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Employee engagement for remote work: A redefined approach for the new normal

With the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, never have HR teams faced the need for innovative employee management strategies as in recent times.

According to a Gartner Inc. survey, a whopping 88% of organisations have encouraged or required employees to work from home (WFH). It sounds like a lift-and-shift of the entire workforce, from the office to their homes. If only it were as simple as that!

The sudden transition of telecommuting and teleworking on a large scale has proved to be challenging for both the companies and the employees. While employees might have relished WFH initially, the novelty has begun to wear off over time and it’s not uncommon to find disengaged and disinterested employees with a steady drop in productivity.

Employee engagement has set processes, but a process is only as good as its ability to serve the organisation and to help employees stay at their productive best.

The remote work challenges

Although in theory WFH sounds convenient, time saving, and productive, there are several challenges in the way of creating an effective remote employee engagement strategy:

  • Lack of communication:

    While technology makes communication easier and quicker, one of the biggest challenges faced by teams working remotely is efficient communication. With members of a team spread across geographies, misunderstandings and errors arise on account of lack of proper communication.
  • Lack of involvement and motivation:

    Remote employees may feel disconnected from company life. The sense of belonging to a work community revolves around teamwork, relationship with colleagues and leaders, commitment to a common vision, and loyalty to the company, all of which take a back seat during WFH.
  • Lack of direction:

    To avoid micromanagement, managers tend to loosen the reins of operations, giving leeway to employees to work with more autonomy. This practice may backfire if employees sense a lack of direction and lose their view of targets and goals.
  • Onboarding:

    Setting the right tone with new employees becomes a crucial challenge in WFH. A warm welcome, proper induction, and practical training allow employees be firmly placed in the company. However, if not done right, new employees can feel left out and demotivated, resulting in low productivity.

Workforce engagement today is, therefore, beginning to look different from the usual drill. Enterprises need to build a ‘remote yet real’ culture of trust, encouragement, and communication in ways they may not have envisioned before.

Principles of effective virtual employee engagement

Connecting employees with one another and the organisation and working with shared values are more crucial than ever. But how do HR teams handle employee engagement when employees themselves don’t even share the same physical workspace?

Here are some elements that deliver a truly effective remote engagement:

  • Establish open lines of communication:

    The key to success as a remote team is consistent, transparent communication. Organisations should regularly check in to feel the pulse of their employees’ motivation and provide accurate and regular updates. They should create opportunities for a two-way dialogue where questions are asked, concerns are expressed, and feedback, help, and advice are sought.
  • Create space for informal interaction:

    Employees need to stay socially connected — for real. Being in touch personally through informal calls, conducting virtual ‘fun Fridays’ competitions, non-work conversations, knowledge-sharing sessions (like a virtual book club), etc. go a long way in keeping employees happy and engaged, as well as their morale high.
  • Set the right goals for virtual meetings:

    Encourage group interaction and collaboration by hosting team or company-wide virtual meetings. Such initiatives can bring in a ’tangible’ sense of belonging to a larger team, along with meeting the goal of making people feel heard and valued. Use such virtual meeting platforms to recognise and reward employees for their work and targets achieved, as well as to help understand and redefine engagement goals.
  • Promote employee health and well-being:

    Stressed employees are more likely to retreat than reach out. Initiating a program that looks after employees’ physical and mental well-being shows them that they are cared for and are readily helped with eager and empathetic assistance from the company, especially during crises.

Optimising HR (remote work) operations with Infosys BPM

With remote work on the rise, HR executives need to act early on improvement opportunities. Enterprises needing to transition and manage WFH capabilities seamlessly should consider integrated outsourcing solutions that help the HR function during unprecedented times and achieve business objectives in employee experience, operational excellence, and compliance and control.

Our HR outsourcing solutions use the Design Thinking approach to study the gaps in employee experience and apply expert perspectives on ideal experiences. We help companies make employee interactions fast, accurate, successful and deliver a one-stop, stress-free experience that exceeds expectations.

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