More employees are working from home due to COVID-19 and many organisations intend to remain remote for the foreseeable future. While it’s important for your company to create a remote working policy, how else can your organisation better support the needs of employees while they work remotely in 2021?
Remote work has increased by 173% since 2005. Most of this growth was gradual, however, in 2020 many organisations were forced to rapidly adopt a remote work atmosphere that they may have not considered before the pandemic. Today, employees are working from home or from various remote locations every day.
Due to the fast-paced change from in-office to remote work over the past year, many organisations and employees may not have been able to fully assess the functionality and productivity of this new working arrangement.
Employers face the challenge of adapting their business and transitioning employees into today's new normal. This article can help you find ways to connect with WFH employees to help them remain engaged outside of the office.
Remote Employee Engagement
Engaging with remote employees in 2021 requires more than switching in-person meetings to virtual video conferences. Since in-office employees were abruptly asked to work from home to abide by social distancing regulations, there is a lot of pressure for organisations to reassess their company dynamic and culture to continue to keep employees connected and engaged.
What is employee engagement? It’s an employee’s dedication to helping their organisation achieve its goals, which is represented by their actions. Engaged employees demonstrate characteristics such as:
- Intention: to remain working at the organisation with goals to advance
- Dedication: to produce effort above and beyond the role’s description
- Pride: to recommend the organisation to others
Employees who are engaged with their work are motivated to contribute to their organisation's success and committed to its goals and values.
How This Affects Your Organisation?
In order to achieve and maintain a healthy and productive remote team, employees and managers need to have a communicative relationship. It’s easy to lose contact with co-workers and managers while working from home, but constant communication can drive employees to feel more connected, motivated, and engaged. For employees, remote work and better communication can lead to:
- Reduced stress
- A better work-life balance
- Fewer office distractions
- Higher levels of engagement
For organisations, the benefit of remote work and more engaged employees can lead to:
- Higher productivity
- Higher job satisfaction and less turnover
- Savings on capital costs
An engaged workforce is important for any company, in-office or remote, however, it can be more difficult to keep remote employees engaged because there is less physical interaction and limitations on communication.
How to Keep Remote Employees Engaged and Productive?
Employee engagement strategies have changed since the beginning of 2020. Today employers have to factor in decreased employee interaction and lack of face-to-face communication with managers and the greater team. Lack of in-person communication makes it difficult for an organisation to share its culture and values with employees, which is what drives them.
Here are a few wellness tips to help your organisation keep employees engaged in 2021:
More recently, it has been determined that employees find it difficult to end their workday when they are working from home, leading them to overwork themselves. This can lead to physical and mental health issues such as computer vision syndrome (CVS) and employee burnout.
Providing employees access to health resources will help them maintain a healthier lifestyle. This incentive will not only increase engagement and productivity but it will also strengthen company culture. Your organisation's health resources could include:
A Wellness Chat
Many organisations use things like Google Services, to encourage communication in applications like Google Hangouts. Within these chat services, organisations can create a company-wide channel for important announcements.
Similar to that, your organisation should consider creating a ‘wellness channel’. Through a company-wide wellness channel, any employee or manager can share new health information at any time. Simply by sharing articles about burnout, computer vision syndrome, or the dangers of overworking, employees can learn how to be healthier while working remotely, which can lead to higher engagement. Employees might also feel a sense of camaraderie within this channel as they would be able to see that they are not alone in the struggles they are experiencing as remote employees, further driving company culture and team bonding.
A Health and Wellness Stipend
A health and wellness stipend is a sum of money an organisation can give to employees to purchase health and wellness items or services that are relevant to them and their needs as remote employees. It can cover any physical, mental, or financial wellness needs an employee might encounter while working from home and can be given out on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis.
A wellness stipend could help remote employees avoid the physical and mental health issues that remote work often induces, such as computer vision syndrome and burnout. Both of these conditions are caused by overworking and interacting with computer screens daily, which can lead to exhaustion, sluggishness, chronic headaches, eye pain, and blurred vision.
Employees could use the stipend to purchase new eyeglasses with an updated prescription in order to combat the effects of these conditions. Wearing the right prescription lenses can help the eyes focus, decreasing blurred vision, eye pain, and headaches. Eyeglasses are also more comfortable and sensible to wear during work hours as compared to other options available because they are easy to take on and off when needed.
A wellness stipend could also be used to pay any medical bills to primary care physicians, optometrists, or physical therapists, to buy more ergonomic office furniture to support healthy posture and blood flow, or to buy wearable fitness devices, all of which could help employees remain focused.
Desk breaks are important for two main reasons. First, to become active after sitting stationary for a long period of time and secondly, to take a break from your computer screen.
One of the biggest pitfalls of remote work is the difficulty to track and maintain regular work hours. Remote employees feel pressure to constantly be available online because they don’t want management to think they’re taking advantage of their remote atmosphere and contact is more limited from home than in the office. As a result, employees forget to take breaks which means they are at their desks for nearly 8+ hours straight per day.
Sitting on one's computer for 8+ hours can add to the aforementioned mental and physical conditions like CVS and employee burnout and it can also cause back pain, neck pain, weight gain, and lethargy.
Therefore, it’s important that management encourages and is transparent with employees about time allocation and expectations. Encourage employees to take breaks by incentivizing them with company competitions such as regularly sharing pictures from their daily walks or starting a wellness step challenge using compatible fitness trackers to get employees excited to move.
Employees can also use their health and wellness stipend to purchase a new wellness tracker if needed! Wellness trackers can track steps, heart rate, and calories burned, but more importantly, they can also remind you to get up and move when you’ve been stationary for too long.
Remote employee engagement can be difficult to achieve if you don’t adjust your organisation's strategies as your industry and today’s work climate evolves. Try incorporating new strategies like these into your business model to keep your employees engaged, healthy, and connected in 2021.