Employee Experience

How to keep remote employees engaged

Before the Industrial Revolution, it was common for men and women to work from home or have hybrid work-homes such as street-facing shops or workshops. The rise of factories in and the Industrial Revolution drew workers outside of the home and that’s where society camped for about 200 years, until about the 1980s when telecommuting really set in. The invention of the personal computer and cell phone have made remote working even easier and today, some companies have an entirely remote workforce.

In America, 4.3 million employees work from home at least half of the week. The remote work trend is on the rise as large companies such as Amazon, Dell, Cigna, and Salesforce are hiring remotely and more and more people want a shorter commute and a better work/life balance. However, because they’re not in the office, remote workers can feel less connected and disengaged from their co-workers, which can harm performance.

If you hire remote employees, below are 9 ways you can keep them engaged, happy, and motivated.

1.   Host meetings via a video hosting service

In-person meetings are better than phone meeting because you can read the person’s body language resulting in improved communication. Since in-person meetings are not an option with remote employees, video conferencing is the perfect solution. Face-to-face interactions build trust and it forces employees to look at each other when they’re talking. If you only operate by telephone, your employee could be doing the dishes while on the call and no one would even know. GoToMeeting and, Zoom are great video-hosting resources.

2. Schedule weekly check-in meetings

If you manage a remote employee, you should have weekly check-in meetings to connect on daily tasks, expectations, goals, and upcoming projects. It can be difficult to keep the work remote employees are doing top-of-mind because they’re not in the office, and you want them to know you value their work. They will also benefit from the clarity and human connection.

3. Host in-person gatherings

If your entire workforce is remote, your company should plan a meetup one to two times per year to forge relationships, encourage bonding, and gain alignment on the company goals and vision. For some employees, it will be the only time they meet their co-workers or boss in person.

If the majority of the workforce is in an office, it’s vital that you bring the new remote employee into the office to meet the team and their boss. They should come one to times a year after that to continue to build rapport with the team. If remote employees don't get interaction with a team that’s always together, they may feel left out.

4. Use task/project management software

Project and task management software should be used even if you don't have remote employees, but it’s crucial for remote workers to understand what to team is working on. Task tracking can help teams meet deadlines, set priorities, and understand the overall goal of the project. Asana and Trello are good resources for remote teams.

5. Utilize a chat system

In a physical office, if an employee has a question they can just walk across the room to someone’s desk and have a conversation. Remote workers don't have that option so using a chat system like Slack or Google chat can help employees get their questions answered quickly. Chat programs also keep your chat history in one place, so you can search old information.

6. Ask about their personal life

Remote workers miss the water cooler conversations and the opportunity to know their co-workers over lunch and in-person interactions. In your team meetings (on video), ask your remote questions about their personal lives and families. This will build trust and camaraderie among employees.

7. Offer perks for remote employees

Remote workers miss out on free lunches, an office gym, and commuter perks. To give remote employees equal benefits, many companies offer specific perks for remote employees such as gym membership reimbursement, home office stipend, and professional development opportunities. If specific benefits are part of your company culture, they should be available to all employees, regardless of location.

8. Recognize great work

It’s easy for the CEO to congratulate Bob on his outstanding product launch when he’s in the room, but remote workers often get overlooked. Recognizing remote employees for their great work motivates them to perform better and interact with their colleagues. Make the recognition visible so office employees and others notice as well.

9. Allow flexibility

Many remote workers choose to work from home because they desire flexibility. It’s important to put the emphasis on what’s produced instead of when it’s produced. For instance, if a remote worker wants to work 12-8pm because he’s more productive at night, and he can still get to scheduled meetings, let him work at night. Remote workers have many reasons for desiring flexible hours such as taking care of a child or elderly parent, finishing school, or for medical reasons. Having a flexible policy allows them to feel less stressed and perform better.

10. Send the occasional employee pulse survey

Employee pulse surveys are a great way to stay in touch with your remote employees. Pulse surveys are a quick survey that is typically shorter than the annual or quarterly employee engagement survey. Using a robust employee pulse software will allow you to segment your results by office location (or lack thereof) and dial in on how remote workers are feeling compared to in-office employees. The most important part of employee feedback is taking action on the results, download our ebook below to learn how to improve the experience for remote employees.

Learn how to keep a pulse on remote employees


Diana Kaemingk

Diana Kaemingk is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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