Remote & Async Work 11 min

How to keep remote employees engaged

Written by Amanda Day
Amanda Day

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Keeping employees engaged is essential to ensuring they are productive and happy team members. However, employee engagement can take on many forms in a business. Learning the ins and outs of engaging remote employees can present unique challenges that employers who see their employees on a daily basis may not face. 

Improving remote employee engagement should be at the forefront of your mind if you're a remote-first company, as engagement positively affects employee retention

This article will cover how to measure employee engagement, lay out the benefits of engaging remote workers, and provide you with nine ideas on how to keep remote employees engaged.

How do you measure employee engagement?

Knowing how to keep employees engaged during work from home relies on understanding whether or not they're engaged already and what your company can do to improve remote team engagement.

Employee engagement reflects how much your employees feel personally invested in your company's success. Employee motivation and performance are driven by their alignment with individual and company goals and the sense of mutual accomplishment when these goals are met. 

The best way of determining if your employees are happy is by regularly surveying them and allowing opportunities for feedback. Surveys regarding remote employee engagement are invaluable in measuring areas in which your employees feel engaged and areas where your company has room to grow. 

Exactly which questions you include on your employee engagement survey is up to you. However, you can use pre-made surveys like Gallup's employee engagement survey if you don't wish to create your own. 

Consider the following topics regarding employee engagement you should include on any employee engagement survey:

  • Communication. Do your employees feel that communication could be improved within the organization? How could this communication be improved at every level of the organization (peer-to-peer, employee-to-manager, employee-to-executive team, etc.)? Do employees know whom to contact with questions? Are the current communication tools (email, video meetings, Slack, etc.) working?

  • Feedback. Are employees regularly given feedback? How often do they feel their direct supervisor acknowledges the work they do? Are employees able to set, achieve, and receive feedback on personal goals? Do they receive annual reviews with merit increases? How could the delivery and frequency of feedback be improved upon?

  • Growth opportunities. Does your organization foster an environment of internal growth? Do you feel you can set, meet, and be rewarded for achieving performance goals? Do employees feel they could hold multiple positions within your business during their tenure? Are there opportunities to learn new skills and pursue continued education? Do employees have opportunities for significant financial growth?

  • Teamwork. How does your organization function as a team? Do your employees feel connected to one another? Do they feel connected to their managers? Do remote employees feel isolated? How often does your organization provide team-building opportunities?

  • Value. How do your employees feel they are valued at your company? What does your organization do to indicate they appreciate the individual contribution of each employee? Are employees left with a sense of feeling replaceable, or do they feel that their unique skills and strengths are noticed and valued? 

  • Work-life balance. Do your employees feel they have a good work-life balance? How do your employees like working remotely? How could this balance be improved, and what can your organization do to improve flexibility for employees? 

  • Respect. Have your employees experienced discrimination at the hands of other employees? Have your employees ever felt discriminated against by any company policies? Do your employees feel they are being treated differently than their colleagues based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other personal characteristic?

Once you've successfully measured the engagement of your remote workers, you can use the following ideas to increase employee engagement remotely and strengthen the areas your employees indicated need work.   

9 employee engagement ideas

Businesses that want to improve employee happiness and retention should consider implementing some or all of the following employee engagement ideas; 

1. Offer extra vacation days

Flexibility is one of the primary benefits of remote work, but it can also make it difficult for employees to find the separation between home and work life. Offering your employees days off ensures they have time to disconnect and unwind. 

Whether your employees are salaried or hourly, giving them a few extra days off per year is an affordable benefit, especially considering how much less expensive it is to employ workers when you don't need a centralized office space. 

Many employers elect to implement an unlimited paid time off (PTO) policy, improving your employee's work-life balance and saving your company money. 

When employees accrue vacation time and don't use it, companies have to pay them for the unused time when they leave. However, with an unlimited vacation policy, you may not have to pay out employees for unused PTO. 

2. Develop an employee recognition program

Employee recognition programs are accessible and affordable ways of letting your employees know that you value them and recognize their hard work. By developing an employee recognition program, you're communicating your desire to reward employees for their value to your organization. 

Research has shown that employee recognition programs directly impact employee retention rates. For example, a recent study noted that nearly 70% of businesses implementing an employee recognition program saw higher employee retention. 

One of the benefits of employee recognition programs is that they're highly customizable, which means you can adjust them based on the size and budget of your company. 

Examples of employee recognition programs include:

  • Employees nominate their colleagues for going above and beyond, and a winner is rewarded each month with an additional day of PTO

  • Additional days of PTO for tenure

  • Team-building events when sales quotas are reached

3. Create an environment that allows for team collaboration

Figuring out how to engage remote employees can be more complicated than in a traditional office setting because there are fewer opportunities for face-to-face communication and team building. 

In addition, adjusting to asynchronous work schedules can be difficult when managing communications with a team globally distributed across multiple time zones.

