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The shift to remote work is well underway. According to a recent survey by McKinsey & Co., 58 percent of US workers say they now work from home at least one day a week. More than one-third have the option to work from home full-time. It is easy to identify the upsides of the shift. Spend just a few minutes reading about the topic, and you will hear about less stress for employees and less overhead for employers. The downsides, however, are less obvious. For example, remote work causes a slow and painful impact on work culture and a decrease in employee engagement.
If your own company culture is not struggling, then it is likely you have heard an executive peer talk about how he or she is floundering to maintain his/hers. In this new age where remote work is the new normal, work culture is falling behind. Historically, culture largely existed in the office. As employees spend less time in the office, they create their own cultures within the walls of their homes. The result is historically low levels of employee engagement.
Gallup Reporting of Employee Engagement
Gallup recently reported that US employee engagement took a downturn for the first time in a decade. Only 34 percent of employees reported engagement with their jobs. How does that level of disengagement affect a business? Gallup found that engaged workers are 13 percent more productive than those who are disengaged. This resulted in a 22 percent increase in profitability for companies. Those that cannot find a way to reverse the trend of disengaged and disconnected employees will find themselves suffering — rather than benefiting — from the shift to remote work.
Each business leader has a very specific challenge to address. How does he/she create a culture that can effectively make its way into the workdays of all employees, rather than just those who spend their days in the office. The end results are the freedom and flexibility of remote work without losing the engagement and connections that are critical for employee wellness, a healthy culture, and strong productivity.
To the business leader taking up this challenge, here are three steps you can take to increase the level of engagement with your remote workers.
Step One: Provide Recognition to Remote Employees
If employees believe that the work they do for their company is valuable and directly affects the business’s success, then engagement increases. One way to stoke that belief is by recognizing your employees’ accomplishments.
Some old familiar examples of employee recognition include handwritten thank-you notes, personalized gifts, or public recognition bestowed during group gatherings. These long-standing means of recognition and rewards are not necessarily bad. However, they often do not translate well to the world of remote work. If you have a traditional employee recognition strategy, transitioning each aspect to the digital realm will make it easier to boost engagement through recognition.
Keep in mind that meaningful appreciation does not need to be a big lift, especially with the digital tools that are available for connecting with remote workers. It also does not require a big investment in swag, gift cards, etc. The critical component is to do it with a purpose. Intentionally seek out the good things people are doing every day, and recognize them. A gratitude-centric culture improves connection amongst team members.
Step Two: Listen to What Remote Employees Are Saying
If you determined that your employees are among the 66 percent of disengaged employees, the next step is to determine why. What do they need to keep them connected, engaged, and productive? The best way to find out is to ask them.
Finding out what your employees want and need is, in some ways, easier in a remote work environment than with the traditional in-office model. Anonymous digital surveys will drive more participation, more insights, and more unfiltered feedback from your team. Instead of an additional internal campaign, just incorporate it with regular HR communications. Do not be afraid to offer a sweetener or rewards for the completion of surveys that can increase participation. You do not have to do that every time, but when you want to hear from your people, a small incentive can go a long way. However, adding that incentive to every survey or employee feedback form will dilute the meaning of the reward over time.
Once you get feedback, respond. The best thing you can do as a leader to encourage your employees is to act on the feedback you receive. Doing this creates a level of trust and confidence in an employer. Subsequently, this will have a positive impact on engagement. If for some reason you cannot provide the solution they asked for, tell them why. That transparency also builds trust.
Step Three: Equip Remote Employees for Engagement
Maybe too much of the responsibility for engagement is placed on the remote employees. The problem, in fact, may lie elsewhere. Employee engagement is tied to a number of factors, and there are absolutely some external items to consider.. Think about this: 70% of variance in employee engagement is attributed to managers. Saying that your employees are disengaged because they are not trying hard enough is a great way to miss the real problem and assign blame to what might not be the root cause of disengaged employees.
As you leverage digital tools to empower remote engagement, make sure that you stay focused on a “human-first” approach. You may need to take into account external factors like economic status, available resources, and digital literacy. However, most — if not all — of your team should have what they need to stay connected. If you find that employees are unable to participate, then find ways to equip them with the knowledge and resources they need to effectively navigate company tools. Never assume that a lack of engagement is the result of a lack of effort.
People are hard-wired to be social. Establishing and maintaining a healthy remote work culture begins with embracing that reality. When you provide remote work opportunities, pay special attention to how you will help with employee engagement and connection. Remote work is not inherently disengaging. It only becomes so when the right support is not in place.
The post How to Keep Your Remote Employees Connected and Engaged in a Digital Era appeared first on Home Business Magazine.