Looking for creative ways to engage remote workers at your organization? This blog covers four engaging internal communications ideas designed to help you engage remote workers and boost employee engagement.
As minutes pass and turn into hours, there are no signs of applause or even a murmur of appreciation for your internal email. You risk a tentative peek from your cubicle…and there is no one there.
You start to wonder if your employee engagement strategy is even working.
Are employees listening to your messages? And what about your company’s remote workers?
How do you know if you’re actually engaging them at all? Is there absolutely no way to track how remote workers feel working within your company?
Well, we’re here to tell you to lighten up. It’s not all gloomy out there. There are, in fact, some great ways to engage your current employees as well as your remote workers.
The moment has come…you’ve just created a masterpiece. Your internal newsletter is ready to venture into the email inboxes of your remote workers.
As you hover your cursor over the “send” button, you give yourself a moment to run through your newsletter checklist one last time.
And then you press SEND! It’s on its way for the world to see. You can now sit back and bask in your internal communicator glory.
And we’ll get to that in a bit. But first, let’s go over the recent rise in telecommuting and try to understand what that means for your role as internal communicator ?
What is Remote Work?
According to Remote Year, remote work is a style of working that allows professionals to perform their job duties without the constraints of a traditional office environment, since that has no bearing on the success of the work itself.
Remote workers execute their work projects and goals from home, or wherever they wish. They design their days to accommodate both their personal and professional lives in the best way possible.
How do remote workers approach remote work?
The freedom and flexibility that remote workers have is what makes working outside of an office so appealing. Some people may be fully remote, or work from the office one or two days a week.
Coworking spaces are also becoming increasingly popular. Especially for remote workers that have no other colleagues, they provide an excellent opportunity to build a network or find a community.
For those working out of a home office, one of the best parts is having complete control over the state of your workspace. There are no external factors or distractions that inhibit the way you work, and remote workers can optimize their work environment in a way that suits them.
How is Remote Work Changing the Workforce?
A study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found 74% of employers now offer the option to telecommute.
According to an article on teleworkers by the New York Times, Gallup surveys indicate that employees feel most engaged at work when off-site three or four days a week.
And this telecommuting trend shows no signs of stopping (which is definitely good news for all remote workers out there).
A different study by Buffer targeted 1,900 telecommuters pursuing remote work and found that 90% of the remote workers surveyed preferred to continue telecommuting.
It seems that birthday cakes and free coffee at the kitchen won’t cut it when your employees can choose to work in their pajamas all day instead.
Aside from the fact that remote workers get to enjoy pajama parties everyday, people continue to prefer telecommuting for a variety of reasons.
For starters, telecommuting gets rid of the hassle of real commuting. Long hours spent in public transport or raging behind the wheel are not necessarily making us happy.
And sometimes we just don’t feel like meeting other people, at all.
At this point, more questions may be popping into your head:
“How is remote work changing the workforce?”
“What are the best careers for being remote?”
“Any advice for working remotely?”
The good news is that this may be easier than ever before.
The lonely nature of remote work is bound to induce a feeling of isolation among the folks at your organisation, and since we are all social animals, they will eventually crave social interaction.
This is where, you, as the internal communicator can truly meet the needs of your remote workforce.
Occasional water cooler discussions and desk-to-desk strolls address those needs, but when we take even those opportunities out of the equation, there’s going to be a social gap that your employee communications can fill.
If this trend of telecommuting or the rise of remote workers continues, it means you need to have a serious look at your employee engagement strategy to ensure that their needs are met, and that your policies are clear.
Benefits of hiring remote workers
Studies are finding that remote work is one of the most vital benefits that an employee can offer to current and prospective employees in 2020. Remote workers love being free to work anywhere, especially as responsibilities in life change.
This sort of flexibility should be made widely available, especially for women in the workplace. Globally, around 606 million women are taking on unpaid caregiving responsibilities, compared to about 41 million men.
Employers should view this knowledge as an opportunity to create policies for their remote workers, and promote better work-life balance for employees.
Here are six surprising statistics about remote work and remote workers:
- 40% of remote workers view schedule flexibility as the greatest benefit
- 6% of companies are only made up of remote workers
- Companies with remote work opportunities have a 25% lower employee turnover rate
- Employees are 76% more likely to stay with their employer when they have flexible hours
- Working remotely at least once a month results in employees being 24% more happy and productive
- The number of remote workers has increased by 140% since 2005
There are a ton of other factors to consider. For instance, 75% of remote workers are less distracted at home, and therefore more productive. When it comes to mental health, about 86% of people that are remote workers believe that remote work reduces stress levels.
Remote workers also love being able to spend quality time with their families (14%), and work from the comfort of their homes (13%). This goes to show that remote workers have a better work-life balance overall, and are more satisfied as employees.
