Remote work is a great option that many workplaces have successfully incorporated for their employees. But remote work brings with it some special challenges with ensuring that employees remain engaged, happy, and connected with their teams. Team success requires each member to feel connected to their colleagues, supported by their leaders, connected with their company, and understood by their direct supervisors. If remote work interrupts these feelings, team members can grow distant. This often results in reduced productivity and eventually turnover.
Let's take a look at how to overcome these challenges by supporting engagement across hybrid teams. "Engagement" is the emotional and mental connection that results in employees feeling enthusiastic and dedicated to their workplace. When a team includes a significant number of remote workers, the tools used to support engagement have to be designed with remote workers in mind.
Here are 3 core rules for developing engagement in a hybrid-work environment:
1. Provide teambuilding exercises that bring together remote and in-office employees. WeWorkRemotely.com suggests "Remote employees may be working in silos on their own tasks. They may not see how accomplishing their work duties fits into the broader goals of your business. Team building exercises get all employees to collaborate on the same shared goals and communicate about how they plan to reach them, both individually as teammates and collectively as a cohesive unit." These can take the form of team games, get-togethers, or group volunteering trips.
2. Use simple, proven, effective methods and platforms for sharing and learning. Make communicating and collaborating easy, and don't provide too many overlapping tools. Recent studies of college and graduate students published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education have measured how successful different remote learning methods are at building engagement from students.
These methods of remote learning and communication were less effective at building engagement:
1. Company blogs.
2. Social media platforms.
3. Online ticketing or project management software.
These methods of remote learning and communication were more effective at building engagement:
1. Provide new information first in simple, plain English text or through live explanations. (This means avoiding overly long explanations, big words, or making employees use new platforms just to find out what they need to know to get things done.)
2. Give people simple tools to quickly and easily share files, pictures, and video directly to each other. These should be embedded in existing and familiar tools. (This means avoiding complicated software that makes people break away from their work to use an extra application to share things.)
3. Allow people to communicate whenever possible through their choice of methods, including messaging, phone, live in-person, or through video.
The lesson: stick with the basics! These studies found that introducing new platforms or methods of communicating and learning is often less effective at building engagement. New platforms require extra time to learn and use, especially in the case of more complicated systems or software that people have to set up and log on to. The studies also found that it is a mistake to assume that shiny new technology solutions—such as social media platforms—will be engaging to use at work just because the people use similar things in their personal lives. Instead they may just add work and stress.
3. Ensure that remote and in-office employees alike have strong support in the key areas of engagement. The last is the biggest: all team members, whether remote or local, have the same engagement needs. It's up to the company to figure out how to best support the key areas of engagement. For the purposes of this list, let's take a look at the areas regarded as the key drivers of engagement. The Institute for Employment Studies has done a deep dive into the "drivers" that make employees feel engaged in their jobs. They are:
1. Employees feel involved in decision making.
2. Employees feel they can voice their ideas, and managers listen to these views, and value employees’ contributions.
3. Employees feel they have opportunities to develop in their jobs.
4. The employees feel that their company is concerned for employees’ health and wellbeing.
Companies can support these four things by doing surveys regularly, providing timely feedback to employees, and having a clear career development process. In fact, this is what we do here! Amazing Workplace’s Smart Survey Platform can strengthen all of these areas and provide insights and exact actions to grow engagement and satisfaction for remote and in-person teams.