How to Make Remote Employees Feel Connected
Wondering how to make remote employees feel connected? Here are all the remote work culture ideas you need to connect virtually.
Many Hawaii businesses have adapted to accommodate remote working models over the past few years. The employee benefits are well documented. Advantages include:
- Time savings – No more commuting! Even with an average daily commute of just half an hour each way, that’s nearly 20 hours each month and just under 11 days in total over a year.
- Financial gain – The average Hawaii company spends $2520 on work-related transport annually, and workers in mainland states spend up to $5000.
- Increased comfort – Home set-ups are more spacious and inviting than cubicles or communal office spaces.
However, that doesn’t mean Hawaii business owners managing a remote team won’t encounter their fair share of challenges. Keeping remote employees engaged is more difficult than in a traditional office setting. So, companies with remote staff in mainland states need to put some serious thought into how to make remote employees feel connected.
The Importance of Building Team Culture Remotely
Research shows that remote employees log in for around 10% longer than regular office staff. Yet, they often feel undervalued and do not consider themselves part of the team. In fact, around two-thirds of remote workers have reported feeling lonely or isolated. That makes learning how to make employees feel included in a virtual setting a top priority for managers looking to attract and retain the best talent, maintain optimum motivation and productivity levels, and keep teams connected and focused on organizational milestones.
Looking for inspiration on how to connect virtually and build a positive organizational culture to ensure everyone feels included? Check out our top tips and strategies for how to make remote employees feel connected.
How to Make Remote Employees Feel Connected: 12 Tips for Success
Your remote working policies should be carefully considered to ensure enough support at the organizational, team, and individual levels to keep staff motivated and connected. Here is a comprehensive list of remote work culture ideas to get you off to a great start.
1. Implement an Official Work From Home (WFH) Policy
Keeping remote employees engaged is almost impossible if they’re not provided with a clear breakdown of company expectations and guidelines on how to connect with coworkers virtually. A comprehensive WFH policy should include all the information and direction new recruits need regarding:
- Working hours
- Logging in and out
- Communication processes
- Approval processes
- Time tracking
- Virtual etiquette
- IT support
2. Develop a Robust Remote Onboarding Process
A well-structured and interactive virtual onboarding process is essential when employees don’t meet their new colleagues in person. Research shows that effective onboarding increases retention by 82%, so standardizing your onboarding processes for inclusion from day one is vital. Best practices include paying close attention to the following:
- Pre-boarding – Demonstrate that your organization is organized and set up for efficiency by gathering information for HR and payroll and creating all the accounts new hires need in advance. If you’re shipping out company property like laptops and hardware, ensure they arrive ahead of the official start date.
- Orientation – Introduce new employees to other colleagues and managers virtually and help them learn about the company, their role, their team, and their goals by ensuring library access to the relevant company documents and articles.
- Goal-setting – Clearly outline short-term and long-term goals for each hire, but be sure to link them back to overall team and company targets. Make sure that goals are specific and broken down into realistic weekly, monthly, or quarterly timescales.
- Social Inclusion – Introduce each batch of new recruits to each other and create online breakout sessions, virtual lunches, coffee breaks, etc., throughout the onboarding process to get them connected and chatting.
3. Choose the Right Collaboration Tools
Team collaboration tools are essential in automating workflows, improving inter-team communication, and increasing employee engagement and productivity. To effectively manage a remote workforce, you’ll need plenty of cloud storage so employees can easily access the documents they need anywhere, anytime. You’ll also need a dedicated software to facilitate:
- Time tracking and focus – Popular options include apps like Toggl or Serene.
- Project management – The most popular examples include Asana, Trello, and Monday.
- Brainstorming – Mural and Miro are two of the most commonly used.
4. Utilize the Best Communication Channels
Communication channels can be either synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous communication requires employees to be present in real time, whereas asynchronous communication does not. Asynchronous channels are particularly advantageous for businesses with employees working offset hours or for companies operating across multiple time zones. Utilizing a mix of both is ideal. A cross-section of examples include:
- Video calling (using Zoom, Google Workspace, or other alternative video platforms).
- Phone calls
- Virtual meetings
- Text messages
- Conversations using Slack or Microsoft teams, etc.
- Project management apps
- Instructional/informational videos
- Reference guides
5. Embrace Flexibility
One of the biggest perks of working remotely is the flexibility to create a better work-life balance. For employees, managing their workload to flex around their home lives makes it easier to:
- Juggle family life (school runs and after-school clubs, etc.).
- Take a late start, early finish, or extended lunch break to work around other meetings, appointments, or commitments.
- Hit the gym, go for a jog, or do the supermarket run at an off-peak time.
Giving employees the flexibility to get their work done on their terms is one of the reasons they work for you. When employees don’t feel trusted, engagement and productivity suffer. So, team leaders must carefully balance their contact with remote employees without making them feel like they’re being micromanaged or expected to be constantly available.
6. Offer Ongoing Support
A person-centric approach is essential when employees don’t have the opportunity to meet their team in person. The needs, preferences, and tolerances of every employee will be different. So again, managers need to balance their communications and tailor support systems to suit each individual team member. However, knowing that support is there when needed is essential, and embedding support mechanisms into workflows is a great way to create a positive organizational culture.
Some specific examples of how to build a strong culture with a remote team include:
- Assigning each remote employee a mentor to help them feel connected.
