Research from Gartner suggests 48% of employees will work remotely at least some of the time in the post-pandemic world. How do you keep those remote employees from feeling like an afterthought? Encourage habits that lead to feelings of trust, connection, and a shared sense of purpose. No one wants to “miss out.”
If your company is transitioning back to the office, HR leaders need to plan their approach to engaging and motivating virtual employees who will continue to work from home. Here are a few ways to keep everyone connected and remind them they’re part of a team despite being miles away.
Schedule face-to-face check-ins
Research suggests that face-to-face interactions are the “richest” form of communication, as they allow us to make meaning through body language and voice. But for remote employees, that option isn’t available. So, what do you do?
Schedule a 1:1 face-to-face check-in. When working in isolation, a video chat is better than a phone call or email. A face-to-face video chat, while not as good as in-person communication, offers an opportunity for human connection, belonging, and inclusion.
Include remote employees in all meetings
Even quick, 15-minute check-ins are important for team members who work from home to attend. It may seem easier to leave out virtual employees when meetings are informal or times shift quickly, but be careful. Too many meetings where your remote team members aren’t invited and that sense of belonging you’re trying so hard to cultivate goes out the window.
Give team members a way to engage with each other
Team meetings are great, but a true sense of belonging doesn’t form this way. Offer remote employees another way to engage with each other during work with a platform like Slack or Zoom. Encourage people to hop into breakout rooms or start a private channel. This helps remote employees feel more included in the day-to-day lives of their coworkers, even when they’re miles away from the office.
Remember those check-in’s we talked about earlier? Add more of them to your calendar and resist the urge to cancel if there’s not much to go over with your remote employees. This could be one of the only opportunities they have to connect with someone from work that day. Use any extra time to praise their efforts or discuss how they’re doing personally. This facilitates trust and connection that extends beyond the office doors.
Surprise and delight
You know that feeling you get when you walk into work and someone laid out an entire breakfast spread? You don’t get that remotely. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to surprise and delight your remote workers that make them feel included and like they belong.
One idea for you to try? A personalized gift. Whether it’s to welcome a new member to the team, to celebrate a birthday, or to reward for a job well done, something customized to show your remote employees you care about them – personally and professionally – goes a long way.
Be available to connect
Just like you won’t experience going out for a morning coffee with coworkers as a virtual employee, it’s not as simple for team members working from home to stop by a manager’s office to air a grievance or work through a problem they may be having.
In fact, in a 2017 study, when remote members of a team encountered common workplace challenges, 84% said the concern dragged on for a few days or more, while 47% admitted to letting it drag on for weeks or more. These challenges can result in a loss of productivity, higher stress, missed deadlines, and low morale and retention.
It’s your job as a leader to be easy to connect with and readily available. This includes making it possible for virtual employees to get in touch with you on a wide variety of platforms – from Slack and Zoom to email and Skype.
Make expectations clear
When you’re using these various forms of communication technology available to remote teams across the world, it’s a must to explicitly communicate expectations. Information can get jumbled when you’re not sitting across from the person you’re communicating with. Be clear, concise, and explicit so remote workers feel involved and can play their part. Don’t leave anyone in the dark about project tasks, timelines, roles, and deadlines.
No one wants to feel left out, but remote employees aren’t often afforded the opportunity to connect. This fuels feelings of isolation and disconnection. Luckily, there are a plethora of creative ways for how to make your virtual employees feel included. These tips should give you a great place to start!