The general shift to remote work, which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, completely changed the workplace as we know it. With employees working from home instead of coming into a shared office space, it became incredibly challenging for companies and their managers to promote things like employee engagement, collaboration, productivity, and an overall sense of community. Implementing targeted strategies and initiatives, though, tried to focus on improving employee experience in a virtual environment. This was key for organizations in an attempt to support satisfaction, performance, and retention across a remote workforce.
The Importance of Fostering Connection Through Technology
While the spontaneous, in-person interactions by the coffee maker or quick office pop-ins are obviously limited in a remote setting, technology tools and platforms help to bridge the physical gap between employees working separately. Communication apps have facilitated seamless video calls, instant messaging, file sharing, and conferencing irrespective of geographic distance. So setting clear expectations insofar as online availability, responsiveness, and reply times are concerned, and based on role expectations and time zones, really help remote employees feel more digitally connected and actively engaged.
The Benefits of Flexibility and Autonomy
One big advantage of remote work is the increased flexibility and autonomy it gives to employees in terms of scheduling their time and workloads each day. While leadership should establish set core business hours or availability expectations based on business needs, offering added flexibility when and where possible shows trust in employees. Remote workers also have more freedom over their actual work environment as well as how they accomplish assigned tasks, which can really increase job satisfaction, innovation, and productivity for many.
Getting Creative About Fostering Culture in a Virtual Setting
Company culture can be difficult to maintain when the majority of employees are no longer connecting in person day-to-day. While it does require some creative thinking, organizations can still find ways to foster and strengthen culture remotely. Organizing regular video calls for non-work conversations, virtual lunch groups, and online social events allows for connections to form that go beyond project tasks and status updates. Sending branded care packages or swag, hosting remote movie nights or cook-alongs, and delivering food are out-of-the-box ways to boost morale.
Providing the Right Tools and Resources for Success
For remote employees to be empowered, productive, and engaged, it is essential that organizations provide proper tools, technologies, and resources. This includes company laptops, video conferencing equipment, VPN access, and any collaboration software or platforms mandated.
If outsourcing HR functions, the experts at VertiSource HR recommend choosing providers that specialize in and cater to virtual employee management. Proactively evaluating needs, addressing technology gaps, and providing access demonstrates a true investment in each employee’s growth and success.
Don’t Forget About Wellness and Work-Life Balance
Working remotely inherently blurs the lines between employees’ personal and professional lives. With the kitchen and couch just steps away, it can be challenging at times for employees to “switch off” at the end of the day. That is why it is incredibly important for managers to set clear expectations around responsiveness after official working hours and model healthy behaviors themselves. Leaders should encourage remote workers to take breaks throughout the day, use vacation and sick days freely, and log off outside of the established core hours. Promoting healthy habits and boundaries boosts sustainability and productivity long term across a remote workforce.
Adapting to the transition towards increased remote work is proving to be a learning curve for many companies and managers. But keeping distributed employees engaged, connected, and performing at a high level simply requires adapting proven strategies to the virtual environment. Focusing on flexibility, empowerment, collaboration, purpose, and wellness means organizations can build a truly engaged, productive remote workforce built to succeed.