In recent years, the concept of working remotely has gained significant traction and popularity among professionals across various industries.
The traditional notion of commuting to a physical office is being challenged as more individuals and organisations recognise the benefits and attractiveness of remote work. Technology advancements, shifting work preferences, and the realisation that remote work offers a variety of benefits have all contributed to this paradigm shift.
In this article, we will explore the factors that make working remotely so appealing to individuals and six strategies managers can take into consideration to attract, engage, and retain remote teams.
- What makes working remotely so attractive
- Strategies to attract, engage, and retain remote teams
What makes working remotely so attractive
According to a study by Owl Labs1, 16% of businesses worldwide operate entirely remotely. In the same study, 59% of respondents stated they would be more likely to select employers who offer remote work.
A survey conducted by the University of Chicago's Becker Friedman Institute for Economics2 revealed that 10,000 workers strongly believed in the productivity of working from home. In fact, some workers even claimed that remote work was more productive than working in an office, as confirmed by Mercer3, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm.
Additionally, a study by Stanford4 found that allowing employees to work remotely resulted in a remarkable 22% boost in their performance.
Remote working provides several benefits for employees, such as saving commuting time, costs, and associated stress (of an average of 40 minutes daily), allowing employees to meet and discuss work online, scheduling work flexibly for those who have heavier personal commitments like having young kids and elders to take care of, etc5.
Furthermore, remote work enables organisations to expand their talent pool by recruiting individuals from various geographic locations. Gone are the days when employers were limited to hiring locally, as now they have the opportunity to access top-notch talent from all over the globe. This broader talent pool brings a wealth of diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences to the workforce.
Besides that, working remotely also offers employees a better work-life balance and greater physical and mental health benefits.
Strategies to attract, engage, and retain remote teams
Although working remotely allows employees to be flexible with their schedules, effective time management could be a challenge that would affect the employee's performance and may discourage remote employees, which would raise turnover rates.
Engagement between co-workers is also another challenging factor for remote workers. Since employers are not physically present in the office, they will not be able to take advantage of impromptu lunches or coffee dates with their coworkers or enjoy spontaneous conversations that would engage them.
Thus, it is hard for them to feel “a sense of belonging” to the company and the whole team, as well as to develop closer, more meaningful relationships with their coworkers.
In order to address the challenges of attracting, engaging, and retaining remote teams, managers and leaders should consider implementing these six strategies.
1. Improve internal communication and stay connected
Maintaining effective communication in a remote work setting can be even more challenging than in an office setting, as we are unable to physically see our colleagues. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to prioritise staying connected in order to engage their remote teams.
For instance, to ensure that everyone in the team is on the same page to prevent any misunderstanding and keep an effective workflow, a remote team can facilitate communication and project management by leveraging platforms such as Zoom, Asana, GoToMeeting, Slack, and Microsoft Office. It should be on the same platform for all team members.
Effective communication is not limited to interactions between team members; it is equally important for the company to communicate with its remote employees. Keeping remote workers informed about the team's progress, projects, goals, and corporate news is crucial to prevent them from feeling excluded and disengaged.
In a remote work setting, much information is often shared through informal conversations at desks and around the water cooler, which can make remote employees feel disconnected.
2. Create an effective meeting culture
Meetings are pivotal in remote work as they offer a valuable opportunity for direct communication with remote employees, keeping them informed about the latest company updates, progress, and relevant projects. Additionally, meetings serve as a crucial platform for remote team members to actively engage and interact with each other, fostering a sense of connection and collaboration.
However, meetings should be viewed as a valuable tool for optimization rather than a dreaded activity that everyone tries to avoid. Research conducted by Rogelberg in the MIT Sloan Management Review6 reveals that only 50% of meeting time is truly productive, interesting, and well-utilised.
Read more: How to Conduct an Online Job Interview
Therefore, it is essential to schedule and organise meetings with well-defined objectives and effective time management, allowing the meeting organisers to prepare adequately for the next steps and keep participants engaged.
- Presentations: It is more likely to be a presentation than a meeting. Only one person is speaking, mostly from slides, and participants try not to check their phones or turn on their videos during the session. Representatives can try sending out the slides ahead of time to keep everyone interested. An alternative is to record the presentation and post it on the channel so that your coworkers can watch it whenever it's convenient for them.
- Status updates: There's no need to force people to stop working on their projects because these meetings are typically quick and to the point. To save time, encourage your team to meet daily in the channel. Any more discussions can happen in a designated Slack channel, preventing everyone from having to join a discussion that only needs two people.
Besides that, there are a few other factors that should be examined to have an effective meeting:
- Avoid extending meetings to one hour, as attention spans are shorter. Shortening meeting durations to 15, 20, or 25 minutes can create positive pressure and improve focus and productivity.
- Structure the meeting agenda as a series of questions to determine who needs to be invited and easily evaluate the meeting's success.
