Today’s employees Zoom, Skype, Jabber, FaceTime, GoToMeetings and chat in Google Hangouts and Webexes. When they’re not videoconferencing, they’re emailing, collaborating in Microsoft Teams, and instant chatting on Slack. They’ve already got the tech tools they need to make it easy and more convenient to work remotely, but do you have the right management tools in place to keep your remote employees engaged?
There’s no doubt that hiring remote employees can benefit your insurance business by bringing in critical skills that you don’t have or can’t easily find. Remote workers can be a boon to recruiting, productivity, business continuity, and improved customer service. But relying on a traditional management style to keep a dispersed workforce motivated and moving forward won’t cut it.
So, what are the best ways to keep employees you rarely see motivated?
Build a Virtual Water Cooler
The cornerstone to keeping remote employees engaged is proactive communication. When you can’t simply stop by an employee’s desk to chat, grab a cup of coffee, or physically sit with them in a conference room, it’s important to make a concentrated effort to make time for casual conversation. It’s not enough to schedule a few one-hour meetings per week. Communication with remote employees should be fluid, spontaneous and regular. Create a virtual water cooler by continually chatting with people to find out what they did during the weekend, how their family is doing, and what their plans are for time away from work.
Establish Some “WAHVY Gravy”
When employees are out of sight, it can be easy to unintentionally exclude them, making them feel isolated. And when people feel isolated and not a part of the work community, productivity suffers.
Go beyond relying on virtual meetings to establish community. If you have an intranet, create a space where people can share news, tips, or pictures of their pets. Many companies dedicate specific Slack channels to support socializing. Others use virtual coffee breaks, book clubs, TED talks, or online learning courses that everyone participates in to encourage a deeper sense of community.
Another strategy is to incorporate a few minutes for team members to share something personal at the end of meetings. At WAHVE, we call this “WAHVY gravy.” We ask people to share something that’s important to them – whether it be pictures of their artwork, hobbies, or stories about recent vacations. Another idea is to ask employees to share an “ah ha” or an “appreciation” – something they recently learned or someone they’d like to acknowledge. The important thing is to make it fun and personal. This changes how people interact with each other at a human level and builds interest and empathy for one another.
Don’t Forget Face Time
Despite all of the fancy tech tools, there’s still no substitute for face time. When you’re managing a remote team, no matter the size, it’s important to bring the entire team together when you can. Doing this shows on site and remote workers how much you appreciate them, and it builds connection. At WAHVE, we bring our staff together bi-annually, and we find that these events are invaluable to help the team bond, strengthen our culture, and share goals and future direction with everyone physically present.
According to an analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote work has grown 44% over the last five years and 91% over the past 10 years. It’s a trend that will likely continue to rise, so there’s no time like the present to adapt your management style to support remote workers, and in turn, the success of your business.