However, by investing energy in creating an environment that allows for team collaboration, you can prevent remote workers from feeling isolated and keep employees engaged. Utilize communication tools, set aside time for video calls, and encourage employees to work together on projects, so there are plenty of opportunities for internal connection. 

4. Provide career growth opportunities

If you're struggling with how to engage remote employees, providing career growth opportunities is a good solution. Employees will feel motivated if they feel that they are growing in their role.

Not only do career growth opportunities improve remote work engagement and indicate to your employees that you want to invest in their future, but it can also positively impact your company culture. 

When employees build their careers with your company, they have more loyalty to your business and continue to feel inspired to work hard. Additionally, this will signal to other employees that they too can be rewarded for hard work, which improves employee engagement. 

5. Establish genuine and personal connections with employees

Working from home can feel isolating, so you will have to ensure that employees feel personally connected to their job, your business, and their colleagues. 

Establishing personal connections with employees allows them to come up with questions, feel connected to the company, and feel like more than a cog in a wheel. 

Remote-first companies offer numerous advantages over in-person work, including greater flexibility and increased diversity. However, interpersonal connections can be significantly harder to achieve without intention and effort. 

6. Consider offering more inexpensive value-based benefits 

Creating a comprehensive benefits package is essential to hiring the best talent and retaining employees. However, aside from providing employees with health insurance, paid time off, and parental leave, many employers aren't sure which benefits their employees value the most. 

By asking your remote staff what perks they're interested in, you can give them a certain amount of control over their benefits, ensuring they'll be satisfied with the benefits you offer and feel a sense of allegiance to your company. 

Offering flexible working conditions can have an enormous positive impact on morale, loyalty, and productivity rates for your business. This doesn’t cost your business – in fact, when you create a remote-first culture, you can expect long-term increase in productivity.

7. Try out virtual team-building activities

Although team building can pose more of a challenge when you have a globally distributed team, it's essential to develop personal connections with your employees and ensure that they build connections amongst themselves. 

When employees have opportunities to spend time with each other doing non-work-related activities, they can build connections with one another and find common ground that they may not otherwise recognize. 

Consider trying virtual team-building activities like online trivia games or team movie nights. To increase the likelihood of participation, ask your employees to suggest virtual team-building activities in which they would like to participate. 

8. Go the extra mile to empower your employees

In order for your employees to feel satisfied and engaged at work, they need to feel empowered to take on more than the bare minimum of their job requirements. 

You can create a culture of empowerment within your organization by taking simple steps to reduce employee friction:

  • Don't micromanage. Employees feel empowered by the flexibility they receive when they aren't being micromanaged. You also demonstrate trust when you allow your team to perform their job duties without constant oversight. 

  • Encourage employee feedback. Empower your employees to speak up when they think things could be run more efficiently or the business could be improved in specific ways.

  • Provide employees with honest feedback. Just as you should encourage your employees to provide feedback for your company, do the same for them. Ensure that reviews are done at least annually, although employees may find value in quarterly reviews. Have managers point out areas in which employees are excelling, as well as at least one or two areas for growth.

9. Ask for feedback regarding job satisfaction

Feedback is essential to make sure that your remote team is engaged and satisfied with their work. Consider sending annual surveys to your team to monitor their job satisfaction and what they feel you could improve upon. 

In addition, it may be beneficial to have a virtual employee suggestion box where your employees can provide you with feedback regarding their job satisfaction at any time. 

Utilize the questions listed above and any other relevant questions to determine how engaged your employees are and what changes you can make to improve employee engagement. 

Empower managers to continually check in with their teams so that they can hear feedback on how your organization can improve as a whole, as well as improvements that may be valuable to specific departments. 

The benefits of having engaged employees

When employees are engaged, they can positively impact your business in several ways. Consider the following primary benefits:

Productivity

The primary benefit of having engaged employees is increased productivity. Employees who are highly engaged in their teams at work are over 20% more productive than those who aren't engaged. 

You are likely to see a direct correlation between increased employee productivity and increased employee engagement. 

Employee retention

Secondly, having engaged employees ensures less turnover. A Gallup study indicated a 25% difference in turnover between companies with the lowest and highest levels of employee engagement.

Employee retention directly impacts profitability, with companies seeing as much as four times the amount of profit from retaining employees versus replacing them.

Employee morale

Employee engagement directly correlates to morale, and morale is better when employees feel engaged at work. Employees can pull together as a team and drive growth when they feel valued by their workplace and challenged to grow.

By focusing on improving individual employee morale, you can also positively improve your overall company morale. 

Picture 2 - How to keep remote employees engaged

Is your office environment focused on remote employee engagement?

Learning how to engage employees virtually takes time and effort, but employers who invest in employee engagement see positive results in their employee's performances, turnover, and morale. 

Consider downloading Remote's Global Benefits Report to learn what your company can do to attract and retain the best global talent. 

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