Remote Employee Engagement
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
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What Is Remote Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement refers to the intensity of the emotional commitment between the employee and organization. It is often measured through productivity, creativity, longevity and tenure. Remote employee engagement is incredibly similar, referring to employee engagement in organizations with a virtual, remote work environment. Many HR professionals wonder how to engage employees in an environment with little interaction, barriers to communication and distance between people.
Why Is Remote Employee Engagement Important?
Employee engagement has an impact on multiple areas in an organization. In remote environments, employee engagement is especially important to monitor and improve as it impacts productivity, employee satisfaction, turnover, employee relationships, culture and company success. Measuring employee engagement in a remote environment can be incredibly challenging for employers. However, the importance of monitoring it cannot be overstated.
The Challenges of Remote Employee Engagement
There are many challenges for employers striving to keep remote employees engaged. Some of the most common challenges include measuring remote employee engagement, distractions and disruptions, ineffective tools and a lack of understanding.
Measuring Remote Employee Engagement
Engagement is a complex idea. Essentially it is a compilation of emotions toward the organization. This can be challenging to determine in the same way that it can be challenging to measure individuals’ emotions.
This is especially true in a remote environment. Distance and communication barriers stand in the way of understanding employee experiences and measuring their engagement. While it can be much easier to measure productivity, innovation and tenure, many employers struggle to quantify their remote employee engagement. There is no surefire scale for measuring employee engagement. Leaders must rely on communication with employees as well as the symptoms of engagement (productivity, innovation, tenure, etc.) to gather a broad view of the degree to which employees are engaged.
Distractions and Disruptions
Many employers worry that their employees will struggle with distractions and disruptions when they work remotely. This fear is not unwarranted. According to Statista, the leading distractions for remote employees include social media, smart phones, binge-watching, kids, gaming and news media. According to Clearword, the cost of a distraction is equal to the length of the distraction plus 23 minutes and 15 seconds. For example, if an employee is distracted for one minute, the actual cost of that distraction would be 24 minutes and 15 seconds. It is important to note that not all distractions are bad. Distractions can often be beneficial for an individual as they take time out of the day to handle issues that crop up. This in turn helps individuals stay more focused when their full attention is needed.
While most organizations strive to understand employee engagement, many fail to measure it properly because their measurement methods evaluate the wrong aspect or they have insufficient resources to properly understand engagement. For example, in a company where frontline employees are tasked with answering customer service calls remotely, supervisors may track the number of matters resolved or the length of calls for each employee as a measure of productivity and engagement. This is not a true measure of engagement however, as employees can game the system by skipping steps to increase their number of matters resolved or lengthen calls with customers to avoid doing their actual job. A stronger measure of engagement would come from asking employees how they feel about their job and combining this knowledge with the quantity and quality of their work.
Lack of Understanding Why
One of the greatest challenges of keeping remote employees engaged is discovering why employees become disengaged in the first place. Because employee engagement is centered on multiple emotions (satisfaction, loyalty, purposefulness, freedom to be oneself, etc.), it is incredibly challenging for employers to pinpoint exactly when disengagement begins.
Tips for Engaging Your Remote Employees:
Some remote employers struggle to find ways to further engage their workforce. Here are 5 tips for increasing engagement with your remote employees.
Tip 1: Connect
According to Slack, 85% of remote workers want to feel a stronger connection with their remote peers. Personal connections are critical to team and organizational success. Connection between employees increases employee satisfaction, productivity and engagement, as everyone needs to feel bonded and accepted by others. Leaders can connect with remote employees by scheduling time to get to know them through one-on-one meetings, playing games together, asking questions, having casual hang outs, or hosting team building activities.
Tip 2: Empathize
Many leaders are naturally problem-solvers. They jump straight to developing solutions when employees become disengaged at work. It is important to recognize and remember that employee engagement is centered on emotions. According to BusinessSolver, 92% of employees feel that empathy is undervalued in their organization. When leaders are able to empathize with employees, they can connect and discover better solutions to employee disengagement. In a remote environment, this may look like leaders asking employees individually how they feel at work or what fulfills them in their job and then finding ways to encourage that fulfillment.
Tip 3: Inform and Communicate
When employers fail to inform employees of organizational changes, engagement can suffer. According to Recruiter.com, poor communication is one of the leading factors impacting employee morale. In a remote environment, communication can be challenging but no less important.
There are many ways to communicate with employees, including video meetings, audio calls and chat platforms. Additionally, over 60% of communication is nonverbal and a virtual environment places barriers on nonverbal communication. For this reason, it is critical to pay attention to our virtual communication. Remote nonverbal communication may include eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions, hand gestures and posture.
No matter the communication method, leaders must recognize what they are conveying to their employees. Accidentally conveying disappointment, frustration, overenthusiasm, fear or negativity could unintentionally disengage remote employees.
Tip 4: Provide
Many remote employees become disengaged because they lack clear expectations and/or tools for success. When remote employers provide clear expectations for employees, they reduce unnecessary communication that could get lost in translation. Additionally, when employers provide remote employees with the proper tools to succeed, employee engagement increases. In many organizations, remote employees lose their drive because they feel that they cannot succeed with limited resources.