Drawbacks of hiring remote workers
Although there are positive statistics around remote workers being more happy and productive, there are issues that arise, especially for those who constantly do work at home.
In fact, for about 22% of remote workers, they have a hard time closing themselves off from work and making use of free time. For 19% of remote workers, loneliness is a factor, which directly impacts mental health and output.
In an office space, collaboration is more inherent. However, 61% of remote workers are happy to be at home alone with loud colleagues, and 40% are thrilled to be able to plan around meetings. If constant collaboration or brainstorming is a substantial part of your company culture, this could have a negative impact.
To stay competitive as an employer, you need to be prepared to provide your employees with the technology they need, as 85% of today’s remote workers wish to have this.
Staggeringly, 74% of remote workers would gladly quit their jobs if another company has better options for flexibility. Depending on the size and calibre of your organization, numbers like these could be devastating.
One silver lining in all of this is that fully remote workers are only about 30% engaged in the work they’re doing, which is the same percentage for employees that have never had the opportunity to work from home.
Of course, we’d love to learn that people are more engaged than this, but that’s just not the case. The most engaged employees across the board are those that work remotely 60-80% of the time; pegged at 41% engagement.
To mitigate this, there needs to be clear expectations set for remote workers around what the core business hours are, and how they should anticipate being managed from afar.
How to Manage a Remote Workforce
As a leader of a remote workforce, be mindful and empathetic in your leadership approach. Even if they don’t ask for it, your remote workers will require more attention in order to feel immersed in the team.
Remote workers are known to be more productive when they work for an understanding and compassionate leader. It doesn’t take much; presence, integrity, and honour.
Don’t be afraid to hold remote workers accountable. Having standards around performance will only make them feel more included. Make sure that the feedback is flowing because whether remote or not, employees that receive little or no feedback end up being highly disengaged.
If they already don’t have to be at an office between certain hours to accommodate for life’s happenings, there’s no reason that the hours they do work should be fixed. However, as we said earlier, setting busy hours may be ideal.
As long as expectations are set and they’re delivering the outcomes you’re hoping for, you can continue to trust them. If not, then you may have to set some more rigid boundaries.
One of our customers, Exemplis, has an entirely remote sales team. Their internal communications team uses ContactMonkey to send out meaningful content and evaluate employee engagement with their communications.
They’re seeing an average open rate of 70% on weekly communications, and their remote team members feel more involved in the organization.
To ease into remote there are three things you can do to manage remote workers:
Be clear about your expectations as a manager.
Although flexibility is one of the biggest factors that makes remote work appealing, setting busy hours can be worthwhile. Essentially, this is time that you can expect a prompt response time or heavy collaboration with your team.
Emphasize meeting presence.
If team members in the brick and mortar office are having a meeting, there is no reason to exclude remote workers. There is a ton of tech available, like Zoom, that makes it easy for telecommuters to be in the room when issues and ideas are being discussed. Even taking the first few minutes to acquaint everyone with each other via an icebreaker can help to keep everyone connected.
This alleviates feelings of isolation and exclusion for remote workers. It enforces connection with teammates, and also allows remote workers to participate in real-time, rather than getting information retroactively.
Reward your remote workforce.
There may be the misconception that because they don’t have to commute, and don’t even have to get dressed and make themselves presentable for the office, that remote workers aren’t working nearly as hard. However, they’re usually working more hours than their brick and mortar employees in lieu of not having to leave the house.
With this in mind, it’s important to reward your employees and their hard work. If they’re hitting their goals, acknowledging this is a great way to let them know that you’re just as mindful of their work as those who you see in person every day.
How to Manage a Remote Workforce During a Crisis
At present, strong crisis communications are more important than ever. Many organizations with little to no remote workers have suddenly made a shift towards remote-first work in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Although remote work is one of the biggest employee engagement trends in 2020, a lot of companies are only in the beginning stages of being ready to adopt this method of working.
However, with the heightened risk of illness that the coronavirus presents, organizations have to be prepared to adopt sooner and make the move to remote work proactively.
Four effective strategies for remote work during the coronavirus include:
- Providing secure access to IT resources and the Internet itself.
- Giving employees access to tools for productivity and collaboration.
- Using this public health crisis as an opportunity to develop skills around remote work.
- Embracing and fostering a company culture around remote work.
As an employer, bear in mind that even if you adopt a remote work policy, it is part of a larger preventative measure.
If it’s not really something you believe in, nor is it feasible in your line of work (e.g. if you work in retail), make it clear to employees that this is a temporary solution in a time of public health concern and crisis.
