How to Set Your Virtual Employees Up For Success
The work-at-home crowd is constantly growing, especially in recent times due to COVID-19. However, more and more companies even under normal circumstances are either offering their employees the chance to work remotely a few days a week or are hiring people across the globe who work remotely 100% of the time. Global Workplace Analytics notes the remote workforce of non-self-employed individuals has grown by 103 percent since 2005. Nearly 3 percent of the total workforce – or 3.7 million employees – now work from home at least half the time. The low facility costs, broad range of possible, higher qualified employees, and more productive business models have made working from home not just an option, but an opportunity for companies all over.
If your company is working remotely right now or has a work-from-home policy, you’ll have a stronger remote workforce if you help employees feel engaged in their new virtual reality. Here are just a few tips on how to boost employee engagement when your employees are outside of the office.
Virtual employees and teams often fail because of lack of engagement and miscommunication. However, team messaging applications and video conferencing platforms can be very easily implemented and can help in both of these areas.
Video conferencing helps bring virtual teams together and aids in making remote workers feel more emotionally connected to their colleagues. This can increase connection within the team, despite not being in the same place. Another easy but effective tip is to start conversations or meetings with something you know the person is interested in. If you know they love to garden, ask them about their flowers and plants, if you know they have creative passions, ask them what they've been crafting lately. People love to talk about their interests and the things they enjoy; this not only will make them feel good, but will help you feel engaged and connected to them.
In terms of miscommunication, a lack of in-person interaction limits social cues, which may lead to misunderstandings and conflict, since how we communicate is much more than what we say. As a way to mitigate this problem, be sure to turn on video so people can also see body language and facial expressions, especially during creative or brainstorming meetings.
Set aside time for one-on-one meetings or small team meetings with your remote workers on a daily or weekly basis. These meetings can be the ideal time to discuss successes, provide feedback (because that's important for remote workers, too!), specific project blockers, and general office happenings. According to Forbes, a healthy communication environment "involves setting up communication channels employees can use to collaborate, build community, recognize one another and provide candid feedback without fear of repercussion or exposure."
It can also help to understand each remote worker's communication preferences based on their personality. A few things to think about next time you communicate an important message to a remote employee are:
- Do they respond best to practical and tactical communications, or when you address the emotional side of issues too?
- Do they prefer you be candid with them, or take a more personal, sensitive approach?
- Do they want to know the details, or prefer you lead with the big picture?
- Do they like when you talk with them one-on-one or prefer to have group discussions?
Create a Company Culture in the Cloud
It’s easy for a remote employee to miss the fun workday banter that happens throughout the day in the office environment. It’s also easy to forget to loop them in on last-minute meetings, team outings, or even bigger announcements that pertain to the entire company. Company culture is one of the most vital elements of your organization, and it’s also one of the most important things virtual employees can miss. Since remote workers are off on their own, they typically miss out on the on-site company perks. Technology is beneficial for keeping remote workers connected, but sometimes it's great to have bonding sessions.
Consider some of the following ways to create a company culture outside of the four office walls:
- Virtual happy hours or remote coffee sessions: Schedule after-work happy hour hangouts or coffee gatherings in-person or online. This gives employees a chance to catch up outside of work and connect on a personal level.
- Birthday celebrations: Send remote employees a card, or even a cake, as you would for your on-site employees. Birthdays are an important day that is often forgotten, especially for remote workers.
- In-office parties: Conference in the remote employees so they can take part in the celebration for holidays, sports events, or even to celebrate a company success.
- Awards and recognition: Recognizing employee achievements for workers both in and outside of the office is a great way to boost morale and show appreciation during company-wide meetings.
- Virtual workshops: Unite virtual teams with a virtual team building workshop to increase motivation and results. Birkman's High-Performing Teams coaching program allows remote, in-tact teams to work together to create purpose, clarity, and psychological safety (often times, these can be complex for virtual teams).
These get-to-know-you activities and virtual team building sessions are crucial to employee engagement and your organization's culture. Whether your company’s remote employees are in the next state or even the next country, there’s no reason they can’t enjoy the same sense of importance and belonging as your on-site employees. That sense of belonging can come from regular communication, on-site visits, advanced technology, and being up close and personal with your company culture and perks. Keeping all of these aspects in tact with some effort and tools like Birkman can provide a productive and understanding work environment that is no different than between on-site employees.
Leverage Birkman to Strengthen Your Remote Workforce
Workshops and assessments like Birkman can help bridge this gap and contribute to building a more cohesive workforce. Birkman illuminates workers' needs, how employees typically behave, stressors, and interests in order to promote an environment where coworkers are aware of each others' tendencies and can act according to those needs to encourage a positive and understanding atmosphere, even virtually. If you are interested in finding out more information on how to make a virtual employee feel involved, or hosting a virtual team workshop, High-Performing Teams: Building the Foundation may be just for you. Let's connect.