Remote work started as a matter of necessity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However although the pandemic has since subsided, the demand for remote work is still strong as ever. Once regarded as a temporary solution, remote employment has emerged into the new normal.
According to a study conducted by a job site SCIKEY, 82% of employees prefer remote to on-site work. The study further revealed that 64% of employees revealed that they felt more productive and less stressed out when working from home.
The COVID-19 pandemic have transformed the traditional notions of productivity, accountability and the way we work. Despite reservations from some of the old-guards who are eager to return to the old and familiar brick and mortar office, remote work is here to stay and very well may be the future of employment.
WFH has many benefits. It provides more flexibility to employees. It also enables workers to be gainfully employed anytime, anywhere. On the employer’s side, remote work is great way to ensure that deadlines are met and projects are completed even if the staff cannot be present physically. However it is not its own set of challenges.
Less Employee Engagement
Employee engagement have emerged as one of the most serious issues in remote teams. According to a 2021 Forbes report, in absence of virtual employee engagement programs, remote employees do indeed feel less engaged.
Employees who worked remotely are likely to be 182% or nearly two times less engaged than workers who primarily worked on-site.
Feeling out of the Loop
Remote workers tend are isolated from the company’s central hub of activity. Being the lone wolf (work-wise) can be empowering and give a greater deal of autonomy to the employee. But working alone cut-off from co-workers and managers for an extended period of time can lead to a lack of clarity and context, especially if the company fails to provide virtual employee engagement programs. The employees will not receive the constant flow of feedback and support that was so readily available at the office. This can lead to disengagement.
Lack of Information
In a regular 9-5 schedule employees can count on managers and colleagues to keep them updated and share feedback instantly. However in remote settings such a support system is not available. This can hamper the productivity of remote team-members. Virtual employee engagement programs can be a great way to keep employees on their toes and aware of all the updates.
Remote workers do not have access to community activities like water-cooler chitchats, office outings, shared lunches etc. This can generate feelings of terrible loneliness in the long run, especially if virtual employee engagement programs are not available.
Lack of Alignment
Remote workers often struggle to see where they belong and how their efforts are impacting the organization.
Team leaders should consider introducing virtual employee engagement programs to help remote team members feel more involved in the day-to-day business activities.
Visible demonstrations of acknowledgement are easily available in the traditional office settings. An early Friday finish or treat to coffee can be enough to bring a smile for your in-house staff, but can leave remote team members feeling left out.
However you can make your remote IT or marketing team through virtual employee engagement programs like a congratulatory session through Zoom or Google Meet.
Low Engagement Rates Are Bad News Both For Employers & Employees
A 2022 report by Forbes revealed that remote employees who are less engaged , frequently mute themselves and don’t appear in front of the camera don’t last long at their organizations. The problems don’t end here.
- Low engagement generally indicate sub-par performance. Disengaged workers struggle in collaborative projects as they can’t coordinate with colleagues, miss deadlines more often and commit errors as they tend to be out of the loop so often.
- High disengagement rates also affects the employer-employee relationship. More than 43% of managers feel that disengaged employees waste time in unproductive activities like texting, chatting and web-browsing.
How To Make Remote Staff More Engaged?
Instead of Going 100% Remote, Opt For Hybrid Mode
Employers can schedule days where employees have to be present onsite, and days where they can operate from home. On days they are working from home, maintain steady flow of communication and feedback through virtual employee engagement programs.
Assess Your Staff
Not all employees will be fit for remote work. They may lack the necessary domain knowledge or technical agility/expertise to be productive in remote settings. A periodical skill assessment of your employees will make you aware about skill deficits and help you choose the right candidates for remote and on-site work.
Don’t assume your remote staff have understood what you intended to say. Remember they are at a huge disadvantage as they don’t have the support system of on-site peers. They can’t reach out to a co-worker or a manager to help them out. Invest in virtual employee engagement programs to keep them productive. Instruct them to message you on Whats App/Telegram if they have any queries. Schedule one-on-one virtual meetings to clear up doubt. At the end of each day instruct remote staff to share their work-updates in front of you and the team, during a Zoom call.
Remote Team are still Teams
- Remote employees may not have physical proximity to their on-site colleagues but they crave to belong all the same.
- Celebrate personal milestones like promotions, birthdays with a thoughtful note or signed card. A mini virtual meeting can be hold to hold a (digital) toast to the employee.
- Ensure that virtual meetings are inclusive and every team member can provide inputs. No one team member should speak over the other. Treat it like any other board meeting.
Provide Support for Mental Health
- Working on one’s own without any ready support system can be exhausting as well as lonely. Here’s how you can help out remote employees who show signs of burn-out:
- Schedule personal virtual meeting for employees who show fatigue or low productivity. Ask them if they are experiencing any issues. Let them know you are there to help them out.
- Arrange virtual mental well being and mindfulness workshops for remote staff.
Set Clear Expectations
- Employees are expected to be productive and meet weekly and monthly KPIs regardless of their work environment.
- Make employees show their work/progress during virtual meetings. The element of mandatory digital visibility will make them more accountable.
- Have team members show each other their progress during remote meetings.
- Schedule a weekly check-in call where each team member will share the current projects and status.