Work-from-home arrangements are more common than ever. Employees love the flexibility and employers benefit from having happy employees. However, keeping employees engaged and productive from a distance can be challenging.
Paul Eccher, co-founder and principal of workplace solutions firm The Vaya Group, said telecommuting is expected to become even more common in the coming years, especially with the increased number of businesses expanding globally.
Eccher points to a finding by the Society for Human Resource Management that more than 40 percent of HR professionals believe a larger portion of their work force will be telecommuting within the next five years.
“However, just because these workers are out of sight does not mean they should be kept out of the loop," he said. "Leaders must learn how to effectively manage virtual teams in order to improve the bottom line and sustain talent over time."
Eccher and Vaya Group co-founder and principal Dave Ross offer several tips for motivating employees who work from home.Their recommendations include:
- Invest time in relationships: Getting to know team members is critical, even when face-to-face interaction is limited. Take time to learn about each worker’s career aspirations, strengths, style and development gaps.
- Recognize accomplishments: Recognition is a powerful driver for keeping employees engaged in their work. Consider creating a team newsletter that highlights individual efforts or hosting yearly award banquets over the Web. Acknowledge personal and professional milestones by sending staff members a customized gift, whether it's a gift card, flower arrangement or gift basket.
- Gather feedback: Frequent phone or video conferences with employees will allow managers to present new assignments that align with the workers' interests and strengths. Use these or separate conversations as a way to gather feedback; listening provides an opportunity to learn more about remote workers and ways their work experience can be improved.
- Develop interactive communication: Allowing work teams to engage across distances can lead to higher career satisfaction and sense of belonging. Go beyond email to develop an interactive team intranet that allows individuals to share ideas, post accomplishments and ask questions. Utilize Web conferencing, webcams and other virtual systems that permit more real-time conversations.
- Schedule face-to-face time: Face-to-face team kickoff meetings and subsequent regular live meetings can be incorporated with team-building exercises to provide additional opportunities for staff to develop personal connections and build camaraderie. If meetings are infrequent, create virtual team-building games, such as having everyone send in little-known facts, then displaying it for the group to guess whom the facts describe.
"With these simple tips," Ross said, "leaders can build camaraderie, create a more positive work environment and encourage stronger business performance regardless of distance."