3 simple ways to engage remote employees

Did you know that 56% of global organisations allow remote working?

Or that 16% are completely remote, with everyone working and communicating from their own unique space?

You’ve probably noticed that the number of people working remotely has sky-rocketed in recent years.

More and more people are ditching the traditional office-based 9 to 5 in favour of shaping their work schedule around their busy personal lives, and working from whichever location best suits their needs.

In fact, it’s now the case that around  70% of people working remotely or at least one day a week – with 53% taking advantage for as much as half the week.

With so many team members potentially working remotely more frequently – who may be based around the country, or might even work across continents – it’s important to consider how this affects your ability to engage remote employees, and build a connected culture that spans all corners of your business. And which everyone feels a part of.

The challenges in engaging remote employees

You’re probably aware of the many benefits and advantages that working remotely can have across your organisation to make your organisation’s culture stronger and more cohesive.

But you may also be all too familiar with the challenges that come with keeping remote employees fully connected and engaged with the business.

For instance, have you ever found yourself wondering how you can engage remote employees with your internal communications – particularly those in hard-to-reach roles that see them often on the road, or based in satellite offices hundreds of miles away from HQ?

We know how difficult it can be to keep everyone marching to the same beat, especially when they’re what can seem like several trillion lightyears apart. And not always able to access communications on-the-go.

It’s a hurdle we’ve helped many of our clients to clear. One example would be when Anglo American asked us to help them engage their 87,000 global employees, around a critical area of safety.

We had to think strategically to create connections with people stretched across a diverse array of locations – from high-rise offices piercing the London skyline, to South African miners working hundreds of feet below ground.

You can see how this programme achieved a 25% reduction in safety incidents, as well as 40% fewer lost work days, by checking out the case study over on our Employee Engagement page.

So it’s safe to say, we can appreciate the challenges you’re up against!

The good news is that it’s never been easier to communicate with and engage remote employees, thanks to continuously evolving technology that opens you up to endless opportunities to get your messages across no matter where employees are based.

So, how can all this brand-spanking new technology help you connect better with remote employees – and ensure they feel valued and included?

Three brilliant strategies to help you engage remote employees

1. Encourage leaders and managers to be accessible beyond the ‘task’

We all know there’s often a fine line between remote employees feeling connected, and totally out of the loop.

It’s super important that you take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to create bridges with remote employees – to prevent them feeling isolated and cut-off from the organisation.

But this doesn’t just have to fall to IC or HR professionals.

One of the best ways we can engage remote employees (and equally, employees in general), is by calling on our leaders and managers to step up to the plate and connect with them themselves.

As you’ll be aware, being a supportive leader is all about being available and accessible beyond the task  – and always remembering that communication is never just a one-way street.

So why not encourage leaders and managers to make a point of slotting in precious time, to simply engage in conversation with their remote employees?

It goes without saying that people working from home or in hard-to-reach locations will have fewer opportunities to sit down with their managers in-person to talk about their role or experiences, without overloading their inboxes.

But these informal conversations are crucial for leaders to gain an insight into how their employees are feeling about their work or the wider business. As well as to get a sense of any potential issues that may be simmering under the surface – in this case for instance, feelings of isolation or exclusion.

And it only takes a little bit of extra effort for managers to recreate these conversations with folks outside the office.

With tools like Skype, Yammer and Workplace by Facebook to hand – it’s never been more convenient to connect with anyone, no matter where they are in the world.

Meaning there really is no excuse!

However, it’s key to avoid relying solely on non-visual channels to connect with remote employees.

If they play a predominant role in leaders’ or managers’ conversations with their teams, then they’re missing a big trick – since 70% of all communication comes from non-verbal sources, like body language and facial expressions.

So you might find it more fruitful to encourage them to use visual channels to reach out to remote employees, to help them get their messages across more clearly and have a more authentic, natural conversation.

For instance, the use of video calling would not only allow both manager and employee to ask questions, seek advice or request clarification, but it would enable them to build rapport through the use of their body language too.

It would also allow them to pick up on any non-verbal clues or signs that things may be going awry, which may otherwise slip through the net.

By adopting these approaches, it would demonstrate leaders’ and managers’ dedication to engaging in two-way communication with their teams.

And more importantly, to keeping in regular touch with everyone – not just the folks they rub shoulders with on a daily basis!

