At first glance, it may seem easy to engage remote employees. After all, several recent surveys show that most employees prefer to work in a remote team rather than in the office. 

A Bankrate survey shows that 64% of adults in the workforce “support a fully remote schedule instead of going into the office every day.” More women (70%) than men (59%) want to be full-time remote employees. Younger workers, like millennials (69%) and Generation Z (68%), support working remotely full-time far more than baby boomers (50%).

Engaging a remote team involves several key factors that go beyond basic management. In this article, we look at ways to effectively engage remote employees and discuss why fostering employee engagement is crucial for success. Join us as we explore practical ways to build a motivated, connected remote workforce.

Try Hubstaff free for 14 days

Get started
remote employees engaged

An eye-opening report from Gallup shocked many business owners and leaders, revealing that from 2020 to 2021, the employee engagement rate fell from 36% to 34%. While that may seem like a small drop, it was the first annual decline in employee engagement in a decade.

Things did not improve in 2022, with only 32% of employees reporting they felt engaged at work, and 18% said they were “actively disengaged.” A Gallup report released in mid-2023 showed that while employee engagement had ticked back up to 34%, there was a “red flag”—“remote employees’ connection to the mission and purpose of their organizations has deteriorated to a record low.” 

Gallup says this is a concerning issue that business leaders must watch in 2024. Also worrisome—16% of the workforce is “actively disengaged.

Remote employee engagement among younger workers

The decline in employee engagement is particularly acute among America’s younger workers. Another report from Gallup shows a “dramatic decline” in employee engagement among millennial and Gen Z workers.

Remote employee engagement of workers born between 1980 and 1988 “has declined by seven points, from 39% to 32%, while the percentage” of those who say they’re “actively disengaged has increased by five points, from 12% to 17%.”

Similarly, employee engagement of workers born in 1989 or later has declined five points, from 40% to 35%.

Gallup says these younger workers are more likely to be working remotely. This is where employee retention becomes an issue. These remote workers are not engaged. They are more likely to seek new jobs with a company that better understands managing a remote workforce and understands how to engage remote employees.

Chart of employee engagment

So, businesses need to develop ideas to improve remote employee engagement.

How to engage remote employees 

Effective remote team engagement requires innovative management strategies, especially as studies reveal a decline in employee engagement among remote workers, particularly younger employees. Businesses must actively develop and implement methods to connect with and motivate their remote workforce to boost engagement and retention.

Engaging remote employees effectively is crucial for sustaining productivity and morale in modern hybrid and remote work environments. A significant challenge lies in bridging the gap created by physical distance to ensure that all remote employees feel connected and valued, no matter where they are located. 

This section explores three key strategies to enhance engagement among remote employees.

1. Employee engagement surveys

One issue many remote and hybrid companies encounter is inadequate internal communications.

It’s easy to keep your team informed, monitor workflows, and show them you care when you share a workspace. It’s much more complicated when your remote employees are hundreds—or thousands—of miles away.

If you’re not sure what your remote team wants, ask them. Employees are likelier to open up when they can be anonymous, so consider sending your team an employee engagement survey.

Surveying your team members makes them feel more valued and engaged. It shows that you care about their wants and needs and helps you understand employee sentiment. 

Surveys are also a great way to get ideas about employee engagement for remote workers.

Questions to ask:

  • What do you think are our strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you appreciate about working here?
  • What do you like about your job?
  • What are your pain points?
  • Do you have any recommendations for improvement?
  • Do you think we’re living our mission?
  • As a remote employee, do you feel like a team member?
  • Do you have any ideas for remote employee engagement?
  • Do we have enough team meetings to engage remote employees?
  • If you were me for a day, what would you do differently?

Using employee feedback surveys or pulse surveys help to gather feedback helps you better manage your remote employees. Employee feedback surveys give you insight into employee morale and show how engaged your team members are with other employees, which is particularly important for remote workers. 

They also show you if your remote employees understand your company’s mission and purpose and know how to deliver on it.

What surveys can tell you about employee engagement

Don’t make surveying your employees a one-and-done activity. Survey them twice yearly (three or four times is even better). This way, you can monitor the trendlines.

  • Are your employees getting more or less engaged over time? 
  • Are there differences in attitude between your in-office and remote teams? 
  • Do employees like working remotely? 
  • Are new problems/complaints cropping up? 
  • Are they still on board with your company’s mission and goals? 

Frequent employee engagement surveys will help you gather feedback and detect potential issues before they escalate.

After you’ve surveyed your team and analyzed the data, it’s vital to take action on what you’ve discovered. Consider forming a committee or group or select a point person to learn more and recommend solutions.

Taking action lets employees know that they were heard and that you take employee feedback seriously. That’s also why it’s important to share the survey results with your whole team. Sharing the results helps your employees feel that they’re impacting how the business is run and that you’re committed to continuous improvement. You want to build a company culture of open communication.

2. Effective communication

In hybrid business models, in-office employees often benefit from direct interactions with business owners, enhancing employee engagement and integration within the company. However, remote teams may miss out on these valuable face-to-face opportunities. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to consider alternative methods to increase remote employee engagement and to provide a connection with the leadership team.