- Setting up regular 1:1 check-ins with managers and colleagues to determine progress, allow everyone to ask and answer questions, review progress, and assess how everything is going.
- Setting aside time in every call for small talk and ‘getting to know you’ conversations to make communications feel more relaxed. Doing so also helps to build relationships between team members.
- Scheduling a virtual weekly meeting, preferably using video calling software so that everyone can experience face-to-face interaction.
- Ensuring remote workers have all the necessary technical support and equipment. This could be anything from an internet upgrade to an ergonomic chair.
7. Openly Celebrate Achievements and Milestones
Making remote employee recognition a priority increases engagement because, despite logging in for around 10% longer than regular office staff, remote workers often feel like they don’t play an active role in everyday team life. So, how to recognize employees virtually?
One effective best practice is normalizing sending quick messages whenever someone does a great job. Be sure to also provide praise in open forums where other colleagues can weigh in with comments and likes. Other ideas for building team culture remotely include:
- Adopting a recognition system like an Employee of the Month program to shine the spotlight on remote employees.
- Sending thank you cards or physical gifts to remote employees’ homes to congratulate them on a job well done.
- Implementing a system that allows team members to submit praise and celebrate each other independently of management.
- Setting aside time for company-sponsored virtual get-togethers like happy hours and pizza parties to celebrate organizational-wide accomplishments and milestones.
8. Include Remote Employees Every Time
When you don’t see someone every day, it’s easy to fall into an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ habit where communications between managers, mentors, and remote colleagues drop off over time – especially when remote staff are performing well and do not require any immediate motivation or feedback. It’s also easy to assume that remote workers don’t want to be bothered with additional calls or online meetings. However, inviting remote employees to attend every meeting and call is a great idea – even if the focus is on projects that don’t involve them directly. This way, you provide an opportunity for them to become more connected to the overall organizational mission and make connections with people in other departments at the same time – just as they would do in an office environment.
9. Encourage Non-Work-Based Social Interaction
A certain amount of ‘chit-chat’ happens in any office, and while most remote workers love the flexibility and freedom of their home office, most will admit to missing the social interactions of office life – even if it’s just a 5-minute chat by the coffee machine or water cooler each morning. Plus, employees who have the opportunity to chat and socialize with coworkers for just 15 minutes show a 20% increase in performance.
In face-to-face situations, colleagues naturally chat about their families, hobbies, sports teams, weekend plans, etc. This element of workplace interaction can be easily lost in a remote setting, so building time for everyday conversation is essential in making employees feel more emotionally connected. Bridging the work-social gap by engaging remote staff proves organizational commitment to developing a positive culture and ensures employee satisfaction outside the scope of regular business activities. Plus, with a more cohesive remote work culture, ideas and feedback will flow more freely on work-related matters too.
One of the best ways to improve social interaction is to create an online hub where individuals and teams can meet for discussions. You can organize many types of get-togethers so employees can choose the ones they’d like to attend. Some examples include:
- Online coffee breaks
- Virtual lunches
- Online donut breaks
- Team fitness challenges
- Online movie nights
10. Ramp up the Fun Factor
It takes extra planning to find fun ways to stay connected when working remotely that don’t feel forced or mandatory. But breaking the ice in an enjoyable way that makes remote employees want to stay involved and connected needn’t be complicated – nor does it always have to be management driven. If you’re looking for fun team building ideas, you might consider setting up online events for:
- Trivia nights
- Scavenger hunts
You could also use existing team communications channels like Slack so employees can set up their own threads about topics and hobbies that interest them. A few examples could include:
Depending on the geographical location of your teams, you might even consider organizing an annual company retreat so that all of your employees have the opportunity to meet and network in person.
11. Encourage Professional Development
Knowing how to make remote employees feel connected will only go so far in establishing job satisfaction. You also need to ensure the same opportunities for career progression as you would for on-site team members. Some examples of how to make employees feel included and committed to their long-term future with your company include:
- Creating leadership development plans for remote team members.
- Standardizing performance reviews so remote workers aren’t passed over—or feel like they’re being passed over—for promotions.
- Supporting continual progression through access to online courses.
- Making monitoring and evaluation a priority, incorporating clear and measurable metrics for success.
- Having regular 1:1’s between remote staff and managers to assess progress.
12. Ask for Feedback
The very act of requesting feedback boosts remote employee engagement by giving people a voice and letting them know their opinion is valued. If you implement the recommendations we’ve made so far and provide plenty of guidelines and support for your teams, you’ll probably generate a fair amount of feedback by default. However, you’ll learn more about how to connect virtually— and refine your remote working policies and best practices much quicker – if you actively ask for it. Collecting feedback needn’t be time-consuming or complex. The most popular methodologies include:
- NPS surveys
- Pulse surveys
- 360 surveys
Partner with ProService Hawaii
Need help with how to make remote employees feel connected, engaged, and productive? When your teams are motivated and driven to succeed, business owners are free to focus more of their time on what matters most—driving your organization forward.
ProService Hawaii is an HR services provider that helps Hawaii employers hire and retain employees in all 50 states. Plus, we offer our clients and their employee's complimentary access to a suite of HR training programs to help them gain insights and skills to face today’s remote working challenges.
Contact us today to learn more about the power of a partnership with ProService Hawaii. Be sure to check out our business resources to access more advice and tips for growing and retaining the most talented team for your Hawaii-based organization.