With the recent global COVID-19 outbreak, many companies have adopted a remote work policy to keep employees safe and prevent further spread of the virus. A recent Garner HR survey found that 88% of organisations have encouraged or required employees to work from home due to coronavirus. Some companies have asked their entire workforce not to come into the office, whilst others have split staff into teams who rotate working from home.
But even without this current threat, remote work is becoming the new normal for many companies: a 2019 Indeed survey found that over two-thirds (68%) of Australian employers allow their employees to work remotely.
The ability to work remotely has benefits beyond the comfort of working from home, or avoiding traffic and a long commute; 64% of businesses agree that remote work increases morale and productivity (68%). But with the upsides come some inherent challenges, such as workers feeling disconnected.
How can employers keep remote teammates just as involved as those who work on-site? From communication to recognition, we’ve gathered four tips for including remote employees.
1. Make time to get to know them
Without a physical presence in the office, remote teammates may get overlooked in daily team and project updates. What’s more, they miss out on casual hallway conversations, office amenities and company events. Despite an abundance of chat, email and videoconferencing technologies, communication and collaboration can still be a struggle for remote workers.
While they don’t have the swivel-your-chair benefit, there are other ways to make remote employees feel socially present, such as regular check-ins. Schedule video calls and weekly one-on-one meetings to get maximum face time with those who are off-site. Create time for informal conversation, as well, such as long-distance coffee dates.
2. Manage meetings accordingly
Although technology allows remote employees to attend meetings from any location, it can be challenging for them to follow along. Acoustics in meeting rooms can be weak or muffled, and even a slight delay can result in on- and off-site workers talking over one another. To avoid disengagement, make an agenda and share materials ahead of time.
Recording calls can help ensure remote teammates are still part of the discussion when technology is inconsistent or calls drop. And don’t forget to solicit feedback and participation from those who are remote, just as you do with those in the meeting room.
3. Involve them in projects and decisions
When deadlines are tight and changes happen quickly, remote employees can get left out of important decisions. Instead of apologising after the fact, commit to including them in projects and decisions from the start, so they stay up-to-date and engaged.
One good approach is to communicate all project changes and updates via a designated chat or messaging channel, used by both on-site and remote workers. A communication policy that ensures any decisions or updates must be documented in writing will force these channels to stay open and active for all teammates, regardless of location.
4. Find opportunities for recognition
Just like on-site employees, remote staff want appreciation and recognition for their work. Acknowledge the accomplishments of off-site teammates in front of their peers, whether it’s a shoutout in a team meeting or a formal email praising a project they completed. Whatever form of acknowledgment you choose, expressing your gratitude for their contributions lets remote employees know their work is meaningful.
Employees who work off-site are just as essential to the team as those who are on-site. With more people choosing to work remotely, it’s important for employers to adapt and adjust to the communication needs of these out-of-office workers. Making time for long-distance socialising, enforcing inclusive communication policies and actively recognising remote teammates for their accomplishments are important ways to keep those who are out of sight top of mind.