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Are remote workers less engaged?

February 16, 2017

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

According to Global Workforce Analytics 3.7 million employees now work from home at least half the time.  In addition, Gallup reports that 37% of US workers say they have telecommuted at some point in their career.  This is four times greater than just 9% back in 1995.  With the growing population of telecommuters, are these workers feeling less connected and isolated?  

According to a survey from TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, remote employees actually report feeling happier, more valued, and more productive.

  • When remote workers were asked how valued they feel at work they scored 7.75, compared to all workers who rated just 6.69.
  • 91% of remote workers believe they “get more work done when working remotely.”  
  • When asked how often they have contact with their manager, 52% reported once a day or multiple times per day.  However, it should be noted that 34% reported only once a week, 10% reported once a month, and 3% reported never!

With the growing number remote employees and the importance of creating an engaged workforce, the third statistic is alarming.  So what can managers do to ensure that their remote employees feel an emotional connection with both the company they work for and their manager?

Make Sure Everyone Knows They Are Part of the Team 
As a manager, it is important to consistently loop in remote employees.  Included them in meetings and be sure to publicly recognize their accomplishments just as you would for an in-office employee.  If you fail to do this, you’ll risk isolating the employee and they will feel less connected.

Establish a Time and Method for Regular Check-Ins

While it’s important for remote employees to be allowed to set their own schedule, it makes sense to establish a time frame in which they will consistently be available.  In addition, at a minimum, weekly one on ones should be set up.  Remote employees can’t just pop in to your office with quick questions like other staff can.  Be sure to have established modes of contact – text, email, chat, phone, etc. so that you are reachable when needed.

Focus on What, Not When
Instead of focusing on when the remote employee is working, focus on what they are achieving.  Most employees who work remotely do so in order to have a more flexible schedule.  Some prefer early mornings; some prefer to start later and work later.  “Benchmarking success based on results rather than activity levels builds trust and long-term employee satisfaction,” said Dustin Grosse, COO of ClearSlide.

Get to Know Your Remote Employees as People
It’s easy to create relationships with in-office staff since you have daily interactions with them.  It can be much more challenging with remote employees; however, it is worth the effort.   Find ways to interact personally with them – meet for lunch, invite them to join a meeting in person, video chat.

Schedule Regular Face to Face Meetings
If an employee works remotely full-time, be sure to schedule face to face meetings with both yourself and with the entire team on a regular basis.  It’s important to have those face to face meetings at least once per quarter in order to create team camaraderie.  It also helps to eliminate mistrust.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, if those with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so just half the time the national savings would total over $700 billion a year.  A typical business would save $11,000 per person per year and the telecommuter would save $2,000-$7,000.  The employer cost savings stem from less office space, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover as well as an increase in productivity.  Employees’ savings are based on reduced transportation costs and an increase in free time.

If done right, offering telecommuting in positions where it makes sense can save both the company and employee money and can actually increase employee engagement and productivity.  With proper management of remote employees, they can be a productive and engaged member of your team.

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