Like it or not, remote work is here to stay. The shift towards more flexible work environments, specifically remote and hybrid styles, has become prominent in a post-pandemic world.
During COVID-19, employers had no choice but to shift their workforce online. But now they are prompted with a choice — to stay fully remote, shift to a hybrid style, or bring everyone back to the office.
With 85% of job seekers specifically looking for either hybrid or fully remote options, being able to support a remote workforce is essential. There are pros and cons to each working style but ultimately it comes down to flexibility and listening to employees. At Redbrick, a Canadian portfolio of disruptive digital companies, we chose to implement a hybrid work model with some team members staying fully remote and others coming into the office regularly.
Our solution to keep remote employees engaged was to create a purposeful strategy and prioritize two-way communication. Employee engagement has proven to be the key factor that will determine whether employees are satisfied and will continue to perform well. So how do we make sure our people are happy?
Virtual touch bases for the team
At Redbrick, we found that the single most important thing needed to maintain engagement while working remotely is consistent and purposeful interaction from the manager.
Any good manager knows how important regular touch bases are. In a remote environment, regular one-to-ones become even more important so the manager can keep a pulse on how the employee is doing and can help them to resolve any barriers.
Keeping employees in the loop in a remote environment requires a solid communication strategy. One tactic is hosting monthly company all-hands meetings, which give executives an opportunity to share how the business is doing and where the company is headed. Team members can ask questions, share ideas, and learn more about where they work, getting them excited about growth opportunities and instilling a passion for the work they are doing.
Virtual employee newsletters (with plenty of photos) are also a great way to highlight personal celebrations like birthdays, engagements, babies, weddings, fun facts, and other updates. It can also be used to celebrate wins and recognize individuals and teams who are excelling.
Comfort is key
It’s hard to be engaged if you’re physically uncomfortable in your environment. This is why we offer an allowance to all team members to help them set up their workspace at home.
This stipend allows employees to purchase any office equipment they need to work comfortably. Whether you need an ergonomic chair or a standing desk, employees are given free reign to create a home office that best suits their needs. Having an enjoyable workspace also reflects on employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. Designing a home office is a fun task and allows team members to express their creativity, while also creating separation between their work and living areas.
Introducing new hires
One of the initiatives we have at Redbrick is a buddy system for remote new hires. In an office environment, it is easy to chat with those around you and ask questions. To mimic this desk-neighbour relationship, we partner new employees with someone on their team to be their buddy.
The buddy will meet with them weekly for the first few weeks and will be someone they can go to with questions and form an early relationship with. This helps the new employee to feel welcome and learn more about the company.
In the office, there is a lot of small talk that happens throughout the day at the coffee machine, or during breaks. Replicating this online can be tricky.
One way to accomplish this is through chat rooms. At Redbrick, we’ve built Slack channels to help people connect over various shared interests, from cat lovers to parenting, to dad joke enthusiasts. This builds relationships within the team and allows employees to communicate in a fun and informal manner, similar to how they would in real life.
In office settings, you are often exposed to employees from all facets of the company — from HR to accounting, executives to junior staff. However, working remotely often does not allow for these connections to happen unless you create opportunities. This is why we set up monthly virtual coffee pairings where team members take a coffee break over Zoom with a team member from an area of the business they wouldn’t normally work with.
Our CEO also participates in communications throughout the company and he makes it a regular practice to pop into our all-company Slack channels to share quick updates or a personal anecdote, replicating the in-person experience.
Recreating in-person events for remote participants
Another way to keep employees engaged is to recreate in-person events for those participating remotely. At Redbrick, we find creative ways to spread company culture through special gestures. For example, remote team members who weren’t able to attend our holiday party were sent a gift basket and a Visa voucher so that they could enjoy a holiday dinner on us.
Monitoring for employee satisfaction regularly
Assessing employee satisfaction can be a challenge in a remote setting. People may not voice their thoughts as openly as they do in person or it can be difficult to spot when someone is feeling stressed and burnt out.
Being able to track and monitor trends across teams is key, so we can identify any small concerns early before they become big ones. Using a cloud-based survey tool that monitors and reports employee wellbeing and eNPS (an easy-to-implement scoring system that helps companies track employee satisfaction) allows employers to keep a pulse on engagement so we maximize our ability to retain our top talent.
There are many ways to creatively engage employees even when working remotely. Although there is no substitute for human interaction, virtual solutions have proven to be effective at retaining employees and keeping them satisfied and involved in the company’s culture.