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How to Communicate & Engage with Remote Employees

In the past decade, remote employment has consistently been on the rise. Thanks to digital technologies, companies have been given the freedom of providing it as an option. Nearly half of American workers say they spend at least some time working remotely or from home. While there are many benefits of allowing your employees to work remotely, there has been some concern over how to communicate and engage with those employees. Here is your guide to making remote employment work for your company, starting with the reasons why you should consider it.

Benefits of Remote Work for Employers
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If you’re wondering why working remotely has become so popular, it’s not just because of the demands of snake people! There are actually a handful of financial benefits that make a business case for remote employees in almost any workplace. Here’s how having remote employees can actually make your organization stronger and more cohesive.

1.      Caters to different personality types

Businesses are comprised of lots of different kinds of folks with different strengths and preferences. Introverts tend to thrive in quiet environments, so they might not work as efficiently as extroverts do in “traditional” workplaces. The open office environment was created with extroverts in mind, but evidence shows that they’re not the key to collaboration they were promised to be. For those individuals who get their energy from being around other people, offices spur productivity and creativity. However, they are also home to background noise, social interactions, and other interruptions that take considerable energy away from introverts that could have been used towards accomplishing tasks.

2.      Decreases absences

Workers take fewer sick days when they don’t have to go into a physical office. They are able to continue working while recovering faster. Not to mention, when sick employees work from home, you don’t run the risk of the illness spreading around the office.

3.      Increases productivity

About 75% of employers say that more than two hours of each work day is spent being unproductive. Without typical office distractions and excessive commutes, workers have more autonomy over their time. They can adjust their schedule to their mental and physical well-being in a way that optimizes their productivity. Employees who believe they have a good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t.

4.      Saves money

Companies with remote workers have reported significant decreases in operating costs. At Aetna, 14,500 of their 35,000 employees do not have an “in-office” desk. Because of this, they shed 2.7 million square feet of office space and saved $78 million. Organizations have also reported lower employee turnover, which can be a costly expense.

5.      Allows you to hire the best talent

When you embrace a corporate culture with remote employees, you get more choices in hiring. One of the reasons is simply that you aren’t just limited to the options in your geographical area, which opens your hiring pool to a wider range of talent. A flexible working environment is considered highly desirable, so it can serve as an incentive to entice the best people to join your team.

Read next: Get Engaged: Practical Tips for Increasing Dashboard User Adoption

How to Communicate Effectively with Remote Employees
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If providing your employees with the opportunity to work remotely seems like a good fit for your organization, the first hurdle you will have to overcome is figuring out the right way to communicate with them. One of the biggest challenges these employees report is a lack of communication and feeling “out of the loop”.  Here are 5 steps to communicate efficiently and effectively with remote employees:

1.      Set expectations

The first thing you need to do is lay the groundwork and establish communication guidelines for your remote employees. Talk with them to determine a plan for what calls they need to be on, how quickly they should respond to your emails, etc. A structured approach can alleviate potential issues down the road.

2.      Make sure everyone is using the same technology

Having too many communication technology options can be overwhelming and confusing. The good news is that you should be able to find something that meets your exact needs. Make sure your in-office and remote employees are all using the same product suite and knows the designated purpose of each tool – especially when they are working on projects together.

3.      Avoid miscommunication

While it’s difficult to completely avoid miscommunication in business, many problems can be avoided if you’re aware of common mistakes. Pay extra attention to wording, phrasing, spelling, and tone. If you think something would be better said than written, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or schedule a quick video call.

4.      Allow access to data

Many companies have security features to prevent outside data breaches. However, you want to make sure that your IT department has set up the ability for workers to easily access data remotely, from whatever repositories you may be using. That way, you can have a single source of truth among all workers.

5.      Schedule 1-on-1 meetings

It is important to check-in with your remote employees to make sure everyone is on the same page. Whether it’s a weekly call or video conference, they will appreciate the chance to give and receive feedback on their work. Depending on how far away your remote employees live, you may want to consider setting up monthly or semi-annual in-person meetings as well.

Keeping Remote Employee Engaged
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Once you have figured out the best way to communicate with your employees, the next obstacle is employee engagement. Employee engagement is not something that just happens. It is the result of a strategic process. You need to get to know your employees for who they are to tap into their full potential. These suggestions can help get you started:

1.       Make time for personal connections

When you are working in the same office as your employees, it doesn’t take much planning and thought to make a personal connection. You can simply say good morning or even strike up a quick conversation in passing. Engaging with remote employees requires a little more initiative. Sending instant messages just to check-in, see how they’re doing, and hear about their life can go a long way towards making them feel like part of the team. Encourage your other employees to do the same by creating a virtual “water-cooler” where they can share personal, non-work-related information, just as they would in a traditional office space.

2.      Recognize accomplishments

People crave recognition for their achievements. Regular positive reinforcement leads to higher morale, better company culture, and increased motivation. Take advantage of digital tools and platforms, like video conferencing, social media, email, and instant messaging to publicly recognize and reward your remote employees in real-time. If you fail to recognize their effort, they may begin to feel isolated and unappreciated.

3.      Be transparent with your data

Remote employees need a chance to not only connect with their co-workers, but also with the company as a whole. The best way to do this is by giving all of your workers (remote and in-office) access to company KPIs. When team members all feel more informed and involved, studies suggest that they put more effort into their work and deliver better results. More importantly, data transparency creates a culture of openness and helps employees feel more invested in the company mission and goals. There’s nothing more motivating than seeing how your actions directly affect the bottom line.