate with you. This is how you learn (and it will make your employees feel more heard). 

There are several ways that you can do this.

When you’re trying to determine whether or not what you’re doing is working, consider sending out anonymous polls or surveys to your employees. That anonymity will allow them to feel safe if they have something to say that might be controversial. 

If you want feedback that’s more direct, consider holding meetings or discussions in which you open yourself up to commentary. Make sure that your employees know that you’re listening and that they won’t be penalized for their opinions.

After you’re done asking for suggestions, make sure that you use them. As an employer, you need to be flexible if you want to maintain a healthy work environment. 

Keep in mind that everyone is still adjusting to an increasingly online world. There will be things that you get wrong from time to time, but as long as you’re open to making changes and listening to your employees, you’ll be able to keep your employees happy and engaged.

That’s How to Engage Remote Employees

Learning how to engage remote employees is easy when you remember that your employees are still “in” the workplace, even if they’re working from home.

They’re still parts of a team and they’re doing their best to adjust to a new situation. Modify your plans to allow for virtual engagement, but don’t reinvent the wheel.

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