If you’ve ever spent a chunk of time working from home, you know that while there are plenty of upsides (No commute!), there are some lonely downsides, too.
One of those downsides can be a persistent feeling of being disconnected from co-workers and the organization at large. The sense that one is out of the loop or missing important work gatherings may lead remote employees, contractors or even other field and non-desk employees to become disengaged.
With some creative communication techniques, however, executives and communicators can help employees who don’t come into the office understand that they’re vital parts of the team.
Here are six ways to ensure these remote employees feel connected and engaged:
1. Send regular emails specifically tailored to them.
Employee emails shouldn’t be one size fits all. Not every employee in every department has the same experiences or socializes in the same circles. Most assuredly, remote employees have a different experience than those who work from an office. So consider creating a digital water-cooler-style email, a newsletter specifically for these remote workers, whether it’s in place of or in addition to your standard employee news announcement messaging.
HR Gazette advises:
Sometimes, managers forget to communicate important information with remote employees that they might have shared spontaneously with the traditional employees. This might lead to disengagement in remote employees. To avoid this, make conscious effort to communicate with your remote workers. Send out a weekly updates email to them so that they do not miss out on important announcements and updates at workplace.
2. Provide routine feedback and meet face to face.
Often, remote employees feel uncertain about whether they’re doing the right things. Make sure managers know to frequently get in touch with remote employees so they can get a sense of whether they’re doing what’s expected. As Entrepreneur suggests, “At least twice per year (and many experts recommend a bi-monthly or quarterly schedule), have a one-on-one meeting with each worker… If you can’t meet in person, have a video-conference meeting to facilitate more open communication.”
3. Get to know them as people.
According to Business News Daily, “Remote employees will feel more engaged and committed to the company and their role if they know that you care about them not only as an employee but as a person as well.”
When you talk to remote employees, start with the same approach you take when talking to someone in the hallway or at the start of a sit down meeting. Ask about what they have been doing outside of work, learn their personal interests and family life to the degree that they’re comfortable, and talk about those in informal, personable chats.
4. Ask open-ended questions and listen.
Sometimes you can’t know what employees—remote or otherwise—want until they tell you. If you ask questions that about narrow topics or that only have yes or no answers, you may never know. Dale Nitschke of Ovative/group told Forbes, “By regularly asking open-ended questions, you’re engaging with your employees and understanding their state of mind, state of work and overall satisfaction level – all things that are critical to have a pulse on as a manager.”
5. Respect their time.
When scheduling meetings, videoconferences or deadlines, consider where your remote staff is located. Scheduling for 4:30 PM Pacific Time doesn’t accommodate employees on the East Coast, where it’s already 7:30 PM, or in Europe, where it’s the middle of the night.
Keep the time differential top of mind. “Things like this can go a long way in creating camaraderie and trust among employees when their work schedules are understood and respected,” Rachel Jay, senior career writer at FlexJobs, told Business News Daily.
6. Recognize their work.
Offering recognition and rewards for remote employees’ work is a way to keep them more connected to your office staff. By communicating that their contributions to the organization are valued, you let them know someone is paying attention, and let other employees know they are adding value even though not present in the office.
Inc. explains: “Make a concerted effort to highlight their own accomplishments, ideas, and milestones, whether it’s done during a team meeting or through a formal email announcement. It takes almost no time, but shows these employees that you’re just as appreciative of their valuable contributions.”
Employee engagement is critical, wherever the employee actually works. “Out of sight, out of mind” is not a successful engagement strategy, so employ these tips to keep your remote staff on board.