By Alex Conroy
We are living in a time unlike any other. For the first time in history we are technologically advanced enough that people don’t need to be in an office five days a week. People are swapping their cubicles for cafe tables and daily commutes are a thing of the past. The ability to work from anywhere in the world gives people the freedom to live fulfilling personal and professional lives at the same time. Studies have shown that remote workers work harder than their office bound counterparts, take less breaks and work longer hours every month. So how can you make sure that your remote workforce stays motivated when you’re not physically there to give employees a pep talk when they need it?
Here are 6 tips to help keep your remote employees motivated.
Treat them the same as the rest of your workforce
This might seem a little obvious, but people are people whether they’re in the office or not. Remote employees have the exact same needs and frustrations as everybody else. The only real difference is that you’ll be communicating digitally rather than face to face. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways for you to keep in touch with people no matter where in the world they are. Applications like Slack, Google Hangouts and Fleep let you check in on people without the formality of an email. You should aim to give a remote employee the same amount of your time as everyone else, the only difference is that you’ll be substituting weekly meetings for Skype calls.
Make them feel like part of the team
It’s easy for a remote worker to feel a little bit like they’re on a desert island, disconnected from the mainland. In a traditional office setting it’s easy for people to feel like they’re part of a team. They see their coworkers every day, chat to them at lunch and generally understand how everyone’s contribution helps towards the success of the business. With staff that work from home, this sense of belonging is a little bit harder to cultivate.
There’s lots you can do to improve teamwork between people in the office and those working from home. Encourage video meetings as a way of getting your staff more familiar with each other. People might be in contact all the time via email or instant messaging but if they’re able to put a name to a face it’ll help to realise that there are real people behind the words in an email. A staff newsletter can also be a good way of keeping the remote workers included. You could use it to praise certain members of staff or even whole departments and even give people a roundup of what’s happened since the last issue. This could be just what a distance worker needs to reinforce the idea that they’re not alone.
Keep them in the loop
So we know that it’s easy for remote workers to feel a little alienated at times. With all of their tasks and goals being set via email or instant messaging, it can sometimes be a little hard to clarify exactly what’s expected. In an office environment it’s easy to just drop by someone’s desk and have a conversation clearing up any questions or issues they might have encountered. Your remote employees will still need that same level of attention and it won’t always be convenient to send messages back and forth trying to sort things out. Save yourself a lot of time and schedule a weekly one on one video chat where you can properly talk things over and let the conversation flow a little more smoothly. You’ll feel more confident that they can do the right job and they’ll have a clearer idea of what’s needed.
Send them a care package
Your remote employees cost less than your office workers; they’re not relying on the office stationery, electricity or even free snacks from the fridge so you can afford to send them a package every now and then. It doesn’t really matter what you put inside, it could be anything from gadgets to help productivity, nice notebooks or even some cool company merchandise. You can choose to spend as much or as little as you like, it’s more about letting people know that you haven’t forgotten about them. Everybody loves receiving gifts, especially unexpected ones, so all you have to do is make a small gesture like this once or twice a year and you’re sure to keep your remote workers happy and productive.
Get together every once in a while
Sometimes everybody needs to let their hair down a little bit. Make sure to put aside a couple of days every year for summer BBQs, Christmas parties and even team building events. This works on the same principle as holding video meetings but to a greater effect. Running company-wide activity days can break down barriers and get people working together side by side in ways that they don’t get to do on a day to day basis. You may find that you have team members who are in touch every day but never get the chance to talk about anything other than work. It’s important to give all of your employees the chance to meet up and get to know each other on a more personal level. By doing this, you’ll give your team the opportunity to establish personal connections and they’ll create loyalties to each other as well as to the company.
Offer them training
Continuous training is a vital part of keeping your employees on top of their game and remote workers aren’t any different. Ensuring that your staff are up to date on all the latest developments in your industry is not only good for your business, but for your people too. Providing your staff with regular training will make them feel more capable, they’ll find their jobs more satisfying and ultimately they’ll keep working for you for years to come.
Statistics show that 67% of remote workers want further training with 87% of the training they currently receive taking place online. It’s about making an investment in your workforce regardless of whether you see them every day or not. Working remotely can be a great thing. People feel like they have more control over their lifestyle, they don’t need to worry about long commutes and they can have a little more flexibility with their working hours.
From your perspective, the benefits of having remote staff outweigh any potential drawbacks. You’ll not only have happier, harder working employees but they’ll also cost you less and stay for longer. All it will take from you is the same amount of time that you give to your other employees with the only exception being that it’ll be time spent digitally rather than personally.
People who work from home aren’t fundamentally different from traditional office workers; they still need the same amount of guidance, management and investment as everybody else. The more you can do to make them feel like valuable members of your company, the more motivated they’ll be.
None of these tips are particularly impractical or difficult to implement, they’re mostly centered around improving communication and ways of building morale, but they’ll each going a long way towards keeping your remote staff productive and motivated for the foreseeable future.