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A Guide to Engaging Remote Employees

Remote workers. Deskless workers. Hybrid workers. Working from anywhere but a desk in the office is on the rise. And so is employee disengagement. Here are some techniques and tools to combat this.

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As a great American philosopher once said, “Working 9-5, what a way to make a living.” Yet those days of being sat behind a desk in the office  Monday-Friday, 9-5, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. (Sorry for getting that song stuck in your head). 

Distributed workforces – like our own (we’re spread across three countries) – give rise to more complex working environments. And this creates greater complexities when it comes to employee engagement. After all, engagement is key to motivation. And motivation is key to a successful workforce. (Apparently, engaged employees are 21% more productive than those who are not). 

So. How do you create a sense of “togetherness” even when you’re apart?

What is employee engagement (and why is it important?)

Essentially, employee engagement is the relationship between employee and employer. And getting that relationship right can be crucial. 

While profitability might seem the most important concern for a business, when it comes down to it, productivity = profitability. And productivity = engaged employees.

It should come as no surprise that a happy team is a productive one. And while a pat on the back for a job well done might have been enough in the past, there is now so much more to employee engagement than praise. 

Employee engagement is one of the driving forces behind company culture. And with an ever-increasing competitive job market, company culture can be the deciding factor between retaining employees and incentivizing new ones. 

For further insight on the importance of employee engagement, check out our employee engagement statistics study here.

How to keep remote workers engaged

1. Create a remote-first accountability framework

How do you motivate remote employees? Without the accountability of being together in an office there's always a risk that employees won’t feel engaged enough with the company - and their own teammates – to produce their best work.

It's a balancing act. According to some studies, working from home has seen employees logging more hours than if they were in the office. If you don't need to waste two hours commuting... But, that doesn't indicate whether or not they feel engaged. If anything, working more hours for the same (or lesser) amount of effort put into employee engagement by a company can lead to an even greater disengagement.

Working day hours report during COVID-19

A study by NordVPN looks at hours worked before and after the COVID-19 outbreak.

One way to maintain motivation for remote employees is to switch to a ROWE virtual work environment.

ROWE stands for “Results Only Work Environment” . It champions the theory that by delegating work to employees and helping them to take on the responsibility of delivering that work, it removes the need to police strict working hours.

Without the ability to saunter in and out of an office, it is near impossible for an organization to know exactly when employees clock on and off. Yet stringent clock watching by employers has started to be phased out. There has been a shift in focus to engage and empower employees to achieve milestones and goals, rather than hours sat behind a desk.  

The two most important (of the five) key principles of ROWE – and those which best fit the current complex working climate – are:

1. Employees must understand what they are responsible for.

2. Employees must understand what the measurement for success is.

To be informed is to be engaged, and consistent – and transparent – communication is a powerful strategy for any business.

2. Help remote workers to stay connected

Not being in the hustle and bustle of an office can be extremely isolating for some employees, while others may find their productivity dips when they aren’t in full view of their managers.

A study by Buffer found that some of the biggest challenges of working remotely are loneliness (21%), communication (21%) and staying motivated (14%). Not exactly a happy trio.

Study by Buffer on remote work challenges

But how can you combat loneliness throughout a remote workforce? 

Consider your one-to-one relationships: could you implement a daily check-in with your employees? If you're unable to schedule catch-ups with everyone, software tools like 15Five lets employees rank how they’re feeling out of five on a weekly basis. Those ranking poorly can then be prioritized for a chat. 

At ScreenCloud we’ve also introduced lots of remote employee engagement activities to help our remote team members to feel connected. These are easier to manage as they work on a one-to-many basis and employees can choose the activity that suits them.

This includes fun, fully-remote, activities such as:

Virtual lunches

We encourage our team to spend time having virtual lunches with their colleagues to enjoy general conversation which isn’t just work-orientated. 

Exercise classes

We’ve also implemented weekly exercise classes where  people in our team lead a Yoga or Circuits class over Zoom. There’s nothing like bonding over seeing the CEO in lycra. 

Share day-to-day moments

Office gossip and “water-cooler” chat also takes a nosedive when working remotely. We’ve been using the ScreenCloud Engage app which lets our team submit photos with captions to a live screen stream. This is then viewable on our company TV channel (more on this later) and we’ve also synched it so that the photos people share go into our #team-random channel on Slack.

