Keeping Remote Workers Motivated

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The trend toward telecommuting shows no signs of slowing down. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of remote workers grew by nearly 80%.[1] The numbers show that 50 million workers in the U.S alone could (and want to) work remotely.[2] As this data demonstrates, people who work remotely are often involved in the decision to do so. In fact, many remote workers specifically seek out roles that allowed them the flexibility to work outside the office. When asked, 79% of U.S. workers say they would like to work from home at least part of the time.[3]

Working in Isolation

In spite of this preference, many remote workers find that working from home, or any other location physically separated from one’s work team, has its own challenges—even for those who prefer solitude. No matter how much they might appreciate the autonomy and flexibility of telecommuting, remote workers can still feel isolated and out of the loop working alone. 

Remote and Connected

If current trends continue, determining how to keep remote workers motivated will be increasingly important to the many companies who employ them. Here are a few things employers can do to help:

  1. Have a remote work policy that applies to everyone: Instead of treating remote workers as exceptional cases, identify which work can be accomplished remotely and which work requires a physical presence in the office and define the policy based on the work rather than the individuals. 
  2. Cultivate trust and connection: Make sure people are properly introduced and provide opportunities for connections to be made. People need to trust their teammates to deliver on promises and to be there when needed. Trust can be hard to establish remotely, so facilitate the process as much as possible by providing contact information and technologies that support connection (telephone, chat, video chat, video conferencing, wiki pages and other online collaboration tools, etc.)
  3. Provide full access: Few things make a remote worker feel more isolated than not having the same access to information and work tools that people in the office have. Make sure your remote workers have ready access to the same resources you provide the “home team” and any additional technologies they may requite to stay connected.
  4. Keep them informed: It can take time for company news to circulate at the best of times. Don’t expect remote workers to rely on an already imperfect company grapevine. Proactively share important company information with your remote workers (and everyone else!). Make sure remote workers are added to all appropriate distribution lists.
  5. Provide some structure: Establish a regular time for remote workers to log-in with their managers and their teams. If at all possible, occasionally bring the team together in one location, perhaps at an annual conference or team-building exercise. Knowing there is regular, predictable contact with managers and co-workers can help remote workers stave off feelings of isolation.
  6. Remember to recognize remote workers: Be sure that satellite employees are not overlooked when determining recognition and rewards. Don’t let “out of sight” mean “out of mind” when it comes to recognizing employee performance. This will likely take conscious effort since our brains are wired to respond to the most recent and proximate stimulus–which clearly favors employees we see every day.

Finally, if you’re not sure what your remote workers need to feel more connected and part of the team, ask them. Keeping remote workers motivated and engaged may involve new logistical challenges, but it’s otherwise no different from keeping the rest of your employees motivated and engaged. And what’s the best way to do that? Get to know them, find out what makes them tick and then factor what you’ve learned into your process.


Keep your remote and local employees connected with NetSuite TribeHR.  Sign up for your free trial today.

[3] WorldatWork Telework Trendlines 2009

Who is the Customer?

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Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Many organizations place exceptional customer service at the heart of their mission. Sometimes, this focus on service is the primary element of their brand that sets them apart from the competition. For these companies, customer service is “mission critical.” But who, exactly, is the customer? Typically, a customer is thought of as the client, buyer, or purchaser of an organization’s products or services. For companies who identify customer service as a key differentiator in the marketplace, however, this perspective leaves too much to chance. Every employee who deals directly with these external …

What’s the Buzz at TribeHR?

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TribeHR prepares for ALS ice bucket challenge! Things are pretty exciting here at NetSuite TribeHR. We’re working on next generation HCM software that is truly awesome. On a daily basis we engage with fascinating businesses around the globe. We’re regularly hiring interesting and talented new people. Soon we’ll be too big for our current space, so a move to bigger and better digs is also in the cards. I’d have to say that there is a definite positive energy happening. Work is a lot of fun these days. Not that it wasn …

Motivation in the Workplace: What Drives Us?

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Employee engagement has to be the #1 HR buzz phrase for this decade. How do we get employees to plug in and turn on at work? How do we foster the level of emotional and mental connection with the company and the job that allows them to put forward their best efforts, and love doing it? In their efforts to compete and achieve sustainable growth, employers offer everything from foosball to catered lunches and unlimited vacation to keep employees happy. Sometimes it works and people shine and companies win awards for being great places to work. But sometimes it doesn&rsquo …

3 Tips to Make Employee Engagement More Social

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Employee Engagement is Intrinsically Social We know that employee engagement is both important and also woefully low in most organizations. Despite all the resources put into traditional engagement initiatives, the needle still isn’t moving. Why? The problem with traditional engagement efforts is that it is viewed as the domain of managers. Meaning, let’s give data and leadership training to front-line managers, and they’ll do a better job of engaging their workers. That’s a good start, but it doesn’t tap into the most powerful force for engagement: the workers themselves. According …

Presenteeism: the One Thing Worse than Absenteeism

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Wikimedia Commons, Public domain Absenteeism occurs when an employee misses work intentionally, creating a habit of taking unscheduled time-off for a variety of reasons, legitimate and otherwise. Common Causes of Absenteeism Bullying and harassment – Employees who are bullied or harassed by coworkers and/or bosses are more likely to call in sick to avoid the situation. Burnout, stress and low morale – Heavy workloads, stressful meetings/presentations and feelings of being unappreciated can cause employees to avoid going into work. Personal stress (outside of work) can lead to absenteeism. Childcare and eldercare – Employees may be forced to miss …

People Remember What They Feel

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Last week, someone shared a very powerful quote with me. It was attributed to Maya Angelou, American author and poet. “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Although deceptively simple, Angelou’s words have the ring of truth about them. As a quick test, think about these questions: What do you find when you flip through your mental scrapbook of memories? Who and what do you remember in your …

Holiday Office Party Etiquette (or how not to go down in flames!)

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Flickr/Daniel Stockman The time for year-end holiday celebrations has arrived. Having heard of (and witnessed) a number of employee flameouts at past festivities, I thought this would be a good time to restate the fundamentals of office party etiquette.  The company holiday party is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a business function and it pays to keep that in mind. Here are a few tips for making sure that this year’s holiday party brings only good things your way. Drink alcohol in moderation (or not at all if you’re driving). …

Thanksgiving in the Workplace

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In the United States, Thanksgiving is not just another day off. For many, it’s their most anticipated holiday; the time of year they head home to connect with family and friends, wherever home may be. Time Off and Peak Travel Historically, many companies have given employees a “four day weekend” for Thanksgiving, with both the Thursday and Friday being paid days off. This practice is generally reflected in the public and institutional sectors as well. Some employees further extend this extra-long weekend with vacation entitlements (and the occasional convenient sick day). Apparently, most employees use this …

How Can We Engage Employees When We Won’t Talk to Them?

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The simple answer—we can’t! Ceridian recently released their Pulse of Talent Survey. The survey deals with rewards, feedback, and motivation, with regard to generational differences in the workplace. In the category of Communication and Expectations, the survey found that “performance feedback is critical to ensuring job satisfaction and employee retention”. Unfortunately, the survey also revealed that, in 2012, only 54% of respondents had a formal meeting with their boss to discuss their job performance. Furthermore, only 10% of the sample was promoted in 2012. Of those promoted, 72% were not told why. Overall, the survey found that only 1 …

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