One idea to boost remote employee engagement would be to hold an open session via a video conferencing app like Zoom to encourage spontaneous interactions, maintain an open line of communication, and ensure your in-office and remote teams are on the same page. Encourage all team members to drop in for a quick chat, ask questions, or share updates. This “open door policy” creates a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere where everyone, especially remote workers, feels comfortable participating.

There are also many communication tools available to help increase remote employee engagement. 

Tips to Enhance Remote Engagement with Communication Tools

Tips to engage remote workers via communication tools

  • Keep it simple. Choose a user-friendly communication tool like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Chat for instant messaging, file sharing, and team meetings.
  • Video calls make a world of difference. You can’t beat face-to-face communication. Encourage team members to talk to each other via video conferencing. It helps them get more comfortable with one another and fosters a sense of belonging.
  • Create dedicated channels. Within your communications tool, create separate channels for specific purposes like team projects, company announcements, department meetings, quick questions, and casual conversations. 
  • Have fun. Consider adding a “fun” channel for sharing funny memes, photos, and jokes. This helps build camaraderie and a sense of community.
  • Be aware of time zones. If you have team members living in different time zones, make sure everyone knows what they are so people aren’t disturbed too early or too late in the day. Maintain “core hours”—the times you expect everyone to be online and available across all time zones. This makes it easier to schedule calls, team meetings, and collaborate.

Helpful remote meetings and communication

Consider conducting online town hall meetings regularly. They can help keep the entire team connected and informed about company goals, strategies, and achievements. You can share updates, address concerns, and celebrate successes at these meetings. Let team members ask questions and provide feedback. 

Virtual meetings are a good venue for handing out employee rewards or holding employee recognition programs. Employee recognition is a savvy way to keep remote workers engaged since, sometimes, the saying, “Out of sight; out of mind,” means they get overlooked when you’re offering kudos for a job well done.

Another great communications tool is publishing an online company newsletter or e-magazine where you can share accolades from satisfied customers, recipes, birthdays and anniversaries, health tips, highlight key performing employees, and more. Putting one of your remote workers in charge of publication will further connect them to the rest of the team.

3. Making work fun

A great way to create a highly engaged employee team is to weave fun into your company culture. That includes celebrating your accomplishments as an entire team and as individuals.

There are many great ways for a business with a remote workforce to have fun.

  • Hold after-hours happy hours. Make attendance voluntary since happy hours are held outside work hours. Happy hours allow your remote team to relax, unwind, and bond outside work-related tasks with all their colleagues. Happy hours help eliminate the loneliness remote workers sometimes experience. Encourage everyone to share personal stories, hobbies, or interests, creating a sense of camaraderie.
  • Foster social connections. Encourage your team to schedule virtual coffee breaks and lunches together so they can establish personal relationships and strengthen team bonds.
  • Game night. Schedule online game nights, trivia quizzes, or even remote escape rooms to have fun and build informal connections. Check out platforms like Jackbox Party Pack or Kahoot! 
  • Virtual book clubs or movie nights. Choose a book or movie everyone can watch/read and then discuss in virtual meetings.
  • Remote volunteering or challenges. Organize virtual volunteering initiatives or team challenges focused on giving back to the community.
  • Promote hobbies and interests. Create a channel on your communications system where employees can share their hobbies, passions, and interests, allowing them to get to know one another.
  • Stage virtual talent shows and karaoke nights. These can be really fun. Do some of your team members have hidden talents and skills? Let them show them off. These could include singing, telling jokes, or even juggling.
  • Giving gifts. Sending or giving small gifts to your in-office and remote teams is a great way to reward employees and boost employee engagement. It can be as simple as sending hot cocoa or warm socks to remote employees living in cold climates or a gift card for ice cream in summer. Small gestures convey a caring company culture and help keep your remote workers engaged.

Employee engagement matters

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that one of the five biggest challenges facing small businesses right now is attracting new skilled workers and employee retention. Their Q4 2023 Small Business Index reveals that:

  • 53% of small businesses agree there is a worker shortage in their local areas.
  • 45% say they searched for new talent in 2023, up from 36% who said so in fall 2021.
  • Over half of businesses that searched for talent in 2023 reported that it is hard to find candidates with the experience (54%) or skills (52%) that their businesses need.

This underscores the importance of keeping valuable workers. Numerous surveys have shown that engaged team members are happier and more loyal, reducing turnover and absenteeism and increasing employee productivity. 

Encouraging remote employee engagement

Retaining employees saves you money since the actual cost of replacing the average employee runs from .5 to 4 times their annual salary.

Other benefits of having engaged in-office and remote employees include:

  • Happy team members have higher employee morale and are better at customer engagement, helping create satisfied and loyal customers.
  • Engaged workers work harder and are more productive employees. This is particularly important for remote workers who can be more easily distracted by working from home.
  • An engaged workforce is more likely to collaborate and generate creative ideas.

Last words on remote employee engagement

As your business grows, you will face new and unique challenges, particularly when trying to keep your remote workforce engaged. 

It takes work to keep employees engaged. Remote employee engagement is even more challenging. 

As the team leader, it’s your responsibility to foster an office environment where your remote workforce always feels connected, engaged, and motivated to contribute to the company’s success.

Category: Remote