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HR How-To: Keep Your Remote Employees Engaged

If there is one thing, we’ve learned during this COVID-19 crisis besides, that we’ve been washing our hands wrong all along, it’s that many of us can do our jobs while working from home. While working in sweatpants certainly has its perks, there are several significant drawbacks that must be addressed. The most important of which is how to keep folks engaged in the goings on in your office, even if they are not physically there.

We consulted the pros and below we outline four ideas for keeping folks in the loop and dialed in to your business, even when they can’t physically be on premises.

Consider your communication channels:
When you encounter a problem in the office, there’s usually a designated person to fix it! Have a glitch with your email? A snafu with a system? Or simply just cannot get the presentation to transition correctly? You can swing by the desk of the in-house expert and they can either fix it right there for you or, at the very least, put you in touch with someone who can. For folks who work from home, troubleshooting is not so easy and generally involves reaching out to a call center or sending an email into the ether and crossing their fingers for a quick response.

  • Quick Fix: Now is the time to create a communication tree that shows remote employees they can turn to for the various issues that can crop up with the systems you most frequently work with in your office. Further, you should specify whether they should call, email, or text and what they should do to remain operational in the interim.

Keep things flexible:
For many of your employees, working from home was not a choice. For those with kids or elderly parents to care for, assuming the role of teacher and primary caregiver, were also not coveted roles! Now, in addition to their own usual work-loa, which may have even increased under the current COVID crisis, they also must balance the myriad Zoom meetings and e-learning opportunities required for the various school-aged children that live in their house. As a result, employees are facing new demands on their time and attention, and perhaps even demands on their technology or bandwidth if they also have to share the only computer or phone line in the house.

  • Quick Fix: While you can and should still have high expectations for the work that your employees do, now is not the time to be rigid about the time and pace at which they accomplish their tasks. Instead of requiring employees to log in at 9 and log off at 5, ask that they instead work those equivalent number of hours, but give them the liberty to choose when they are online and off (within reason of course).

Treat them like they are in the office:
Working from home can be fun, but it can also be somewhat isolating and is very easy for folks to feel like they are no longer part of the gang. In particular, those who work remotely feel that they aren’t always given the same exposure to feedback – particularly praise – and that they may be being passed over for training and development opportunities or even some of the benefits and perks offered to their in-house peers.

  • Quick fix: This one is easy. Treat your remote staff like you would the ones that are crowding your cubicles! Don’t pull back on any benefits, instead, make sure that their current suite of benefits works for them. They may no longer need commuter costs taken out of their pay package and make sure they are given the same opportunities as your in-house staff. This may mean reformatting some of your performance review and training and development modules to work in an online format, but it is worth it for the continued growth of your staff and your company in the post-pandemic environment.

Keep the feedback coming:
Being a remote employee takes a little getting used to and it is only natural that there will be some stumbles both for you and your employees along the way. However, now is not the time to pull back from providing updates on the quality of work your employees are doing as they may be craving guidance now more than ever.

  • Quick fix: Sure, it may be overly formal to send an email congratulating an employee on a job well done, but when they don’t have the opportunity to receive a high five or a “job well done” in passing after a particularly tricky meeting, they can quickly feel that their contributions are being overlooked, so go ahead and send that email! In that same vein, if you are delivering some critical feedback, remember to check your tone. Words of criticism written in an email, even with the best of intentions, can be easily misconstrued and blow a small issue out of proportion. Instead, make plans for a quick catch up phone call so that you can employ some of those feedback strategies we talked about in our blog post earlier this week. Similarly, you should proactively seek out feedback from your workers on what YOU can be doing better to make this process easier for them

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