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5 Tools for Engaging Remote Employees (to Keep Them Happy and Productive)

Published March 24, 2020

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With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, the professional working world has been upended for almost everyone. Some teams were prepared for this shift, as remote work has gained popularity in the last few years, but some found themselves having to quickly scramble to find a way to make working remotely a productive part of their daily life. 

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the rest of life right now, working remotely doesn’t have to fall into that category. There are a number of tools to engage remote employees, and most of these engagement tools can help with overall productivity (with the added benefit of supporting it in a distance model).

The Top 5 Tools for Engaging Remote Employees

#1: A Work-From-Home Charter 

This tool falls into a more general category, but it’s one of the most important. For many individuals, working remotely represents a huge shift from what they’re accustomed to in the workplace. Working at home can be a challenge to many, as there are many things around to distract employees and draw their attention away from work. 

Setting clear expectations for what their remote work should look like can be a huge help to newly remote employees. One of the best ways to do this is with a remote work charter document. This sounds formal, but it’s actually quite simple: it’s a document, accessible to all team members, that clearly outlines the elements below:

Scheduling expectations: This portion can outline the basics of scheduling for a remote employee (e.g., a typical start and end time, with information on how breaks and periods of unavailability should be communicated and handled)

Response time expectations: With so many different communication tools available (more on that below), it can be hard to know what medium to use for what type of communication. Setting the standard for how quickly emails should be addressed, versus how quickly an instant message should be tackled can help employees know what tool to use for what type of question, and how to prioritize their time across multiple requests. 

An overview of available tools: For teams without any experience with remote work in the past, the amount of available tools to communicate and track work progress can be overwhelming!  A quick glossary of what tools exist and what they should be used for can go a long way with helping your employees understand the best way to leverage each one.

A breakdown of how work will be measured: You don’t need to be too intense with how you set expectations for knowing that employees are getting work done, but it’s good to remind your remote teams about your overarching goals (whether they be project- or time-based). Here you can list the goals for the quarter or for the year, or how your team contributes to the broader success of your organization. It’s always good to have a refresher about why they’re doing the work they do, to help them keep a consistent focus on results (rather than how the work is getting done). 

Trust is obviously an important part of remote work, and a clear charter can help your remote employees know what is expected of them (and give everyone a common foundation and language to work from across the miles). 

#2: Videoconferencing Apps

Engaging remote employees relies heavily on maintaining open and frequent lines of communication (see tool #5 below). However, so much is lost in audio communication, and video conferencing is here to solve that problem (and be a lifesaver for remote employees). It’s the closest way to approximate the human interaction that typically happens in the workplace, and it’s a vital component of employee engagement when working remotely. You get to see all the interpersonal nuances that help communication, and it helps teams feel connected even when they’re apart. There are a number of apps that offer enterprise-level video conferencing solutions, so explore what might be the best fit for you and your organization. 

#3: Tools to Help Your Employees Engage, Develop, and Gamify 

Regardless of the personalities that comprise your team, remote work can sometimes feel a lot less fun than being in person. One way to help tackle this feeling is through gamification!  Gamification is the process of taking a standard workflow or process and making it a bit more engaging through the use of incentives and rewards. There are quite a few apps that can help you do this easily, including the OrgLynx app (full disclosure: it’s ours!). With this app, you can take standard processes and make them a bit more fun via badges and other interactive challenges. Want to learn more?  Check out a demo today

#4: Collaborative Project Management Tools 

As work progresses across your remote team, it becomes even more important to bring transparency to the process (so people aren’t duplicating work within the same project). Here is where collaborative project management tools come into play - these tools, which offer a consistent and clear view into the various project phases and stakeholders, give everyone a way of tracking and assessing progress. This is critical for remote employees, as the informal communication that often happens in the workplace ceases, and sometimes important information can be lost without a tool to step in and take its place. That’s what these project management tools can do for you and your team, so if you don’t have any currently you should check out what’s available

#5: Communication Tools 

As mentioned earlier, communication is key for engaging your remote teams. It has to happen frequently, and it has to be done effectively. Previously, in an office environment, this communication flow often happens naturally. Now, your teams are apart, but they still need to share critical information. Email alone might not be enough to make this happen, so you may need to adopt other communication tools (including videoconferencing, see tool #2). The best example of this would be an instant messaging tool, which often comes as a part of enterprise-level email services (but may or may not be used widely in your organization). If you’re already using a chat tool, are you using it effectively?  It may be time to reassess, and refocus activities in the app to better leverage the capability to support remote employee engagement and the associated communication needs.

Engaging your remote employees requires a change from your traditional way of thinking, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. With a concentrated effort to focus on communication and bringing in gamification, the transition to remote work will be much smoother for your workforce. With all the ways you can make it fun and effective, they might not even want it to end! 

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