5 ways to help remote workers feel connected

The relationships we forge at work are central to our job satisfaction levels, with 47% of UK employees valuing a friendly workplace more than a 3% pay rise. Of course, we don’t need a statistic to tell us that. If recent experiences are anything to go by, we all know that confiding in a trusted colleague can turn an impending crisis into a moment of shared morale and flurry of gif-related anecdotes. Trouble is, it’s not as easy to form meaningful relationships when you’re working remotely. Feeling isolated is a common challenge for remote workers, something a third of us working from home during the Coronavirus lockdown know only too well. Luckily, through the powers of the likes of Zoom and Slack, there are lots of ways to ensure employees feel included and valued, wherever they are.

From onboarding a new employee remotely to managing remote workers long-term, here are five great ways to help them feel part of the team.

 

1. Empower new recruits with knowledge

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Onboarding can be tricky at the best of times, even more so for remote workers. Get it right and you will gain a valuable new workmate; get it wrong and it could cost you time and money. Figures from American HR specialist Human Capital Institute show one fifth of employees leave within the first 45 days, while the estimated cost to UK and US businesses of employees not understanding their jobs is a staggering $37 billion a year. So, provide remote recruits with a list of people they can rely on if they have any questions or need access to key information and resources, such as:

  • Job requirements and responsibilities - so they know what is expected of them
  • Company compliance and culture - so they understand the rules and ethos of the organization they are joining
  • Employee benefits - so they recognize they are already a valued member of staff

A quick team or company-wide email introduction is also a nice onboarding touch, which can be followed up by a reply from their immediate team members with a few sentences about themselves. For example:

Hi! I’m Jane, the accountant. I can help you with expenses and queries about your salary. I love seafood and going on long walks with my dog. I hate horror films and ironing!

 

2. Help them break the ice online

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While it’s useful to get to know colleagues via email, face-to-face meetings are even better. Encourage team members to set up introductory video chats or arrange a team onboarding session for new employees. To really integrate a new remote member, you might also want to organize virtual team-building sessions, such as:

  • A coffee and cake break
  • A quiz
  • A “dance party” where each person plays one song

If a stand-alone event is difficult to schedule, just set up a quick round of introductions at their first team meeting. Better yet, assign new employees an onboarding mentor, which 87% of companies found increased proficiency. Try to choose someone in the same department who is compatible both in personality and skill base, that way they can help them with their job, and hopefully connect on a deeper level too.

 

3. Make it a team effort with collaborative tools

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“Slack has opened new avenues of communication and collaboration … Whether teams are in the U.K. or Egypt, we have completely changed how we work together and accelerated the capabilities we bring to our customers.” - Matt Beal, Director of Technology Strategy and Architecture, Vodafone Group (Source: Slack)

 

A RingCentral report found that 89% of employees say disjointed digital communication tanks employee morale, lowers productivity and impacts the bottom line. Working remotely means that the only interactions are often business focused with little time for creativity and collaboration. Communication is key to any relationship, even more so if an employee can’t physically be around their colleagues to pick up on queues or grab a spontaneous chat in the kitchen. For remote employees to feel involved, the aim is to make interacting with the rest of the team as easy and natural as it would be in the office. To do that effectively, you need to invest in the right tools. Popular tools for remote team collaboration include:

  • Zoom / Skype - include remote team members in weekly meetings
  • Slack / WhatsApp - to encourage chats, messages and an email alternative
  • Google docs and slides - a godsend for real-time collaboration
  • Microsoft teams - a collaboration platform with video calls and file sharing
  • Asana - to help teams organize, track, and manage their work
  • Sococo - an online workplace where you can visit colleagues in virtual offices

Workers with access to collaborative work management software are 85% more likely to identify as happy in the workplace, so whatever tools you use to make sure new team members working remotely are readily able to use them to connect with their colleagues.

 

4. Keep remote workers in the social loop

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Figures from analyst Gallup suggest fostering close friendships can double employee engagement levels, which makes it even more important to help remote employees socialize. While remote employees may enjoy the benefits and flexibility of working from home, they also miss out on the natural flow of communication experienced in the office, whether that’s office banter, shared lunch breaks, or the occasional pint after work. So, how can you help them do that? Whatever your HR policies, try not to restrict them to “strictly business” in all of those great collaboration tools we talked about earlier. Encourage them to set up a social specific group on Slack or WhatsApp for more light-hearted chat. Team members can then use it for banter (following your company code of conduct, of course) including funny gifs and emojis, which software giant Adobe says help increase emotional connection for 81% of users. Managing remote employees also means including them in team building events and morale boosting activities, such as:

  • A sweepstake on a big sporting event
  • A collection for someone’s leaving present
  • A charity fundraiser

 

5. Equip them to work effectively from home

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As the millions of people who have had to work from home during the Covid-19 lockdown know, not having the right tools can seriously reduce your productivity. So providing remote team members with quality equipment is key to their success. According to office supplies company Staples, 52% of remote employees use computers bought by their employers. Other ways to help home workers perform to the best of their ability could include subsidising an ergonomic office chair or buying them a wireless headset.

 

Welcome aboard, it’s time to connect!

Good teamwork relies on great communication. Going the extra mile to create connections with remote employees will not only help make new remote workers feel at home, it will increase employee retention, engagement and productivity, all of which will pay dividends. Whether you’re new to managing remote employees or looking for ways to improve remote onboarding, with a bit of imagination you can bring people together, and create those office chat “click” moments virtually. 

 

If you want some more tips on managing remote workers, check out our recent blog on What managers need to know about remote working. Alternatively, our job listings attract applicants from all over the world, so please do get in touch if you need a hand hiring your next remote worker, we will remotely get right on it!