How to keep your remote workers engaged and motivated

More and more employees are working from home each day. Check out these 10 tips to keep them feeling appreciated, productive, eager and dialed in.

Although sometimes dismissed as another modern perk designed to attract talent, remote working arrangements don’t benefit employees alone.

A solid remote work program is a win for both employees and the organizations they work for. According to a Global Workplace Analytics study, a typical business saves about $11,000 per person per year by using remote work policies. If employees with compatible jobs worked from home just half the time, the national savings would amount to $700 billion per year.

Facetime, Google Hangouts, conferencing, cloud sharing and other collaboration technology have made it possible to produce quality work while enjoying the comforts of home, but the exuberance of producing from one’s humble abode can wear off over time. Deadlines and commitments aren’t always enough motivation.

Still, employees who work from home continue to report loving their jobs more than those in a cubicle. In a 2016 survey of close to 3,500 employees, Leadership IQ found that only 24 percent of office workers loved their work, compared with 45 percent of remote workers who loved their job.

Though remote workers are often happy and productive, they do need to drum up inspiration and motivation to achieve their full potential.

Here are 10 straightforward methods for keeping your telecommuters engaged and motivated:

1. Provide a platform for effective communication.
As with all things in business and relationships, communication is key. Keeping remote employees in the loop reminds them not only that they’re part of a larger organization, but also that the organization has a vested interest in their success.

“When I was a remote employee, my boss thought that if he didn’t hear from me and there were no complaints from customers, that I must be doing fine,” says Carol Hughes, former vice president of professional services at Mactive. “The thought was that no news was good news, but that isn’t always the case for remote workers. I knew there had to be a better way to keep remote employees engaged.”

As a VP, Hughes created a virtual lunch where she would bring all remote employees together on a conference call once a week:

We would spend the first 15 minutes only discussing business and then we would chat about personal things or anything else while eating. Then, once a month, I would take them to lunch so that we could interact and share thoughts and feelings just as office employees would do at lunch. This, in addition to daily chats or texts, had a tremendous impact on providing inclusion for our telecommuters.

2. Keep them happy
According to a TINYpulse study, remote workers report being happier than other employees. Of course, happy employees are more likely to be engaged in their work.

Keeping remote employees happy isn’t complicated. Simply ask them if they’re happy, and if they’re not, what they need to become so. Sometimes it’s as easy as providing some additional training or upgraded equipment to help them perform better.

Whatever it is, make it happen.

3. Recognize great work.
Make a point of ensuring remote workers are being recognized for their contributions and hard work, but don’t stop there.

Make that recognition highly visible so other members of the organization are aware of what remote workers are accomplishing every day.

Highlight remote workers’ big wins on organizational channels, and empower the rest of your team to do the same.

4. Clarify goals.
Remote employees may be at home producing, but are they meeting expectations?

Remote workers, like any other employees, need clear direction in terms of objectives and organizational goals.

In a May 2016 Forbes piece, Victor Lipman points out:

If expectations are completely clear, and preferably mutually agreed-upon, it helps to bring the entire remote working arrangement into clearer focus.

Setting expectations is a crucial motivator for remote workers.

5. Place an emphasis on what is produced, rather than when.
Because the remote worker’s position exists for a reason, let employees use it to their most productive advantage.

For example, if one remote worker performs better in the evening and the position doesn’t call for interaction with clients, allow him or her to work during that time. Others may be early risers with a desire to pump out a project before noon. Let them perform without unnecessary restrictions.

6. Keep coordination of job functions in the forefront.
Employees working in the office generally know and understand workflow processes and why they are necessary.

Remote workers don’t have the same constant feed of information from supervisors coming by their desks or general updates through the cubicle telegraph. Giving remote employees continual access to mission and vision statements, along with project updates and organizational performance records that help them understand how their role contributes to the organization’s overall success, will result in more engagement.

7. Emphasize culture.
A recent Harvard Business Review article addressed the importance of developing an organizational culture with remote employees to foster engagement. This can be a difficult thing to do when communicating virtually.

The article suggests that to nurture culture, you must first build trust. One way to accomplish this is to bring team members together on a frequent basis. By including remote workers in meetings and other events on a regular schedule, a common thread of culture is more easily shared by all.

8. Assist with time management.
Remote workers often struggle to manage time effectively. They have the freedom to take care of household chores, drive the kids to school and do yardwork, all of which can eat up significant chunks of time.

Providing tools and training that can help remote workers better manage their time is a great motivator. It shows that management cares, and it paves their path to success.

Adopting collaborative project management tools like Asana and Trello can make a big difference here.

9. Get to know your remote employees.
Remote workers can feel like forgotten castaways. Take time to meet with them one on one, and learn what’s going on in their lives.

If the same employees were in the office, their co-workers and managers would notice their moods and be able to offer words of encouragement, consolation or congratulations.

Take the time to know your remote colleagues and ask how they’re doing.

10. Cut the fluff.
One drawback of working remotely is that communication with the office often drops off. A steady flow of communication should be established with remote workers to keep them engaged and motivated.

However, there is such a thing as too much face time. If a meeting is not necessary, don’t schedule one just because you agreed to address a specific project every day at 8:30 a.m. Communicate when necessary, then leave the remote employee alone to do his or her job.

If you follow these steps, you’ll have a much better shot at keeping your remote workers engaged, motivated and happy to be a part of your team.

A version of this post first appeared on Bonusly.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.