This helps everyone to feel connected and is also a great way to share company culture for new employees.

Engage app team moments

3. Enable your workforce with the tools they need to stay connected

The acceleration for greater digital transformation over the past year has seen many businesses adapt without realising it; the implementation of communication tools such as Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams are now so part of our everyday lives that it’s hard to believe we didn’t use them before.  

So it’s important for this to be part of your employee engagement strategy, linking it into the business’ greater digital transformation strategy.  Communication is key to engagement.  And instant communication is now expected. 

For many companies, the digital transformation of internal communications  will include finding digital tools to replace different meeting variations, some of which might include:

  • In-person meetings, usually 1-2-1s or as a small group
  • Larger meetings, like brainstorming or cross-department meetings
  • All-company meetings, like All Hands 

As well as formal meetings, there’s also micro-meetings that usually take place within offices such as:

  • The ability to quickly ask a coworker a question or where a file is located
  • Water-cooler chat
  • In-office phone networks that allow you to dial an extension quickly

Lastly, many organizations will need to replace on-premise systems with cloud-based tools to cover areas like:

  • Where files are stored and located
  • How employees can collaborate on documents or in meetings

Check out our full guide to tools for effective internal communication to see how you can use digital tools in order to replace some of these in-person activities and setups. But of course, a great way of doing this is to implement a strategic internal communications digital signage strategy.

4. Reduce the “noise” of online communication channels

One of the biggest problems with remote work is that employees can often feel torn between missing out on what’s going on, or that there’s so much information they feel overwhelmed by it. 

This is a key time to consider how you share information effectively throughout the company and how you use tools or guidelines, to ensure information doesn’t become siloed between teams or departments.

Some of the methods you might use to reduce the amount of noise employees are exposed to include:

Supply quick recorded or written meeting summaries

If collaborating teams are in different time zones or working patterns, it’s often hard to find a time that suits everyone. We’ve found that recording a short meeting summary on tools like Zoom are highly effective to make sure that non-participating colleagues don’t miss out on important information. 

Empower remote workers to switch off

Although there are many benefits to working remotely (that 2-minute commute is a god-send on hot days), it also means that many of us are living in our office. This makes it hard to switch off. Or ignore late calls / emails / meetings, because physically we are still in our “workplace”. 

Basecamp, who have always worked fully remote, have some great tips on why “Always online” statuses don’t work for teams who need to be able to focus.

Create one source of truth

Of course, one of the methods we fully recommend for engaging remote workers is setting up a remote company TV channel with “one source of truth” for important news and updates. Even with the best intentions, a lot of information that remote workers could benefit from is siloed in systems and requires effort to consume. 

At ScreenCloud, we use our own digital signage tool to create “ScreenCloud TV”. This is one channel, with carefully curated content designed to keep every employee on the pulse of what’s happening in the company.

ScreenCloud TV company TV channel

So how do we set this up?

The benefit of ScreenCloud is that it works on pretty much any TV. This means that an employee who already has a TV in their home, can plug in a cheap Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and be running ScreenCloud in minutes. You could also use an iPad, old desktop computer or tablet to run the channel.

If you want a more digital signage ready device for your offices or public spaces, you can also check out our ScreenCloud OS device, the Station P1. This device comes with ScreenCloud’s software pre-installed and works perfectly with ScreenCloud as it’s designed to only be used to power digital signage content with ScreenCloud.

Recently, we developed an Embeddable Channels feature so that employees could open the company TV channel in their browser, or so that it could be embedded within an intranet. 

For example, here are the home office setups of four of our remote workers and their screens playing the company TV channel:

Company TV Channel playing at home

As you can see, some remote workers are set up in their living area, using their regular TV screen, others have a separate screen in their home office or are using an old PC screen to help them view the same live feed. 

Time to focus on engaging the remote workforce

Things are never going to ho back to how they were before COVID. As much as employees' expectations have changed, it is up to the employer to facilitate them. And this means a greater focus on employee engagement.

Don't take our word for it – give ScreenCloud a try for 14 days (no credit card required), or request a demo to see how digital signage can boost your internal communications.

 SC Gradient

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