4 Simple Tips on Keeping Your Remote Workers in the Loop

When you think of the team you lead, it’s easy to picture the faces of the people you interact with at the onsite office because you physically observe  their personalities, their quirks, their communication style, and numerous other aspects when you are in the same physical space. However, in today’s new world, employees are spread geographically across the country or perhaps globally, as a good majority of organizations have started to adopt both remote and hybrid workplace models.

Technology has connected the world in such a way that it has reduced the importance of geographic location considerably, and this trend will continue in years to come. Organizations save time and money by offering work from home, the neighborhood coffee shop or in satellite locations. Individuals who work remotely stay looped into their responsibilities and the flow of energy at the office thanks to video conferencing, email, texting, and comprehensive project-management applications like Slack and Asana. Unfortunately, these advances in technology cannot duplicate the experience of being physically present, which can sometimes lead to remote workers feeling invisible, disengaged and perhaps undervalued.

Every one of your employees needs to be kept abreast of the day-to-day business, performance, objectives, challenges, and ongoing workplace discussions, irrelevant of where people are located. I have often witnessed firsthand, remote workers being forgotten or kept out of the loop in meetings and various projects and initiatives because the out-of-site, out-of-mind mentality sets in. Often more so than not it isn’t intentional. It’s just easier to manage onsite staff members if you are present too, but the reality is that it is not a good thing for morale, employee engagement or your bottom-line results.

There are simple and practical steps you can take to ensure that your remote workers feel like they are part of the action.

Avoiding these tips and suggestions could diminish your leadership and lead to division amongst your workforce. Globally, 16% of companies are fully remote according to a survey by Owl labs, and here are a few other interesting statistics to note:

  • Remote employees save an average of 40 minutes daily from commuting.
  • Since 2020, people have been meeting by video calls 50% more since COVID-19.
  • During COVID-19 close to 70% of full-time workers are working from home.
  • After COVID-19, 92% of people surveyed expect to work from home at least 1 day per week and 80% expected to work at least 3 days from home per week.
  • 23% of those surveyed would take a 10% pay cut to work from home permanently.
  • People are saving on average close to 500 dollars per month being at home during COVID-19. Resulting in savings close to $6000 per year.
  • A mere 20-25% of companies are paying some of the cost for home office equipment and furnishings.
  • 81% of those surveyed believe their employer will continue to support remote work after COVID-19.
  • 59% of respondents said they would be more likely to choose an employer who offered remote work compared to those who didn’t.

The reality is the numbers aren’t going to decrease, which means the leaders who excel at integrating all of their employees regardless of location, will be the ones who experience the most success.

Here are four simple tips to ensure you make sure every member of your team—both in the office and elsewhere—feel like they are a valued part of the organization. It is important to note that none of these ideas are revolutionary and are merely common sense, yet why is it that a good majority of leaders within companies still struggle to get this right?

#1 - Recognize Effort

Let's look at this scenario: Tina in the office down the hall just secured a big account for your company. It’s easy to stroll down there to give her a high five and verbally acknowledge her for a job well done. But when Jill, who works from her home in the suburbs, does the same thing, she may have to settle for a congratulatory email at best. Guess which employee stays more engaged and productive?

It’s critical that you make every effort to recognize the contributions of your remote team members just like you do with your onsite employees. When employees do not feel adequately recognized for their efforts, they are twice as likely to consider quitting within the next 12 months. You can’t afford to let this happen in your organization, especially if you risk losing top talent.

To make up for the lack of physical proximity, consider ways in which you can ensure your remote employees get recognized for the great things they do in a more personalized manner. This means making other employees aware of the accomplishments, both in email and verbally in team meetings. As their leader, it’s up to you to ensure you are fair and consistent in the way you recognize all your people.

#2 — Include Everyone in All Meetings

I understand that sometimes you just want to get the gang together for a quick stand-up meeting or a brief huddle when you are in the office. And when you do this, it can seem like quite a hassle to take the steps necessary to include the workers who may be operating remotely. If you exclude your remote employees, what do you think the outcome might be? Resentment.  Disengagement? Lack of care or concern? Perhaps all. And that makes your job as their leader 10 times harder to re-engage them and get their commitment and buy-in.

Your remote workers should be present for all meetings just like your onsite workers. Taking the extra time to pull them into the group, whether it’s through a cloud-based technology like Teams, or by dialing them by conference/phone call, that little bit of effort will go a long way in keeping them engaged and feeling valued.  

Even the briefest discussions can produce the most amazing outcomes and results by ensuring everyone is onboard. Worst case scenario, if you cannot garner their direct participation, debrief with them afterwards and allow them the opportunity to voice their opinion and better understand what was discussed in the meeting.

#3 — Stop Worrying About When Work Gets Done

One of the most beneficial aspects of allowing work to happen remotely is that employees get to construct their workday and define how they manage their workload for the most part. Sadly, too, many managers obsess over their remote workers keeping odd hours and not staying integrated into the standard 9-to-5 workday.

Stop focusing on the “when” and worry about the “what” gets done, and frankly this holds true for employees working onsite as well. The days of punching a time clock are long gone, and it’s important to measure success and productivity based on what your employees accomplish and contribute to the organization. If those efforts happen outside the confines of the traditional work-day schedule, that’s fine if it aligns with the job requirements and both your expectations are being met. 

Get with the times and work together to come up with a plan that allows some flexibility to satisfy both parties' requirements. When you allow for this type of flexibility, you increase employee engagement and satisfaction at a much deeper level.

#4 — Check In on a Regular Basis

Don’t wait for your scheduled one-on-one sessions to check in with your people. Take every opportunity to do so informally on a regular basis to stay connected and show your team support. Checking in with your in-house employees is often an easy task but doing so with your remote workers requires some planning and scheduling. You should treat coaching, communication, and feedback as an ongoing dialogue, which means you cannot neglect your remote employees due to physical limitations.

I strongly suggest working with your remote employees to identify pre-determined times when they are available for regular check-ins. It could be early morning before their day kicks off or perhaps wrapping up at the end of the workday. Come up with a plan that works for you both but don’t forget to ask them how they are doing and if there is anything they need from you. 

Communication doesn't always have to be verbal, although we highly recommend that the personal touch of having a live conversation goes a long way in building trusting and meaningful relationships.

How Are You Handling Your Relationship with Your Remote Team Members?

Managing and leading a team that consists of both onsite and remote workers requires you to develop a modern mindset and skills to address the diverse needs of your people. The future of work is here to stay, which means you must embrace the idea that your team may never be fully co-located in the same place. What’s most important is how you show up and engage as their leader. It can make a world of difference in the overall results and performance of your team.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in leading remote workers? How have you handled communication with those who rarely make appearances in the office? Have you noticed any changes in engagement with your remote team members vs your on-site employees?

I am eager to learn and hear more from you about this topic, so please reach out by emailing me at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or calling me at 1.855.871.3374. I look forward to hearing from you!

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