Another important tool for remote employers are resources to help employees remain personally engaged. While many employers focus on extrinsic motivation like bonuses, competitions and other rewards, it is important to recognize how employees are intrinsically motivated or internally engaged. Employers can teach employees how to stay engaged through mindfulness and distraction management. According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 40% of Americans struggle with mental health issues. When employers recognize what employees may be going through (and why they may not be as engaged as they could be), they can better adapt and provide tools for employees to succeed.
Tip 5: Recognize
Recognition is a powerful tool to empower and engage remote employees. According to O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report, “Integrated recognition increases the odds of a sense of community for hybrid and remote workers by 341% and 660% respectively.” According to the report, this increases engagement by 27% for hybrid workers and 32% for remote workers.
Additionally, celebrating employee “wins” can increase their engagement. When employees are celebrated for their successes, whether great or small, they are often more inclined to remain with the organization and work harder to earn those celebrations.
Remote Employee Engagement Ideas
Now that we understand the foundational principles, practices and mindsets critical to increase remote employee engagement, let’s dive into specific ideas. This section includes ideas for understanding why employees become disengaged, making work more engaging and increasing remote employees’ internal desire to remain engaged.
Understand Remote Employee Engagement
As previously mentioned, one of the greatest challenges to keeping remote employees engaged is discovering why employees become disengaged in the first place. This can be accomplished through a number of ways.
- One-on-ones. Conducting one-on-one communication with employees can help leaders understand what they are going through. This is one of the most effective ways of predicting employee disengagement before it occurs (if done properly). One-on-one conversations should be conducted regularly (preferably weekly), be focused on goals, avoid blaming and provide an opportunity for the participants to get to know each other on an individual level. In a remote environment, the most effective medium for this would likely be over a video call so both participants can see each other.
- Focus groups. This method has been proven to be incredibly effective for understanding employee engagement. Focus groups should be conducted in a manner where employees feel comfortable opening up, can avoid judgment and will have their input carefully considered. The most effective medium for focus groups to understand remote employee engagement is a video call so participants can actively engage and see one another.
- Engagement surveys. Employee opinion surveys can be incredibly insightful for employers to understand engagement. They also are often less time consuming than other methods. The downside to this method is that not every employee is likely to fill out surveys. Some organizations overcome this by tying survey completion and training to employee bonuses, but the results of this tactic are not yet proven, so consider with caution.
- Exit interviews. Lastly, exit interviews are a great way to understand why employees who leave became disengaged. This is effective because employees are more likely to be honest during an exit survey than they would while employed because they have less fear of the repercussions of sharing. Some organizations hold these interviews over a video or audio call, while others send out exit surveys.
Make the Work More Engaging
To increase remote employee engagement, employers can strive to make the work more engaging through a number of methods.
- Gamification and competitions. According to Kayla Farber, “Gamification is the act of applying game mechanics to non-game tasks or goals to improve attention, encourage engagement and make the overall experience more enjoyable.” 84% of employees felt that gamification helped them be more engaged at work. In a remote environment, leaders can create competitions or fun by adding points to employees’ tasks to increase their engagement. Some competition game ideas include virtual Bingo, Jeopardy, Kahoot, Quizbreaker and Skribbl.io. Team building games include Two Truths and a Lie, virtual scavenger hunts, Pictionary and GoGame.
- Being on camera. One way to increase remote employee engagement is the power of being on camera. When employees see their leaders and peers, they can develop further relationships with each other. On the other hand, when leaders see employees’ nonverbal communication over camera, they can better assess who is engaged and who is losing motivation.
- Motivational committees. Some organizations implement motivational committees to help improve remote employee engagement. These committees can create games, hold spirit weeks and provide insight as to why employees may become disengaged. This can be even more effective when employees volunteer to join the motivational committee and only hold the position temporarily to bring in new ideas and avoid burnout.
Increase Employees’ Internal Engagement
Increasing remote employees’ internal engagement is one of the hardest things to do in this regard. Here are a few ways to increase internal engagement.
- Discern employee values. When employers can discern what employees value in their job and tailor the work to those values, they build upon employees’ internal engagement. For example, if an employee is struggling to be engaged and a leader discerns the employee values personal connections, they can implement opportunities for the employee to bond with peers and gain more personal fulfillment in their job.
- Set realistic goals. When employees feel that the goals set for them are unattainable, they tend to shut down and become disengaged. Leaders can strive to ensure that goals are not only attainable, but also worthwhile to the employee.
- Celebrate little wins. Everyone likes to have a sense of purpose and growth in their life. Often, remote employees become disengaged because they feel their life or job has become stagnant. Leaders can create opportunities to celebrate little wins to help employees feel an internal sense of progress and purpose in their jobs.
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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Remote Employee Engagement
Rae has acquired HR experience in team leadership, research, training, recruiting, project management, and mentoring upcoming HR professionals. She is fascinated by workplace culture and the many implications it has on the world of business, especially HR. When possible, she seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge and give back to her community.