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The rules of distributed employee engagement

Published 29 Apr 2021
1 min read
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For many businesses, it took a pandemic to shake up the way we work. It took a pandemic to make us reflect on and assess the effectiveness of the way in which we work – a way we’ve known for as long as we can remember. But now, gone are the days of doing the 9-5 grind at your desk and spending all of those empty hours commuting. Now, a distributed workforce is taking the lead as the preferred working style of choice and we couldn’t be happier – and your employees also couldn’t be happier! How do we know? We recently conducted a survey and found out that 84% of people enjoy working from home and 92% would continue to work from home regularly if given the opportunity. So, you understand the concept of a distributed team and you’re ready to hit the ground running, but how do you ensure you’re keeping your employees engaged? How can you maintain pre-pandemic engagement rates you experienced in the office when everyone is working from wherever they want? Before we answer those questions, let’s unpack what it means to be a distributed team.

First things first – what is a distributed workforce?

A distributed workforce is a workforce or team that is not confined to working in one central office location. It allows employees to be located away from each other – whether interstate, overseas, home, a local coffee shop, a co-working space, or in the head office. The main benefit of a distributed workforce (or hybrid team) is empowering employees to choose where they work best. After 2020, many businesses and employees have become accustomed to working from home, and for many – the benefits have been obvious. Now, the question everyone is asking is how can you create a workforce that blends the best of both worlds, whilst keeping levels of distributed employee engagement at an all time high? Read on as we share the rules of distributed employee engagement and how to keep your team feeling motivated, inspired and at the top of their game – regardless of the where in the world they’re working from.

Have the right tools and software in place that will support your internal communications

When you have a distributed team, communication is top priority. Without the ease of simply being able to tap someone on the shoulder in the office, you need to have a thoughtful, effective way to communicate that works for everyone. Our suggestion? Basic requirements will see you use emails to communicate with external stakeholders and an instant messaging tool like Slack to communicate internally. But proactive leaders will think far beyond this. You should introduce a tech stack that includes everything from project management right through to HR and people management tools. Having a full suite of software can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your team engaged. Remember, by providing them with everything they need can empower them to produce their best work.

Hold regular WIPs, 1:1s and All-Hands meetings

Now you’ve nailed how you’re going to manage your digital communication, it’s time to set a cadence and agenda for meetings – both face to face and virtually. Before you jump in, you should outline what meetings you want to have, and once you’ve decided -it’s time to commit. By holding regular meetings, your team will be across everything they need to know. During All-Hands meetings (which everyone in the business attends), you should encourage members of your leadership team to talk through any exciting updates, upcoming events or milestones. This is a chance for them to lead by example, and can really help build your team up to create an inspired workforce. Think of it as an opportunity to keep your team feeling inspired about your company’s mission. Whether it’s daily team WIPs (work in progress meetings) to identify any roadblocks and updates, weekly 1:1s with your direct reports, or fortnightly All-Hands meetings, the ball is in your court when it comes to finding what works best for your team.

Ensure your in-office culture is replicated for those working remotely

When you’re in the office, it’s easy to see and feel your workplace culture firsthand. Within the first few minutes of entering an office, you’ll be able to get a general feeling of the company culture. Having a great company culture can do wonders for employee engagement and according to Deloitte, leadership is the backbone of driving culture which in turn leads to increased team engagement and performance. But with a distributed workforce, it’s a whole new ball game. Developing a positive distributed workplace culture requires work. You need to set expectations for both on-site and remote workers to make sure that values and policies align. When it comes to creating a positive culture in a remote-first workplace, you need to make sure all activities are done virtually – and if that isn’t possible, provide remote employees with an opportunity to attend in-person.

Prioritise employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing for a distributed team may look a little different compared to that of an entirely office-based team. When your team feels their wellbeing is supported, they’ll be more likely to remain engaged with the company. However, an employee’s wellbeing can easily take a dive if they’re working remotely and feel the effects of burnout and isolation. That’s why it’s never been more important to support your team and prioritise their wellbeing. Not to mention that 89% of employees at companies that support wellbeing initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work. To prioritise employee wellbeing for your remote workforce, you should break it down and ask your employees what matters to them. Break up each element into physical, mental and financial wellbeing, and create a survey. From here you’ll be able to find out if your team wants to have your in-office wellbeing initiatives replicated online (e.g. virtual yoga or personal training), or would prefer access to an employee assistance program (EAP), or regular personal finance sessions. Did you know Employment Hero has an in-built Custom Survey tool? This feature allows you to ask your employees questions that can help you improve employee wellbeing and engagement for your distributed team. Learn more about Custom Surveys here or get in touch with one of our small business specialists here.

Consider the remote first approach to work

A remote-first approach to work gives your team the flexibility to choose where works best for them. It involves remote working being your primary preference for your employees, with the needs of those working from home prioritised first. The remote-first approach revolves around two elements: Work remotely and socialise locally. Remote-first work doesn’t just support an employee’s choice to work from home, it actively encourages employees to work remotely, with the option to come into the workplace if they choose to. The concept involves deep work being completed at home and the physical office being used as a place for socialising and collaboration. As a result, you’re likely to spend less on office space, but more on social events and bringing everyone together. You should also actively encourage a virtual culture and try to replicate your in-office activities online.

Champion a culture of reward and recognition

Did you know that 44% of employees are being driven to switch jobs due to a lack of reward and recognition? This a worrying statistic, proving that many companies are not investing in adequate reward and recognition for their team – and this was a pre-pandemic statistic meaning that this was occurring when many were purely office-based! When you have a distributed team, it’s more important than ever to create and instil a culture of reward and recognition. Without the daily interactions and ease of personally saying ‘thanks, you did a great job’, reward and recognition can quickly slip.

How can you reward and recognise your distributed team?

  • Provide opportunities for career growth and development
  • Offer financial incentives such as bonuses or commission structures
  • Use the power of words on your internal communication channels
  • Bring your distributed team together regularly for celebrations – think fancy dinners, weekends away and lunch clubs for high performers

No budget? No worries

If you’re reading this and thinking “this is well out of budget”, don’t worry – we’ve got you. Try these low-budget reward and recognition incentives that can help to boost distributed employee engagement for your team. The more personalised, the better!

  • Company merch for great work. Think t-shirts, water bottles, mugs, keep cups, hats
  • Give certificates or trophies
  • Introduce an employee of the month award
  • Handwritten thank you notes from the CEO or the leadership team for a great job

Did you know Employment Hero is purpose built for distributed teams? Our Recognition and Shout Out features make it easier than ever before to reward and recognise employees who are going above and beyond in their role. Recognition allows employees to nominate their peers and attach a monetary reward to them with Hero Dollars. It’s a perfect way to recognise your co-workers! If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with one of our small business specialists today.

The wrap up

Switching to a distributed workforce has countless benefits. A happier team, a more engaged workforce and the power to give your employees the option to work from wherever they want. But while the benefits are obvious, it’s important to maintain employee engagement when your team is apart. With a few initiatives in place and a focus on distributed employee engagement, you’ll be on your way to creating a high-performing team you’ve always wanted!

Want to learn more about distributed workforces? Take a look at our playbook here.

RemoteWorkPlaybook_Desktop - distributed employee engagement

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