- Turning on the camera during meetings improves accountability and focus and reduces distractions. Consider if you want staff members to use their cameras constantly or only when they have something to say.
3. Set up team-building activities
Since working remotely can occasionally be isolating and lonely, creating a sense of community can boost happiness and morale during difficult times. When workers truly understand each other's strengths, they can collaborate more successfully and achieve amazing results.
Team building plays a major role in creating a strong corporate culture. Developing a corporate culture is essential for building trust, fostering collaboration, and improving communication within your organisation.
For remote teams, team-building activities can be even more valuable as they provide more opportunities for employees to interact and bond with one another beyond work-related tasks. Virtual team-building exercises such as holiday parties, virtual gaming events, open mic nights, or book/movie clubs can help create a sense of camaraderie and foster relationships among team members.
By incorporating team-building initiatives and fostering a positive corporate culture, remote teams can overcome the challenges of distance and isolation. Engaging employees and creating a sense of community not only enhances their overall job satisfaction but also improves collaboration, productivity, and performance.
4. Give constructive feedback
One of the best ways to increase employee engagement is to ask your remote workers for their opinions or feedback. Thus, they would feel heard and appreciated when given this chance.
Just remember, employees should know that their opinions are valued and that you have heard them when you take action on their feedback—or why you will not be acting on it. They would be happier and more engaged at work when they felt appreciated. So, after obtaining the data, set goals to have a plan in place for reviewing survey results and making the required adjustments.
However, feedback can often lead to negative reactions and resistance, as people tend to associate it with criticism and flaws, making them reluctant to accept it. To foster a culture of continuous improvement and lifelong learning among remote team members, a more effective approach is to embrace a forward-thinking method of providing comments—feedforward.
At TRG International, we adopt a feedforward culture. In contrast to the feedback culture, which most people would interpret as a conversation limited to the past, the feedforward culture assists people by identifying solutions for comparable issues and how to address them going forward. As a result, the comments are frequently well-received, which is a tactic great leaders use to motivate their followers to perform better in similar circumstances.
With feedforward, people experience pleasure rather than pressure. Regardless of the motivation behind the feedback, negative comments are generally disliked. When using the feedforward approach, employees would discover what makes them better, which usually results in a positive experience.
5. Make sure employees are recognised and heard
According to Deloitte7, an employee recognition program can increase remote employee engagement, productivity, and performance by 14%. Everyone, including your remote employees, deserves appreciation for all kinds of their contributions, even from a distance.
For example, is it someone's birthday today? You can try sending a personalised virtual gift card. Or if a team goes above and beyond on their task and performance, create a recognition board to post or even schedule a team call to recognise their efforts and achievements. These actions can be very simple, but they are all about showing that you care for each other on your team.
Furthermore, make sure your virtual door is always open. The last thing you want is for your remote workers to feel as though they cannot communicate with you, ask questions, or voice concerns because miscommunications are a common occurrence amongst remote workers. When an employee confides in you, show that you are available for one-on-one meetings, listen intently, and act accordingly.
Besides that, there are other ways to show recognition and appreciation that your organisation can consider, such as:
- Send out a survey.
- Treat remote employees like VIPs in the office
- Tailor specific benefits to remote employees
6. Create opportunities for career growth
The fear of being unable to develop and grow in their career advancement path is one of the most important unmotivating factors for remote workers’ engagement and productivity. In fact, 74% of workers claim that they will not be able to achieve their full potential if the organisation does not provide enough opportunities for career development8.
Infographic: High potential vs. High performing employees
Workers who are motivated to grow professionally and learn new things are a great asset to the organisation, and thus employers who offer opportunities for career advancement tend to hire employees for longer periods of time with a lower turnover rate.
To assist in providing your staff with these opportunities, you can:
- Assist staff in making career maps so they can picture themselves working for your organisation in the future.
- Construct specialised professional development programs to encourage lifelong learning.
- Put in place a mentoring programme where senior staff members assist junior staff members professionally by working virtually with them.
- Conduct frequent reviews of staff members and ask them about their learning goals.
All in all, your greatest asset is an engaged workforce. A sense of connection and worth for remote workers encourages a sense of loyalty and belonging to the organisation, which lowers turnover rates that would create more work and costs for organisations and compel their profitability.
Despite their physical distance, motivated remote workers are more likely to collaborate well, offer creative ideas, and uphold a positive influence on the workplace culture. An engaging team would thus have a positive impact on the organisation's performance, profitability, and reputation.
Being a leader requires more than just emotional intelligence to engage, motivate, and inspire your team members. Without a deep understanding of their underlying behaviours, interests, and what motivates them, managing a remote team or even an in-person team can feel like navigating through murky waters on a heavily foggy day.
Discovering the hidden aspects of human behaviour and gaining insights into enhancing the growth of individuals and teams can be achieved through a valuable talent assessment based on psychometry. To explore talent management solutions for teams further, feel free to request a consultation from TRG Talent today!