Hiring remotely is not only exciting for employees, but can be a game-changer for your company too.
Seriously, many of the remote-first companies out there attract the best talent and have amazing businesses. Companies like Zapier, Basecamp, and GitLab.
But to remain a strong remote company requires having an engaged and connected team. This can be a challenge for managers or executive leaders who are new to this way of work.
If this is you or you just want a refresher, check out our essential tips below to keep remote workers happy and productive for the long haul.
The Challenges for Remote Teams
As you know from this website, I’m a big fan of remote work and flexible work arrangements. I’ve seen so many benefits to my personal life, career, and the impact on the companies I’ve worked at.
But this doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges to ensure that the work culture is still strong. Some downsides that creep up in remote work might include things like:
- It’s easy for employees to feel socially distant.
- Siloes can form, creating information gaps.
- Fewer opportunities to connect and engage with one another can create loneliness, unhappiness, lack of productivity, and disconnection from company goals.
These things can happen in the office too, but generally, it is more prevalent in remote work.
One stat from Zippia for example found that 19% of work-from-home employees stated “Isolation” as their #1 problem, and 70% felt left out of their workplace.
But this can be prevented or greatly reduced!
How to Keep Remote Workers Happy and Productive
Building a strong remote team foundation does take some effort, but it’s not as complicated as it may seem.
The challenge typically lies in that the approach is similar but different from being in the office. Meaning, if you try to manage exactly like you are in the office, you’ll find quickly it does not translate so well. So what can you do?
Here are some ways to drive employee engagement, increase happiness, and ensure strong productivity for your virtual staff.
It should be no surprise that communication is my first tip. Why? Because effective and frequent communication is ESSENTIAL for remote workers.
You aren’t seeing colleagues every day nor can you just pop by their office. So regular check-ins and updates from you can help remote workers feel included and valued.
Additionally, make good use of project management tools and video conferencing that can facilitate clear and efficient communication.
2. Trust and Autonomy
Trusting remote workers to manage their own time and workload can help them feel empowered and motivated. Too often managers want to micromanage remote employees or act like a babysitter.
If you can’t trust the people on your team, you either are hiring the wrong people or you need to let go of your trust issues.
When remote workers feel trusted and have the freedom to make decisions, they tend to be more productive and satisfied with their work.
3. Work-life Balance
Although working from home does generate a good work-life balance, often some remote workers aren’t great at setting boundaries for themselves. This can often lead to burnout and other frustrations.
Encouraging remote workers to maintain a healthy work-life balance is important for their overall well-being.
This can include setting showing them how to set work and personal time blocks, encouraging frequent breaks, and allowing flexibility with work schedules.
4. Professional Development
The reason many remote-first organizations have great cultures? They offer professional development for their remote workers. It’s how distributed employees can continue to learn and grow, plus feel more invested in their work and company.
What can you and your company offer? It can be simple training and development programs, providing access to online resources, allowing remote workers to attend conferences and events, and even learning budgets for them to use as they see fit.
Invest in the growth of your people and productivity and happiness will grow.
5. Virtual Team Building
Team building might seem cringy, but if done right it can be a powerful boost to morale. And in remote work settings, you need to prioritize this as a manager.
Building virtual social connections among remote workers can help foster a sense of community and remove the social isolation people feel at times.
This can include hosting virtual happy hours, virtual coffee breaks, team-building activities, and encouraging remote workers to interact with one another on a regular basis.
You might even explore a virtual coworking space, which can be a unique way for colleagues to work and connect.
6. Access to Proper Resources
Remote employees won’t feel productive if they have limited access to resources and information.
Ensure they know where employee handbooks are located, access to any remote work training materials, and essential technology and equipment to work from home.
A good thing to do is welcome feedback and check in with individual remote employees frequently to hear about their needs. You might be surprised at how something is not on their radar that you can quickly solve.
7. Recognition and Rewards
Although it is easy to get bogged down in your work, as a manager or leader you must focus on recognizing and rewarding employees.
This is important no matter what work model your company follows. But it can really boost the productivity and happiness of remote workers. Mostly because it’s not as easy to show appreciation or walk by their office to give kudos.
Communicate their achievements regularly and highlight them in public ways. Additionally, offer bonuses or other incentives, continue to provide career growth opportunities and advancements, etc.
8. Ensure Employees Feel Heard and Valued
Beyond recognition and rewards, remote employees should feel like their ideas or concerns are being heard and valued.
Meaning, as a manager, you welcome feedback and constructive criticism to better address their needs for successful virtual work.
Sometimes there can be misunderstandings or miscommunication between remote workers, so they should feel comfortable talking to you or asking questions to get things resolved. Be very clear to your team that you welcome these discussions and make time for employees.
9. Get to Know Your Team
Beyond being a great manager, you must get to really know them as a person.
Look, I’m not into the whole “you work here, we are family” mentality. But you can still be personable, ask them about their lives, things that interest them outside of work, etc. You genuinely should care about them as a person and their professional aspirations.
This also helps you understand each personality better, what sets them off, or how to best approach them in the remote workplace.
You don’t have access to them in person, where you catch moods and personalities more easily. So you’ll need to put in the effort to get to know them.
Keeping remote workers happy and productive from a high level requires a combination of effective communication, trust and autonomy, work-life balance, and genuine care and interest in them as people.
By implementing these various tactics above, you’ll ensure that your remote team feels supported, valued, and motivated – leading to increased productivity and satisfaction.
And if you need further help, you can read more about those remote-first companies that have been around for years. Many of them share their insights and views on growing a winning remote team.
You got this!