How to Engage Virtual Workers

How to Engage Virtual Workers

Recent headlines about virtual or remote working have been all over the place, with the likes of IBM and Yahoo doing away with their work-from-home policy. The reason for implementing this policy change is primarily a feeling that remote workers were not as connected to the employer as they are supposed to be.
 Surprisingly, contrary to these actions, the “2017 State of the American Workplace” study by Gallup suggests otherwise. Remote employees who spent between 60% and 80% of their work hours away from the office saw themselves as the most engaged in the country. This data was true for those who were working so over the past four years. This brings us to the question whether remote working actually boosts employee engagement.
 Experts opine that there is a strong positive correlation between remote working and positive engagement, but only if it is followed in a balanced manner. The study found that the engagement levels were low (around 30%) for both types of employees i.e. full-time office workers and full-time remote workers. This means that the time spent in the office, and the time spent working remotely must be blended well to suit the workforce needs.
 While a balanced work arrangement is ideal, it does not mean that employers who cannot offer flexibility, need to live with low engagement levels. Autonomy at work is a much-valued arrangement, wherein the employee is empowered to take decisions, produce quality work, and thereby, directly contribute to the big picture organizational goal. 
 This change in employee preferences is primarily due to the changing nature of the employee. New generation workers are no longer looking at the employer value proposition from a single lens of remuneration. They are looking for additional benefits like leadership visibility, flexibility, work-life balance, and other intangible areas to help them achieve their professional as well as personal goals. With boundaries between work and life blurring, employees are placing importance on such benefits that allow them to achieve their full potential. Of course, a completely cut-off remote worker feels the need to connect with colleagues, seniors, and people in general at the workplace — humans are, after all, social creatures and need to feel part of the group. Hence it is important to create the right mix of remote and in-office work. 
 It is up to HR and line managers to achieve the optimum blend. One way is to allow employees to work remotely for a couple of days a week, and have them come to the office for meetings or on specific days. Where there is a globally spread workforce, HR must turn to technology — web conferencing for meetings and one-on-ones, video interactions for “informal connects”, video streaming for live or recorded leadership messaging and so on.
 Another way of establishing a “connectedness” is by developing means and tools for corporate social intelligence — introducing virtual interactive platforms such as an internal social media site or a shared-learning portal. This will bring together cross-geography virtual workers as well, as if they are under one roof, creating a sense of “oneness”. Companies that cannot delve out flexi-work options, such as factories, can benefit by assigning challenging projects and in-person leadership interactions. Some policy changes like time-share or shared-leaves can be implemented in such inflexible office environments. 
 Whether virtual, in-office of somewhere in between, it is important that every employee feels connected with the immediate team, function, and department; only then can we expect to bring out the best in people.

This article was originally published on HR Technologist

Source: Medium:Remote Working
How to Engage Virtual Workers

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