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8 Proven Ways to Engage Remote Teams

Engagement is important for all employees. When your team is invested in their work, you'll see better outcomes and stronger company loyalty. However, it can be particularly difficult for remote workers to feel engaged.

When employees aren't physically present in the workplace, they may not feel as connected to the company or to their work. Remote workers could feel isolated from other team members as they typically don't have as many team bonding opportunities. They miss out on workplace parties and water cooler conversations that create a sense of companionship between colleagues. It can be harder to see the impact of your work as a remote employee, too.

Remote workers may struggle more to feel engaged, but it isn't impossible to establish a highly engaged remote team. If you make active efforts to help your remote employees feel noticed, appreciated, and included, they can feel just as invested in their jobs as your on-site workers. Their performance will improve, and their overall job satisfaction will increase.

Here are eight tips for engaging a remote team:

1. Use a chat program.

Emails and phone calls are both effective communication tools, but they tend to be formal and to-the-point. When you limit your workplace conversations to these platforms, your team members might only ever speak with each other about work-related topics and eschew other topics that could better engage them. It's hard to get to know your colleagues when you never have a chance to talk casually, which is why chat programs are so valuable for remote employee engagement.

Chat programs encourage open and casual conversation, and they allow for fast discussions in real time. They can be a great way for your team to feel closer to each other and to communicate more. When your employees can have water cooler conversations via a chat program, they'll feel a stronger bond with each other, and they'll feel more passionate about seeing the team succeed.

Some industry leading chat programs include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Chanty.

2. Prioritize face-to-face communication.

Video calls feel more personal than audio-only calls. Fortunately, video conferencing doesn't require you to be in the same place. It's easy to start a video call from any location. This means you can carry on a meeting from anywhere.

It's far easier to connect with someone when you can see their face, so you can increase engagement by encouraging video conferencing. Not every meeting needs to be through video chat, but regular video calls will help you and your team feel closer.

Some modern solutions even take a fun approach, like Gather, which keeps video group sizes manageable and takes a game-like approach.

3. Show appreciation.

For both on-site and remote employees, the key to engagement is knowing that your work matters. It's especially easy for remote workers to feel like they don't make a difference because they have fewer opportunities to see how their job fits into the company's overall operations. You can combat this by finding every possible chance to let your employees know that they are noticed and valued.

Send personalized letters or emails congratulating your team members on milestones or achievements. Thank them for their hard work on a project, and let them know what unique strengths they bring to the team. Gifts can be a good way to show appreciation, too, and they provide your remote employees with a tangible reminder of the company.

Even better, consider a full-fledged employee recognition and rewards program to encourage everyone to pile on appreciation!

4. Create social opportunities.

Workplace parties, company outings, and other events are excellent for increasing engagement. Your remote workers probably don't participate in these social gatherings as much as your on-site employees, though, so they may feel left out.

Your company's events don't have to be limited to in-person gatherings. You can create opportunities for your remote team to relax, have fun, and spend time with each other outside of their work responsibilities. For example, you could host a virtual gaming tournament, team trivia, movie night, or book club. A virtual escape room could be a fun social outlet for your team, too.

5. Host knowledge sharing sessions.

Knowledge sharing is closely linked to employee engagement. Individuals who share their knowledge get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from helping out their colleagues. It also prevents employees from having to repeat instructions or explanations, which saves time and reduces frustration.

Knowledge sharing in an in-person workplace often happens spontaneously and casually. For remote teams, though, you may have to create opportunities for knowledge sharing. If one of your employees is particularly skilled with a certain program or task, you could invite them to give an instructional presentation to the team. You could also host monthly video conferences where any team member can ask their colleagues for input or share their wisdom.

If you need some inspiration, kick off a "Lunch and Learn" session with a free lunch, and poll attendees for some ideas.

6. Offer home office upgrades.

Providing tools or resources for a home office can be a great way to help your remote employees feel like a part of the team. It shows that you value them and that you want to equip them with the tools they need to succeed.

No matter your budget, you can find a way to offer a home office upgrade to your remote team. Office supplies and company stationery are simple but useful gifts that your employees will use every day. If you have a bigger budget, you could buy standing desks or high-quality office chairs for your remote workers. Even gifting plants can have a huge effect on morale.

7. Provide specific benefits.

Your remote team will appreciate extra benefits that make working from home easier. While the typical company benefits still apply to your remote team, offering some specific benefits for your remote workers helps them feel noticed and appreciated, which will increase their job satisfaction.

For example, you should make sure that their healthcare plan is appropriate and accessible for their location. If your remote employees live all over the country, it's important that your health insurance isn't limited to a specific geographic region. Keep in mind that mental health is top-of-mind for many employees, and having easy access to virtual therapy sessions could help you stand apart from other employers.

You could also offer a stipend for home fitness or subsidize a high-speed internet connection. These resources are probably available free-of-charge for your on-site employees, so providing them for your remote team is a meaningful gesture.

8. Get feedback.

Nobody knows the experience of your remote team better than your team members themselves. Check in regularly with your employees to get feedback and suggestions for what you can do to help them feel engaged. You could ask your employees directly for ideas, or you could send out a survey that allows your team members to anonymously share their thoughts.

Although engaging a remote team is more difficult than engaging an in-person team, there are plenty of easy strategies you can use to create a stronger sense of loyalty and interest among your remote employees. Your remote team is just as important as your on-site workers, so it's worth going the extra mile to show them that they're appreciated.

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Alex Sumner