Remote working might have been thrust upon business in the last few months due to unprecedented global circumstances, but it’s not a trend that’s going to disappear any time soon.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that remote employees are overall more productive, creative, and happy. Another two-year study by Stanford University found remote workers to be 13% more productive than their office counterparts.
Looking at the other end of the scale, remote working is not the perfect cure-all solution it promises to be. Like everything, it also has its drawbacks. Buffer’s 2018 State of Work report found that loneliness is the biggest struggle remote workers face.
Besides impacting the quality of work and team morale, loneliness can lead to serious mental and physical health issues. A Classpass study found that 70% of Millennials and Gen Z’s expect employers to invest in their wellbeing. Are you taking care of your remote employees’ mental and emotional wellbeing?
In order to efficiently implement remote working environments and thereby taking care of your team’s wellbeing, the first step is to invest and test your communication channels. Effective communication is the key to maintaining meaningful relationships and enable employee engagement within a digital environment.
Why is employee engagement important for the remote workforce and how can you encourage it? Here’s our advice:
We’ve mentioned before that remote working leads to a much more productive workforce. A research paper published in 2009 found that many remote employees out in extra work as a way to thank employers for allowing them the flexible benefit. Based on social exchange theory, “employees respond to the ability to work flexibly by exerting additional effort, in order to return benefit to their employer.”
Often this results in a higher workload from the employer, leading the employee to do more and the circle continues until the employee suffers from burnout.
Managing a remote team requires an extra sensitivity to employees’ wellbeing. From a management point of view, know the workload on each person’s plate and try to contain employees within their working hours. Those emails sent in the middle of the night, for example, is a red flag. Here are a few more warning signs.
This is also where the internal communication team plays a critical role in communicating expectations from the executive level to the company. In addition, regular polls and surveys will then feed insights back to the top. Employee engagement is not a one-way conversation, it’s about collaboration.
The 2020 State of the Sector found that face-to-face communication was by far the most successful tool for communicators to successfully get their message across.
Just because the team is working remotely doesn’t mean that face-to-face communication has become null and void, however. It means that companies need to make extra effort to make those connections via video tools.
It’s also so much more exciting than just a video chat. Think one-on-one meetings to check in on people, group meetings where you can see everyone’s reactions, video broadcasts from the executive team instead of a boring email. The options are endless!
We’d like to make an argument for videos that look and feel authentic instead of overpolished. Yes, take care of lighting and sound, but keep it real especially if you’re trying to connect to people. Let the TV ads do the glam #SMTLive— IC Thrive (@ICThrive) April 21, 2020
“The most important thing that CEOs and their leadership teams need to do is recognize that this can be very difficult for their teams. Exercising extra patience and empathy is probably the most important thing that anyone in a leadership position can do in an organization. Remember to give people the actual time it takes to adjust to these work style shifts . . . Arm your team the way you can by providing them with the information and resources they need, not just for their physical well-being, but also for their psychological and mental well-being” – Joe Lallouz, CEO of technology platform Bison Trails for Forbes Magazine.
There is a big difference between checking in on people and checking up on people. Are you trusting your workers to get the job done? Are you checking in on each team member to ensure they have all the resources they need? Are you simply checking in on how they are doing?
Again, this can and should be done in many ways. Surveys, videoconferencing, and regular company updates are but a few channels to help start this narrative. Remember, employee engagement is a two-way street so feedback and collaboration are essential!
Erin Raimondo, our internal comms specialist recently explored the topic of feedback within organizations. Have a look to see how you can create and nurture a feedback culture.
Watercooler and cappuccino conversations are a big part of workplace culture, and actually has a direct impact on performance. It’s essential to enable those conversations to continue via digital channels.
It could be something. as simple as an end-of-week virtual gathering where employees can catch up with each other. Often simple is best!
Yes, virtual events will be different. But different is not bad, it’s simply an opportunity to allow new ways of communication. Don’t be afraid of the new, but don’t forget to measure these new processes either. Ask for feedback, have multiple touchpoints, and track what works and what doesn’t.
You will most likely have a myriad of new communication channels that enable employee engagement. Ask any internal communicator, that’s an exciting opportunity!
When you start plotting these communication channels, don’t forget to cement them into your channel strategy.