More and more people are engaging in - and even seeking out - remote work. It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
But even though working from home has its advantages (for both employers and employees), it also comes with its own disadvantages. For example, if you do have one or more offices where a number of employees work, it can be easy for your remote employees to feel left out.
So how can you help your remote employees feel more included? (Remember, employee engagement boosts employee retention!) Here are a few tips:
1. Prioritize small talk - it matters!
Often, when we attend meetings, we try to be as efficient as possible. We get right to the topic(s) of conversation (or try to, at least) and leave briskly with our to-dos. And that’s fine since we can chit chat anytime.
But remember, your remote employees can’t necessarily do that. They aren’t going to run into each other in the hallway or cross paths in the kitchen. That said, when you’re meeting with one or more remote employees, whether in a group or one-on-one, designate some time for small talk. Ask them how their weekend was or if they have any fun plans this upcoming weekend. Ask about their children and/or pets. And follow up on the things they do share with you. (“How was that concert you went to?!”)
Doing this will build your relationship with the remote worker and help them feel like you value them just as much as other workers - which you do!
2. Schedule more virtual face-to-face meetings
Speaking of meetings, while it can be tempting to want to just schedule standard calls, when working with remote employees, try to schedule more virtual face-to-face meetings. (Yes, where you can actually see each other.)
There are a multitude of software options you can use to conduct these types of meetings (Zoom, GoToMeeting, Join.me, etc.), but the point is, it allows you to physically see the remote worker (and them, you), make eye contact, and most importantly, add clarity to your messages through non-verbal communication.
See, if you rely primarily on email, Slack, Google Hangouts, etc. to communicate with your remote workers, they might misinterpret some of your messages, which is very easy to do. For example, if one of your messages is particularly short, they might think you’re upset with them. By having more face-to-face conversations, it eliminates some of that uncertainty.
3. Create a virtual water cooler
The office water cooler (or more like office coffee machine) is where a majority of work relationships are made and strengthened. It’s where a lot of that small talk mentioned earlier happens. But again, your remote employees don’t really have access to those areas. So to help them feel engaged, take that water cooler and make it virtual.
Here’s what I mean: If you have a tool in place where you can create multiple channels (for example, Slack), be intentional and strategic about what channels exist. In addition to your work-related channels, add in a few “for fun” channels: a book club channel, a fantasy football (or just sports) channel, a travel channel, etc. This helps facilitate those more personal relationships - those that really matter at the end of the day and make your employees excited to come to work.
Ok, speaking of employee engagement, the best way to help them feel comfortable and involved - whether they’re in the office or not - is to spend some time effectively onboarding them. Does your association or chamber have an employee onboarding process in place? If not (or if it needs a little work), check out our free guide below - Best Practices for Onboarding New Staff!