Let’s kick off with some stats.
In 2010, around 13.5 million people – 9.4% of U.S. workers – labored at least one day at home per week. According to a Robert Half International Survey, 72% of employees say that flexible work hours would make them choose one job over another. And to top it off? Businesses have been proven to save up to $8,000 a year for every employee that works remotely.
Thanks to the Internet, telecommuting to work has become a viable way of both running a business and being employed. But how do you ensure that your remote workers feel as connected and dedicated to the company as their on-site counterparts?
Below are 3 basic things you need to build an effective virtual employee engagement strategy.
Online communication should be your company’s common denominator. Working remotely can too easily leave one feeling out of the loop, so having a company- or team-wide online social channel (like a Skype chat group or Yammer) allows employees to communicate, exchange ideas, and socialize with a team that may be spread across the globe.
Articulate tasks and projects in writing. It’s not as easy for your remote workers to pop into their managers’ offices with a question. Whether it’s in an email or other document, make it easy for them to reference previous conversations they’ve had with managers or colleagues.
Invest money in seamless video conferencing. The last thing you want to do is waste everyone’s time fiddling with video-conferencing equipment before or during all-hands meetings. You won’t regret it.
2) Regular In-Person Meetings
Ideally, every new remote hire should spend one week working from HQ as part of their onboarding process. Introduce them to their colleagues and immerse them in the company’s unique culture. Done well, this can be the first step in transforming your remote worker into a brand champion, who will represent your company’s brand worldwide.
For virtual employees who can manage to occasionally commute to the office: always invite them to team-building and happy hours. Establish specific days of the week when your remote workforce can work on-site, and designate one room in the office for visiting employees. These inclusive acts will make them feel welcome and more passionate about achieving the company’s bottom line.
Plan one annual, company-wide event for which the company flies in all it’s remote workers to one location. This builds connectivity and a stronger sense of community within a company.
3) Local Perks
Since most remote workers can’t take advantage of free lunches, snacks, or happy hours, reward them with benefits that they can redeem in their area.
Offer your remote employees special pricing on local services. Home cleaning services, food delivery, laundry services, and pet services help make your employees’ lives easier, giving them more time to work and adding a personal touch to the employee/company relationship.
Negotiate special treatment for your employees at local entertainment parks and gyms to encourage employee well-being outside of work. Remote workers log more hours than their on-site counterparts, so remember to encourage them to play as hard as they work.
Send flowers from their local florist or vendor on an employee’s birthday or work anniversary. Remember that employee happiness means higher productivity. It’s worth going out of your way to make them smile.
Foster Strong Relationships with Your Remote Employees
Your company’s need to hire remotely is bound to increase due to high competition for highly talented employees. Between 2007 to 2012 alone, the number of remote workers at for-profit companies grew 33.3%. And that number is only expected to rise.
Remote workers can be your most productive workers as well as your most effective recruiters. As in any relationship, open up a dialogue early on. You want to know if they are dissatisfied, or feel ecstatic about working for the company. You want them to feel inspired by their work and colleagues, so they can turn into brand champions advocating for the success of your company worldwide.
Want tips on ways to engage your employees? Download our free whitepaper: How to Build an Awesome Engagement Plan.
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