Simple, genuine gestures like these builds trust, and meaningful relationships.

And most importantly, it will have a positive impact on remote employees’ wellbeing and engagement – by creating a real sense of inclusion and belonging.

2. Surprise and delight

It’s the small things that matter most in life, wouldn’t you agree?

Needless to say, when you work remotely, you miss out on all the generalised chitchat that goes on at HQ.

With lots going on in offices from social events to team-building activities, it’s understandable that that those working in a faraway location could feel disconnected and left-out.

That’s why small, out-of-the-blue gestures can often be very much appreciated.

Because it shows remote employees that they are still valued even when they are not physically in the office. Reassuring them that they’re not just forgotten about.

Imagine an in-house employee calls in sick and returns a few days later, fully freshened up.

What would you do when you noticed them at their desk?

You might ask them how they’re feeling, and politely comment on how they’re looking much better.

With remote employees, this would be basically impossible to spot because they aren’t physically in the office. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to pay attention to small, off-the-cuff comments, and make a gesture out of them. 

When a colleague who works from home happens to mention that they’re a little under the weather, you could send a little ‘get well soon’ card through the post, or drop them an email or ‘welcome back’ text when you know they’re back on fighting form.

Or why not go all out and do something completely out of the blue to truly surprise and delight your team?

At H&H, we never do things by halves. So when Easter 2019 rolled around, we decided to go all out to mark the occasion.

A couple of our team put together a huge Easter egg hunt around our beautiful grounds – complete with enigmatic clues, some detective work even Sherlock Holmes would be proud of, and of course, copious amounts of chocolate eggs!

But our Marketing Manager Danae, who works remotely a few days a week, would have missed out on the celebrations.

That’s if it weren’t for our lovely Michelle and Katie – who got in touch with her partner, and liaised with him to design an Easter egg hunt of his own, just so Danae could take part in the festivities all the way from London.

Now how’s that for a way to engage remote employees in office life!

3. Enable regular praise and feedback

As we’re sure you’ll be able to relate to, being recognised for going above and beyond goes a very long way.

It’s a real boon to employee engagement, and can have a great impact on people’s productivity levels (you can probably think of a time when being appreciated made you want to go one further!).

In fact, 93% of employees who feel valued in their organisation feel motivated to do their best work and 88% feel highly engaged.

We all know the best praise comes from direct line managers and senior leaders. In-house employees – who rub shoulders more frequently with their direct reports – are more likely to receive praise and recognition on a more frequent basis.

But the same can’t be said for remote employees. They don’t have access to this pivotal luxury.

But it’s vitally important that all employees feel valued as keep players in the organisation – no matter where they’re based.

So how can leaders and managers ensure they show the same levels of appreciation to people who work remotely, as they might do to those at HQ?

One way would be to apply the same approaches we’ve already explored. Leaders and managers could send an impromptu card, text message or email to a remote employee simply to say ‘thanks’, or congratulate them on a particular success.  

We hardly need to say it again, but a little goes a long way!

Or you could go one step further, and share remote colleague’s successes with everyone in the organisation.

Include the praise in your company’s internal newsletter, or perhaps you could even send a company-wide email (or, if you want to be more with the times, post to an ESN or intranet) to spread the recognition a littler wider, for the ultimate pat on the back.

Here at H&H, we use TINYpulse to share ‘Cheers for Peers’ with each other. We’ve found it’s a really inclusive and positive way to say a sincere and heartfelt thank you to superstar individuals for their personal successes that week. Or simply acknowledge the small ways in which they’ve put a smile on our face. Recognising what makes them such a valuable member of the team! 

And it’s safe to say it always goes down a treat when we share them in our Monday-morning Huddles!

When you publicly recognise people for their achievements, and get their colleagues in on the appreciation, it can often work wonders for making people feel valued and rewarded.

Although it’s worth remembering that this approach won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – so only use it if you’re certain it’ll have a totally positive impact.

With remote working becoming increasingly more and more common, it’s now business critical that we consider how we can effectively reach out to and connect employees working behind their own front doors – to make them feel like they’re a central part of the business.

Granted, this might take a little more consideration than catching a casual sit-down in the office.

But if you make just a small extra effort, you can make a seriously big impact – not just for remote employees, but to the wider business as well!

Meet the author