Tips for Connecting Remote Employees

The current climate of today's workforce is changing, seemingly by the day. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has brought about several challenges for employers and leaders, from mandatory shutdowns to the immediate transition to a fully remote workforce. It may leave many business owners and leadership teams wondering how to create a strong connection among their remote employees. This is a valid concern since engaged employees are one of the greatest assets to a company's bottom line. We'll cover some of the most important tips for connecting with remote teams, keeping your remote employees engaged, and improving overall communication and workplace connection!

Connected employees are more likely to be invested in not only their job responsibilities but the company's mission and culture as a whole. Therefore, one of your leaders' main responsibilities should be to deepen the connection and strengthen communication between leadership and employees. A Better Leader has decades of experience assisting business owners and Human Resources professionals with employee engagement, employee retention, conflict resolution, and more. We have seen a direct link between effective leadership training and employee engagement levels among companies who utilize our many training opportunities. Whether you are an HR leader looking for some quick tips to foster a connection with your remote employees or an employer who needs a solution to improve communication between leadership and employees and improve your bottom line, this information will be highly valuable!

Challenges of a Remote Workforce

Naturally, there are many challenges that may present themselves when working and engaging with remote team members. These can prove especially difficult for employers who found themselves suddenly thrown into managing a remote workplace with little to no time to prepare. There will be a lack of face-to-face communication, which may have been a regular and essential part of your day. A lack of face time also means the communication you've been accustomed to during the workweek is likely going to take a nosedive. 

Not only can your levels of communication and team connection face struggles in a remote workforce, but as a manager or supervisor, you now have to be able to rely on your employees to complete all of their daily tasks/assignments with no guidance or supervision. Of course, the hope is that your team members are self-driven and capable of completing what they need outside the office. However, your leadership team likely feels more confident in their in-person communication and supervision skills as opposed to utilizing social media tools like Zoom, Google meetings, or Slack to relay that same information.

 It's no secret that your organization will face obstacles as you navigate a newly remote workforce. The good news is that many employers are already accustomed to working this way, and there are also plenty of ways to overcome these challenges. Below, we'll share our best tips for connecting remote employees so that you don't have to see productivity, connection, or communication suffer.

Tips for Connecting Remote Employees

If you've found yourself suddenly thrown into a remote workforce and unsure how to navigate it, there's no need to stress. Technology and creativity can go a long way, and there are plenty of successful companies and employers who have employed remote workers for years. Here are some of our tips for connecting remote employees within your organization. 

  1. Stay connected! 

This one seems counterintuitive since you're already wondering what the best means are for connecting with remote teams. Work on improving your internal communication strategy and have a weekly plan. Utilize social media channels, host regular Zoom or Google Hangout conferences, have an ongoing email or text message thread. The more "face time" you can get with your employees and team members, the better, even if it is virtually. If your organization has some form of internal social media - ensure you are championing the use of this and staying in communication with leadership and team members often.

  1. Collaborate with your team often and request feedback.

Whenever possible, reach out to your remote employees with opportunities to collaborate on decisions that will affect the team or impact business decisions. Utilize tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets, where everyone can see real-time edits and comments and instantly collaborate on a project. The lengths to which you can ask for team collaboration and the tools used will vary widely depending on your team's size and any internal communications you have that can be utilized more effectively. Employees who feel included and heard are far more likely to be connected, engaged, and invested in their work than those team members who feel their voices and opinions do not make a difference. 

  1. When possible, schedule a coffee, lunch, or happy hour.

If it's possible for you to meet with your remote employees in person, this will significantly impact the connection and team bond that is formed. Of course, this doesn't apply to any employees in other states or who work long-distance remotely. However, it doesn't mean you can't schedule a once-monthly meet-up via Zoom. Host a happy hour, play some virtual team-building activities, and get to know your employees as the unique individuals they are - rather than just another person on the payroll.

  1. Remember to be a human.

It's likely to become even more clear that your employees are also human beings just like you and your leadership team. Professionalism certainly is important within the workplace, and there is a time and place for chatting about everyday life and your family. Consider creating a separate "fun" or "water cooler" type thread in your communication channels where people can chat separately about things that don't apply to the business. Start your weekly meeting off with something fun you did over the weekend or a funny story about your family. Allow everyone the opportunity to be included before officially starting your meeting and getting down to business.

  1. Keep your "virtual office door" open - and make sure employees know.

It may be even more difficult for an employee to "approach" you about a concern they're having or a struggle with an upcoming project since they don't know what your schedule looks like now that you're not all in the office together. They may feel like they're bothering you. Make sure all your team members know there is an open-door policy (including your working hours, so you can maintain healthy boundaries) and they can email or message you to talk when they have something that needs to be addressed.

Of course, this is not by any means an exhaustive list for engaging with remote employees. There are plenty of opportunities for virtual team-building activities. Still, some of the most important areas to consistently focus on are positive and open communication, supporting team members, and ensuring your leaders have developed the skills to motivate and connect with employees at all levels.

Staying Connected While Working From Home

Perhaps you're an employee that's looking for help with staying connected while working from home. Of course, many of the above tips for staying connected with your team(s) will still apply to you as well! In addition to the tips we've already mentioned, here are some helpful ways you can include yourself and feel like a part of the team even if you're fully remote and feeling isolated or disengaged.

  1. Set working hours alongside colleagues if you can. If possible, arrange a Zoom meet up where a group of employees works set hours together to accomplish tasks. As long as you can stay focused on your work and aren't easily distracted by conversation, this can be a fun way to stay connected, see colleagues' faces, and feel some sense of normalcy at work.
  2. Utilize social media channels, whether internal or external, to keep communication lines open with coworkers. You may not have the opportunity to have break room discussions or lunchtime chats, but you can stay connected with your fellow team members through other means.
  3. Schedule a virtual coffee or lunch hour whenever you can. You may or may not be able to get on and work alongside your coworkers, but a fun way of staying connected while working from home could be to hold some "face" time with a virtual happy hour or coffee time.

Working from home can be isolating, but it doesn't have to be! Take the initiative to connect with your coworkers, be available for group chats, and participate in any face-to-face activities that your company holds.

Moving Forward: Connecting and Engaging with Remote Employees

If you've found that a recent transition to a fully remote workforce has left you wondering how to best go about connecting with a remote team or engaging with remote employees, we're here to help. The first step to fixing a communication or connection gap is acknowledging that you and your leaders could use some assistance in the process. A Better Leader has been helping companies for decades developing the skills needed to connect leaders to their ideal team culture, solve engagement/retention issues, lower employee turnover rates, and more!

Our lesson titled "Connected Employees" will ensure your leadership team will come away with a stronger understanding of the importance of employee connection, along with the necessary expertise to retain team members and motivate remote team members. You can schedule a free demo or sign up for a 14-day trial to get started with your first training today. You simply can't afford to have a workforce that's lacking connection and communication.

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