Half of the global workforce currently holds a position that is compatible with remote work and 40 percent does work remotely at least part of the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics. While this trend has many benefits, Buffer’s State of Remote Work report found that nearly 20 percent of these remote workers felt lonely.
Fostering a sense of community not only helps reduce the loneliness that remote employees feel, but The Center for Talent Innovation found that employees who feel a sense of belonging are 3.5 times more likely to be productive. They are also more motivated and engaged, as reported by Harvard Business Review.
Enable them to work remotely as if they were at the office
This can be challenging to facilitate when you don’t share a workspace with your co-workers and employees. However, it’s a fast growing trend and you can’t just ignore it. Managers now need to find ways to create a sense of belonging among their entire team, regardless of where they’re located.
Luckily, the same technology that makes remote work possible makes it easier than ever to connect teams. Use these tips to do exactly that, ensuring all of your employees feel that they belong.
Touch base regularly
The EY Belonging Barometer Study found that regular check-ins keep employees from checking out, while also fostering a sense of belonging. While you can’t stop by your employee’s desk to check in on a project, you can still be in regular communication. There are many tools you can use to facilitate these check-ins, making it easy for you and your employees to stay in touch.
- Team-wide or direct chats are ideal for fast check-ins and updates.
- Email is an ideal format for longer check-ins, where you’re looking to get feedback or responses from the employee.
- Calls are important when doing group check-ins, so the team can communicate directly to one another.
- Video calls can be a choice is you haven’t communicated face-to-face for a long time with that person.
Don’t forget to check in about work and personal life. The same Belonging Barometer Study found that 39 percent of respondents said when colleagues check in both personally and professionally “they feel the greatest sense of belonging at work.”
Include them in celebrations
Though your remote employees may be based a thousand miles away, it’s still important to include them in company celebrations and customer wins.
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They’re just as much a part of the team, and working to make those successes possible. Remember to bring them into those moments via phone or video calls as this helps foster a sense of community and belonging that bridges the gap left by distance.
Acknowledge their contributions in front of the team
When someone is in the office, it’s easy to give a public great job praise, but it’s more difficult to adequately recognize employees publicly. As a manager, you’ll need to consider ways that you can honor your worker’s contribution in a way that their peers can see.
“Show them you care and make recognition an ongoing activity with an online recognition wall that keeps everyone up to date on the entire team’s accomplishments.”Cord Himelstein, Forbes Council Member
Find a format that works for your company and be intentional about recognizing all your employees in a public setting that allows them to feel seen by their peers.
Host group brainstorming sessions
Remote employees miss out on those impromptu brainstorming sessions that happen in an office. This means, without setting aside formal team brainstorming time, it’s harder for remote employees to share their creative ideas, reinforcing the feelings of loneliness. Plus, you’re not allowing employees to use their full range of strengths, which means the business is hurting as well.
The good news is you can still do it. It’s easy to facilitate such a brainstorming session. Furthermore, it will result in more ideas and allow for the creative flow of communication between employees. Schedule brainstorming meetings to happen via phone or video and make the most out of them by using these tips from Larry Alton, business consultant:
- Bring on the necessary people into your meeting.
- Set goals beforehand.
- Keep it short: “A faster session will require people to come up with ideas more quickly, and will prevent people from losing energy or motivation during the session.”
- Require participation.
- Encourage bad ideas.
Work remotely while still having a sense of belonging
It’s easy to feel isolated when you work remotely, especially if some of the coworkers go into an office every day. This leads to a lack of belonging, which can affect productivity and engagement among remote workers.
Use technology to your advantage, and go back to the managerial basics to ensure everyone on your team feels included, no matter where they work.