In the wake of Covid-19, remote work is here to stay. In this article we look at some of the challenges involved and offer advice on how to connect and engage your remote team.
1. Even after the pandemic is over, analysts expect that remote working will continue for many organisations, with some firms going 100% remote.
2. Loneliness is a huge problem among remote workers, especially when they are not connected with one another, and this can lead to other problems including burnout, disconnect, and poor mental health.
3. Creating opportunities for employees to openly communicate with their colleagues and management is the best way to help them stay connected and engaged.
4. Don’t rely solely on emails and phone calls; There is a range of tools that you can implement within your organisation to make communication easier and more streamlined.
How to Engage Your Remote Team
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely redefined the way that teams communicate and work.
It is difficult to put an accurate figure on just how many companies have embraced remote working, but Gartner reckons that around 88% of organisations have encouraged or required employees to work from home regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms. The distributed workforce is now the norm.
While remote working was something once rarely offered to workers, typically only allowed where an employee required more flexibility due to circumstances beyond their control, it has now become the norm for most business out of necessity. In many cases, it is still not possible for employees to return to work safely.
Once the pandemic is over, however, remote working is set to continue. The truth is that COVID-19 has forced organisations and corporate decision-makers to realise that, in fact, remote working can deliver a huge number of benefits when it is done properly. But that is precisely the caveat: doing it properly or, rather, in a manner where your remote team remains connected to the business and engaged with their work and colleagues no matter where in the world they are working.
To read more about employee engagement generally (whether in-office or remote), check out What is Employee Engagement & Why it is the Key to Your Organization’s Success?
Why Remote Work is Staying
The pandemic has shown organisations that remote working is not something to be afraid of, and that it can deliver major benefits.
Businesses are primarily profit-making enterprises, and it is in a business’s best interests to maximise its margins. Operating workplaces has always been one of the biggest business expenses, but when employees work remotely then huge amounts of money can be saved on office space and all the operational costs that come with it, such as equipment and maintenance.
A recognition of this saving, and the additional costs that can apply to remote employees (e.g., equipment and utilities), some businesses consider offering a remote work allowance or stipend.
It is also much easier to recruit remote workers, and they can work from anywhere in the world; your access to talent isn’t constrained by international borders. And because ‘Generation Z’ and ‘Millennials’ want to work more flexibly, offering remote working will mean you are much more likely to attract the best talent.
Remote Working Challenges
Remote work isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. Humans are social beings; we thrive on connections with others, and our workplace connections with colleagues make up a huge part of our daily lives. When these are suddenly taken away for the most part, as they were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can lead to all sorts of problems.
Loneliness is the most cited problem and presents a huge challenge for remote workers. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work study, 19% of remote workers reported loneliness as their biggest work struggle. This is hardly surprising given that most workers will spend most of their working time in an office surrounded by other people.
Loneliness can also lead to other problems, including:
5 Tips for Staying Connected
As an employer, you should be doing everything you can to ensure that your employees stay connected, engaged and motivated to avoid a general feeling of loneliness among them and all the problems that it can bring.
Here are five tips for keeping your team connected and engaged while working remotely:
Helpful Tools to Better Engage Your Remote Team
A sure-fire way to make a success of remote working and encourage connections and engagement among your team is to use the right tools. These can make the difference between a productive workday and a frustrating, wasted one.
Since communication is by far the biggest challenge for remote teams—as we have discussed—many of these tools have been designed with it in mind. Here are a few that we recommend as remote working experts:
Keeping Your Team Connected is Important
When your employees are working remotely in different locations—especially if they are working internationally—they are missing out on connecting not only with each other but with the organisation overall.
According to the Harvard Business Review, remote employees are more likely to feel like their colleagues mistreat them and purposely leave them out. If your remote workers are experiencing feelings like these when it simply is not true, their productivity and overall wellbeing could slip and harm your company’s performance.
With analysts suggesting that the shift to remote work is likely to be a permanent measure for many organisations, now is the perfect time to prepare for the future of work by figuring out ways to keep your team connected and engaged.
If you would like support in enabling your international remote team, Horizons is here to help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Our five key tips are:
- Have open lines of communication
- Provide honest feedback
- Allow flexible working
- Hold weekly team meetings
- Encourage informal interactions.
In broadly the same way you would engage remote employees outside the pandemic (see above).
However, while Covid-19 remains an issue businesses should be aware of the extra toll this may place on the mental health or remote employees. Employers should also take into account that employees may have additional childcare responsibilities.