Flexible working is edging closer towards the norm, with approximately 43% of employees now working remotely at least some of the time, according to a recent Gallup study. If we add to this percentage the number of employees working outside of the conventional office setting i.e. firefighters, paramedics, sales reps, we find a high number of staff that could be totally cut off and disengaged from the workplace. This leads us to the question: are your remote staff engaged in the workplace?
Flexible working offers employees the advantage of freedom and autonomy. This in turn has been shown to increase levels of engagement and productivity. However, on the flip-side would be the benefits of collaboration and camaraderie employees can feel when present in the workplace.
This may seem obvious but keeping the lines of communication open at all times is vitally important. In an ideal world we would be having a weekly one-to-one with our staff but this may not be practical. Technology has revolutionised the means by which we facilitate conversations by providing numerous alternatives to face-to-face communication. Examples used in the workplace include speaking on our smartphones, hosting video calls, emailing one another, using mobile messenger services, social media or interacting over hr software.
Clearly, the effectiveness of these communication lines varies depending on the nature of the conversation being held and the technology used. For example, video calls are ideal when team meetings are taking place, whilst messenger service are appropriate for sending a brief, instant message.
Using a Performance Management System like Actus Software, you can open up the lines of communication by setting company wide, team or individual objectives within the system and by showcasing your company values. You can also use Actus to record virtual one-to-one’s, by typing into the system items you wish to raise for the other party to then review and respond to at their leisure. This not only provides a useful record of conversations held but is a flexible tool that can be used by employees on the move.
In the physical workplace it is much easier to recognise a member of staff that has done well. For instance, by ringing the office sales bell when a deal has been secured or by a team member thanking their colleague during a coffee break for the help they gave on writing up a report. These types of recognition should be fairly common in organisations with a strong sense of culture, yet they become less automatic when an employee works remotely.
For a start, a remote staff’s work may be less visible and therefore their achievements may be too. This feeds back to our point about communication being key and using technology as the next best alternative. One suggestion would be to use a performance management system that allows the whole organisation to recognise other members of staff. The Actus Recognition Module does just that by pulling through the core organisational values for employees to recognise a colleague against those values . Actus Software further enables an audit trail of all the recognition given, ideal for appraisal time, where managers are looking for evidence on how an individual has performed.
Whilst it may not be necessary for employees to be present in the workplace due to the nature of their work, holding regular events within your organisation that everyone can attend presents an ideal opportunity to build engagement amongst team members that may otherwise not interact. Whether this be a formal quarterly conference, team building exercise or even a pub lunch, these events are set to engage, motivate and unite teams. Events can also be a great opportunity for colleagues to share useful information and to learn from each other.
It is important that staff feel that they have the right resources to carry out their job effectively outside of the main workplace. An employee working from home would need a laptop with the right software and access rights. A sales rep working across numerous territories would need to be well-equipped with marketing collateral and a mobile phone with a list of important contacts they may need.
Employees that report back to their managers using a performance management system require access to a mobile friendly, intuitive and easy to use software, otherwise they would struggle to use the system effectively whilst on the move. Without such key resources in place, employees are likely to feel frustrated and unable to carry out their jobs effectively.
Above we have outlined ways to keep remote workers engaged, with an emphasis on technology playing a key role. The benefits of flexible working are plentiful – for employers they tick the flexible benefits box, can save on resources and enhance productivity. For employees they face fewer distractions and even reduce their chances of becoming ill from contagious colleagues! Furthermore, in some industries the very nature of someone’s job means that they must work remotely. It is however important to recognise that technology can facilitate but not replace the need for human interaction in the workplace, at least from time to time.