Putting a ‘virtual arm’ around remote working employees can help boost performance, says Clare Moore
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From financial incentives to awards and peer recognition, keeping employees motivated is key to engagement and performance.
Yet, while most people will endure a ‘bad day at the office’ now and then, employees that continually lack support or feel isolated from the business and its common objectives are even more likely to become demotivated and disengaged – with obvious consequences in terms of productivity and employee retention.
At a time when working patterns and employee expectations are changing, any strategy to improve engagement should recognise the different types of work and environments that employees face and the different types of challenges.
For example, employees working from an office environment may feel they lack flexibility or autonomy, or suffer from a domineering, micromanaging line manager.
Remember the remote workers
Addressing the needs of remote workers that have little or no face-to-face contact with colleagues or managers can be even harder, especially those who may feel isolated from their employer.
From sales and account managers to frontline healthcare workers or emergency service personnel, while remote workers often enjoy more flexibility and autonomy, they can become disconnected from their colleagues and their employer.
In some instances, when remote workers become disengaged, the potential consequences may extend beyond negative financial outcomes.
Take care workers, for example. Belonging to a private or public organisation, in theory they are part of a team. In reality, many care workers hardly ever see their colleagues or manager as they visit clients in their homes while coming under considerable time-pressure.
In these and other health and care-based professions, research shows a clear link between employee engagement and patient satisfaction, with potentially life and death consequences: according to a Gallup report higher nurse engagement scores linked to lower patient mortality and complications.
Working under the same roof or working apart, a sense of community and shared purpose is always important.
To truly engage and connect employees, workplace technology needs to replicate the experiences of social media
Yet, without a medium for connecting people and sharing ideas, employees in the same room can feel disconnected from their neighbours, not to mention colleagues working in different locations or in the field.
Sense of belonging
To bridge this gap, it is important that employees not only feel empowered to approach colleagues and share information and ideas, but also that they feel connected to the organisation itself – its goals, mission, values and news.
When people feel like they belong to something bigger and are working towards a common purpose, they often find it easier to make sense of their work and understand their individual contribution.
Teams play an important role in supporting this collective sense of belonging. A go-to network for support, feedback, collaboration and socialising, and the positive interactions they support, can be key to improving all-round performance.
Naturally, this is harder to achieve for those who work remotely – which is precisely why social technology has an important role to play.
In the information age, the ability to connect and communicate with anyone, instantly and regardless of location using social media, instant messaging and video calls, has the potential to bring friends and family closer than ever.
From arranging parties on message groups to singing Happy Birthday to a sibling on the other side of the world, more and more of us have embraced the potential of technology in our home lives – so why do we still feel isolated at work?
While most workplaces have adopted platforms such as Slack and Skype, to truly engage and connect employees, workplace technology needs to replicate the experiences of social media. It should be intuitive, fun, easy to use, mobile and – of course – secure.
Designed specifically to boost teamworking and engagement, business social platforms give employees a dedicated forum to connect across teams, departments and locations; fostering a culture of openness and collaboration.
From a teamwork perspective, connecting via this secure space helps to make it faster and easier for everyone to stay part of the conversation as well as breaking down internal siloes, ensuring information flows freely throughout the organisation, but no further.
Rather than hearing it second-hand, there are also spaces for employees to catch up on company news, see what other people are working on and to give and receive recognition – all via their mobile phones – regardless of where in the world they are.
Whether it’s a global business or a small team of remote workers, in today’s world of work social technology offers an important virtual opportunity to reach out and get everyone in the same room.
About the author
Clare Moore, head of marketing at People First