While 83% of employees believe they don’t need to go to the office to be productive, working from home day-in, day-out during the era of lockdown and social distancing can take an emotional and mental toll on everyone.
But companies face a more significant challenge: to make remote work productive and to engage employees, not for practicality but empathetic reasons. Burnout, creativity blocks and frustration are real problems for today’s employees.
If you’re dealing with a similar bunch, this article will help you alleviate this problem. Let’s explore seven things that remote employees care about and expect from you:
1. A smooth and efficient onboarding process
If you’re hiring right now, that means your new employees won’t get to meet their team until offices open doors again physically. Of course, this can be avoided if you all live in the same city and meet up for an orientation brunch for a couple of hours.
Your remote employees want an onboarding process that’s quick, short, but effective and helps them hit the ground running. Therefore, digitize the activity using tools such as Namely and WorkBright. Set aside specific days for them to have video conferences with their colleagues.
Ensure the new hires are clear about their goals, expectations and duties. Create a knowledge base or an internal training site where all remote employees — including those who are differently-abled — can find necessary documents or resources to study post-onboarding. Think and plan — ease their first-day anxieties.
2. A transparent but flexible remote work policy
Remote working isn’t everyone's cup of tea. It can be distracting, physically and emotionally exhausting and unproductive, especially for those responsible for elderly support and childcare. If you want your remote employees to be happy, you have to lay down some ground rules.
Implement a formal WFH policy that covers a plethora of topics such as working timings, communication with stakeholders, holiday calendar and so on. It should also outline what’s expected from them, how their output will be measured, and what’s available to them.
Take care of each detail and keep discussing the policy with them to get embedded in their minds. Having a flexible-remote work policy alleviates tension and doubt amongst remote employees. They’ll be more relaxed and hence happier at work.
3. A nicer, kinder and more social work environment
A recent study shone a light on how people experiencing social isolation also dealt with an increase in anxiety. It also showed that asking lonely people to be kind to others significantly decreased their feelings of loneliness and improved mental well-being.
Your remote workers want you to treat them nicely. They’re human beings, and each of them has a different threshold for loneliness and pain. Ensure you speak to them outside of the work realm and mold your team into a thriving community online.
For starters, get your team involved in a virtual charity event. You could partner up with a local museum and take up the task of transcribing historical documents. Similarly, you can start a gratitude activity, inviting all your remote employees to send appreciation e-cards to each other.
Moreover, create an environment where every employee, including differently-abled people, can contribute their best. Consider starting training programs where everyone can empathize with the challenges their colleagues may face and learn and deploy ADA compliance solutions like accessiBe.
The bottom line is that you have to think beyond deadlines, submissions, planning and so on. Cultivate a work culture of pausing and taking a breath once in a while.
4. A workplace that appreciates and recognizes hard work
Suppose you want to keep your remote employee motivated, celebrating accomplishments. In these times, it’s become more critical than ever. While some businesses have full-fledged and sophisticated recognition programs, you can kick start something similar on your own:
- Treat an employee to take out from their favorite restaurant to show your appreciation for their hard work.
- Invite a senior leader to your team video call to praise select employees.
- Ship snack boxes, DIY cocktail kits and party hats for a team meeting toast. Have an employee who loves London? Make an Earl Grey Tea day! The more personalized, the better!
- Mail hand-written notes to the employees' families telling them about the remarkable work their child/sibling/spouse has done for the company.
Make an effort and you’ll soon realize how important these little things are to keep your remote working employees focused, productive, and result-driven.
5. A practical and visual communication mode
In a remote work environment, team meetings become an essential part of day-to-day work. They allow everyone on the team to stay visible and connected. If you aren’t having at least one video conference a week with your team, that needs to be rectified.
You have to bring everyone on the same platform (and page) to check up on the progress being made at work, address grievances (both personal and professional), see your team, smile at them and be there for them.
In these uncertain times, giving assurance to your remote working employees can make all the difference. Use tools such as GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom to hop on a call with your team.
While deciding the meetings' frequency, stick to something that works for everyone, including those in different timezones. Also, create an agenda (or a to-do list) for every meeting so that you can engage your employees better and not bore them.
They’ll also appreciate it if you share the agenda beforehand, possibly with the email calendar invite. If they need to prepare for the meeting, let them know. You can even take an employee's help to prepare a slide deck comprising discussion points.
6. A forum for employee feedback
Here’s the thing: every company can use some feedback, but that won’t happen if they don’t give their employees a platform to express their concerns. Therefore, make sure your remote working employees are well aware of the process to communicate critical changes that they wish to see in your managerial style, work policy and the company in general.
The lack of a forum or platform for sharing employee feedback is common amongst remote teams as they feel their opinions don’t matter. That increases the attrition rate and creates a feeling of dissatisfaction and disdain amongst the employees.
Since you certainly don’t want that, you should empower them to streamline the process, conduct regular surveys and questionnaires and even have one-to-one sessions periodically. This will help you get a pulse of the employee morale, spot issues, and fix them promptly.
7. A platform for skill development and training
Remote employees, like most other onsite workers, want to keep upskilling themselves continuously. Earning certifications and doing vocational courses has become a norm in this day and age for everyone.
However, it’s challenging for a company to organize training sessions for everyone unless they plan it through and partner up with a third-party agency. Otherwise, the onus of improving skills falls entirely on the employees themselves.
Therefore, to make this a more straightforward process for them, join hands with Coursera, Udemy, and Udacity to give them a plethora of online workshops, certified courses and training programs to choose from.
You can form an agreement with these sites and buy the courses at a discount to allow your employees to access them for free. Investing in your remote working employees will help them perform their functions better while also forging a strong bond.
Times are tough, and companies need to pull up their socks and take appropriate measures to ensure their remote working employees are happy, motivated and productive at work. Even though multiple vaccination drives have started worldwide, companies will still take time to go entirely onsite again — if at all! Until then, strive to help your employees build strong social ties, stave off loneliness and experience connection by following the above-mentioned tips.