No doubt about it—we’re in the middle of a work revolution. Remote and hybrid work is now the new normal, and even as cities reopen it isn’t likely to change—more than half of workers reported they want to continue to work from home at least three days a week.
Employee sentiment around remote work proves that there are clear benefits to a more flexible work style. Yet, the freedom and flexibility also pose a unique challenge for HR teams. How can you keep employees connected—to each other, to the big picture, and the company culture—when everyone’s spread apart.
Here are three tips to help you master communication, collaboration, and celebration, and keep your remote and hybrid workers connected.
1. Be intentional about how you facilitate communication
In-office communication is a lot more natural than anything over video or text. The way people interact with each other in the office—the coffee breaks, the pre and post-meeting chats, the animated brainstorming sessions, the tap on the shoulder to ask what you’re working on—breeds familiarity and trust and creates team bonds. When you compare that to the way remote teams operate, it’s clear that something is missing. Therefore, communicating well in a remote setting requires extra effort and consideration, which HR has to make up for. Because remote workers are physically separated and don’t have somewhere to hang out and just get to know each other, HR must get creative to facilitate communication.
One way to do this is by narrowing down the communication and collaboration tools that employees use. Survey employees to find out how they prefer to communicate and select a few tools so that everyone’s aligned and information gets shared in one place, not scattered across a bunch of platforms. “The issue with having so many ways to disseminate information internally is that you spend far too much time chasing messages versus getting work done,” says Sean-Patrick Hillman, CEO of HILLSTORY Marketing. Narrow down your communication tools to the few essentials and communicate to your employees how and when to use them. Encourage employees to use video calls whenever possible for clear communication and to feel like they’re having a face-to-face conversation. Even if it’s through a screen, it’s still better than text or email and can help ensure nothing gets misinterpreted or ignored.
2. Include remote workers in the in-office collaboration
You don’t want remote workers to feel excluded from the collaboration that naturally occurs in the office. Some of our habits are office-based, and it takes a little time to change those behaviors to accommodate for remote work.
For starters, think about how your meetings are conducted. Is everyone logging on from their laptop, or are your in-office employees sitting in a room together? Institute a policy of one person, one screen, so that remote workers don’t feel like an afterthought in group settings. Similarly, make sure the office environment aids remote work. Consider redesigning your office space to make more rooms available for video meetings, which are now a part of our daily lives.
Another thing to think about is how work gets divided between remote and in-office employees. HR must stress to managers that they should provide the same work and project opportunities to remote workers as to those sitting next to them at HQ. Any favoritism sensed by remote employees can have detrimental effects on their morale and motivation, so be sure to train managers to avoid falling into that trap.
3. Connect by celebrating each other
If you want your remote employees to feel connected to the culture and the people, you have to go the extra mile to make them feel appreciated, supported, and included. Remote workers don’t always get the recognition they deserve. But organizations that ignore their people’s contributions are in danger of losing them. One study found that 40% of employees say that they are ignored and are actively disengaged from their work. Your organization should not only recognize your remote workers’ accomplishments but should do so loudly and proudly. Today’s communication and collaboration tools make it easy to call out a remote team member’s big win on all company channels. And doing so will motivate the rest of your remote workers to take their game up a notch.
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Keeping remote and hybrid workers connected, across any distance
A survey of almost 3,500 employees found that 45% of remote workers love their jobs. The survey also showed that virtual employees are more ambitious than on-site workers. But, remote workers also need to be more self-motivated than their colleagues back in the office. Sure, not engaging in face-to-face conversations in the break room makes it more difficult to stay connected. But there are ways HR can make up for this. Taking the time and steps required to keep your remote workers engaged will ultimately help them combat the feeling of isolation or loneliness and keep them connected to the team, the company, and the mission.