Many organisations have been working remotely since the start of the circuit breaker and starting to get into the rhythm of it. It seems to have been successful as many people are beginning to prefer working remotely as well. Nonetheless, remote working has an entirely different culture from working in an office. As a result, remote working comes with its own set of challenges. One of the challenges being the lack of employee engagement.
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.
Different from employee satisfaction, employee engagement refers to employees who are deeply committed to the organisation and want to see it succeed. An engaged employee is someone who is more likely to go the extra mile to reach organisational goals. This is why high employee engagement is directly related to high levels of organisational performance, better profit margins, increased customer loyalty and high retention rates.
Employee engagement is harder to maintain in a remote workforce because everyone is dispersed everywhere. In a recent Harvard Business Review study, remote employees reported a heightened sense of isolation and lack of communication from their organisation and colleagues. This will lead to employees being less engaged with their work because they do not have a sense of belonging in the organisation.
As such, we have come up with 5 practices that organisations should do to increase employee engagement in their remote workforce.
1. Clarify Expectations
It is very likely that organisational goals and expectations would have changed after transitioning to remote work. This is especially the case for companies who are have not offered remote work before this pandemic. Clear expectations and guidelines need to be set so that employees know what they need to do. Metrics and goals will also need to be set so that employees can measure their progress and also get a sense of achievement when they reach a goal.
2. Encourage Social Bonding
In a normal office setting, it is easy for colleagues to make small talk with each other or get together for after-work drinks. This builds camaraderie between colleagues and helps them maintain their work relationships. When employees have a sense of belonging in their organisation, they are seen to be more productive as well. Maintaining work relationships also creates better collaborative efforts and improves organisational performance. Organisations can replicate these physical settings in the digital space by setting up 'virtual water coolers' where colleagues can chat with each other about non-work related topics. Online meetings can be set up regularly as well so that colleagues can catch up with each other. This practice is often overlooked when organisations manage remote employees and it can come at the expense of employee relations.
3. Utilise Proper Digital Tools
Many organisations can work remotely thanks to digital technology. It stands to reason that remote working can also be successful if organisations know how to leverage on the right digital tools. This includes utilising organisation systems that centralise important work documents so that employees can find them quickly and project management software that enables effective online collaboration. Additionally, these tools should be mobile-enabled so that employees to access documents on the go. This creates a seamless digital experience for employees and they can maintain productivity levels at home because everything is quite literally at their fingertips.
4. Improved Communications Strategy
Most importantly, organisations should appropriate a variety of communication channels to promote clear communication amongst all levels in the organisation. In this aspect, organisations should come up with a clear communications strategy so that employees are always informed on company updates and social bonding can occur. There can be main channels for work updates and separate channels for non-work activities. The purpose of different communication tools should also be clarified. For example, emails are for important but not urgent matters, while a call is for urgent business and video chats can be for collaboration and checking in on one another. With a robust communications strategy, employees will always be in the loop and know who to approach, and how to do so, when they need help.
5. Empower Remote Employees
Organisations who empower employees by including them in the decision-making process and facilitating their career growth will see increases in employee engagement. This is because employees feel like they have a stake in the organisation and that they can create tangible contributions towards the organisation's success. Organisations can empower remote employees by being open to their feedback, allowing them to make their own decisions and giving them safe spaces to test out their new ideas. Additionally, providing employees with resources to grow their professional skills and ensuring that their needs are taken care of (e.g. having flexible work schedules) will help with retention rates.
People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people. That’s the new talent contract. - Pamela Stroko
If organisations want to survive past the COVID-19 crisis, they should be investing in their employees. When organisations take care of their people, their goals will be aligned with organisational goals. Employees will be more motivated to go above and beyond expectations. This creates a strong organisational culture, and organisations will continue to attract people who are highly engaged in their work. In essence, organisations who put the needs of their people first will reap amazing benefits.