How to Engage Your Remote Workers
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a CEO or a member of the internal communications team in your organization – employees are dropping off the office radar, and you should be doing whatever it takes to ensure you’re truly connecting with your remote workers.
Whether you’re just sending out internal emails, or if you have a scheduled internal newsletter, you’ll want to get creative. Just because it’s business communications doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. In fact, the more fun it is to read, the higher the engagement rate will likely be.
When it comes to your internal communications, make sure that you:
- Provide value to your employees
- Emphasize key ideas
- Keep it brief when you can
- Outline the key takeaways for each section
- Make the content relatable
- Encourage and gather feedback
All of these are important for employee communications, but when it comes to remote workers, put extra effort into encouraging them to provide feedback. Most of the changes that you implement will be noticeable in the physical office space, but the remote worker experience is also important.
As an employer, allow yourself the opportunity to make changes that are felt by remote workers. Whether it be more virtual meet-ups or implementing helpful tools, going the extra mile to include them will be reciprocated with higher productivity and satisfaction levels.
4 Ideas to Create Engaging Internal Communications for Remote Workers
1. Feature remote workers in your employee communications.
Think about it. We all love being the stars of our own show, don’t we? It’s the same with all your employees, whether they’re in-office workers or remote workers.
You need to make employees feel like they’re an integral part of your company and convince them the work they do matters.
Here are some other ideas for helping remote workers feel included:
- Highlight one of your remote workers in your employee newsletter
- Feature a Q&A section in an employee spotlight area
- Personalize the subject line and body of your email with the name of each individual employee using awesome internal email tools, such as ContactMonkey
- Start an internal communications podcast so remote workers can listen from wherever they’re working
- Ensure your internal newsletter is responsive for the end user
If you decide to start an internal podcast or even a video series, you could start out by featuring different teams within the organization and have them talk about projects that they’re working on, or what their day typically looks like.
2. Introduce team collaboration tools for effective communication.
Who couldn’t use an occasional stroll to a colleague’s desk to creative brainstorm ideas or chit-chat about their weekend?
Remote workers, however, have limited opportunities for meeting face-to-face with their colleagues (if any).
Luckily, there are a variety of online collaboration tools that help bridge the gap. Platforms such as Yammer and Slack are a nice alternative to regular emails, and they make the work much more manageable.
Encouraging teams to participate in video calls will make internal communication feel more immediate and natural. There are dozens of video conferencing tools on the market, making virtual team huddles easier than ever.
Our advice when it comes to implementing team collaboration tools:
- Try experimenting with a bunch of different project management tools for remote workers and seeing which one works best for your employees and organization.
- Trial different platforms and run a survey asking your remote workers which platforms they prefer and why.
- Implement the preferred platforms to ensure your remote workers have go-to internal communications channels for exchanging instant messages with colleagues, starting video calls, and exchanging ideas.
We’re fortunate to live in a world that presents an arsenal of tools for us to utilize. However, we must be mindful that we don’t subject employees to an overload of technology. If they have too many tools that they have to use simultaneously, this will affect company productivity.
3. Use gamification tactics to keep remote workers motivated.
Gamification is an increasingly hot topic in the business world. Not only is it successful as a marketing strategy, but it also works well within internal communications.
According to this article on gamification within internal communications, this process can be described as, “the use of game design elements, such as scoring, rewards or competition with others, in non-game contexts.”
For business, gamification focuses on engaging people and creating behavioral change.
Some fun gamification ideas for remote workers could involve:
- Starting Trivia Tuesdays for an hour every week via a group Skype conference call
- Announcing a photo competition for at-home offices and workstations to be featured in an upcoming employee newsletter
- Matching remote workers up randomly with in-office workers for virtual coffee chats
4. Offer ongoing training and development opportunities.
Employees crave learning and development opportunities, so make sure your internal communications are catering to that need. For remote workers, you may consider recording training sessions on video to facilitate employee onboarding.
Remote workers coming into the company will feel less alienated. The training sessions will help them feel equipped to handle any new tasks and understand company policies and procedures.
The great thing about webinars is that if hosted live, they can provide workers with an opportunity to ask you questions on the spot. If they’re also on-demand, remote workers can choose to access the recording on their own time if they have too much on their plate.
In Summary: Engaging Remote Workers
- Put extra effort into your internal communications with remote workers
- Present opportunities for remote workers to connect with their colleagues through gamification
- Have a plan for your internal communications that addresses policies around remote work
- Be proactive about crisis communications and have a remote work action plan ready
- Highlight the achievements of remote workers in your employee newsletters, and take their feedback to heart
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Have you implemented an epic internal communications idea that has led to high engagement levels among your remote workers? Want to better understand what’s working well and where to improve your communications with remote workers? Book your personalized demo of ContactMonkey today!