The traditional workplace environment has started to become a thing of the past as trends towards a flexible workplace are on the rise. Telework and telecommuting have become the new workplace arrangements for many companies and their employees. Global Workplace Analytics’ research of telework trends found that 50 percent of the US workforce have jobs that offer part-time telework at the least, and 80-90 percent would like to have this option part-time. Remote work has many benefits, but like a long-distance relationship, it might be difficult to stay connected.
Read on for some useful engagement strategies and insight from individuals who have worked virtually to help you stay connected while working remotely.
Get to know your team AND coworkers
A 2016 CultureWizard survey of trends in global virtual teams found that 41 percent of employees have never met their team in person. Many virtual employees use video and audio conference calls for improving communication, but often times there are still plenty of colleagues who they only know by voice or photos. Adam Karlen, a recruitment consultant and teleworker, highly recommends taking the extra effort to get to know your team members. He suggests active participation in team calls and sharing personal information about yourself — say what’s going on in your life, describe your plans are for the weekend, show off your pets, and so on. Getting to know your colleagues on a personal level strengthens and builds rapport outside the office.
Stay active on your company’s internal social network
Enterprise collaboration software, such as Yammer, is a useful tool for encouraging communication and collaboration within your organization. Many companies encourage engagement through internal social networks, and this is another tool Adam uses because “there are a variety of groups where you can find other co-workers who have similar interests as you.” To foster engagement, create specialty groups such as TED talk discussions, a group for foodies, or even a group where team leaders can share management tips and questions. You’re able to collaborate informally, join in on discussions and continue to get to know your colleagues on a personal level. If your organization doesn’t use an internal social network, here are some Yammer alternatives.
Join a committee
Committees are another strategy for employee engagement. Committees such as brand ambassadors, diversity and inclusion, or a committee focused on social responsibility can work in different ways to improve business operations while encouraging collaboration. Kyara Jackson, a talent attraction specialist, works remotely 50 percent of the week so she can balance her personal and professional responsibilities while her husband is deployed. Within her organization, she is on a committee which focuses on helping veterans and active military men and women transition back into the workforce. She said, “being a military spouse, the committee intrigued me immediately because it catered to a community I was a part of outside of the organization. After joining, I felt like it enhanced my professional skills while providing a chance to connect with those who don’t sit in the office.”
Take the initiative and suggest starting a committee for your organization if there aren’t any in place already.
Briana Kelley, a senior talent attraction specialist, spent about two years working at her organization's headquarters until a few months ago. She had the opportunity to move and continue working as a virtual employee. Given her experience in both the physical and virtual work environments, Briana suggests the following strategies to help feel more involved with your organization when transitioning between a physical workplace and telework:
Make a point to call team members on a more frequent basis – daily or otherwise, even if it's only for a few minutes. Having the ability to bounce ideas back and forth as well as staying abreast to what's going on in their personal lives is key to feeling connected.
Have multiple places in your home office to work. In an office environment, you would typically have several areas in which you could work to support the activity you're trying to accomplish. This helps keep your body and mind active. The same can be said for your home office! Have different areas where you can work to feel more collaborative and focused.
Take breaks. When working in an office, it's easy to remember to get up and get coffee or walk to the nearest office to say hi to a colleague. It's a little bit of a challenge to remember to take these small mental breaks when you're working remotely. However, these breaks can be critical to keeping productivity up and engagement high.
Lexie Murdough is the marketing intern with WilsonHCG. She received her Bachelors in Marketing from the University of Tampa, and recently joined the marketing team after spending seven months interning on the recruitment side of WilsonHCG. She is a graduate student at UT pursuing her MBA, and her passions include traveling, skydiving, spending a day at the beach, and unconditionally loving her cat, Luna.