Video Meetings Killed the Company Star: 7 ways to keep your remote team engaged 

Everyone – yes, everyone – seems to have an opinion on remote work.  

Are people more productive? Are they actually working? Is it necessary? Is it going away? Well, we’re not going down those roads today. The workforce is increasingly remote and it’s shown no signs of slowing down (we know, some companies are mandating return-to-office policies), so to us, it’s here to stay and we need to manage it effectively. 

With remote work firmly entrenched as commonplace, we’re more concerned with how to keep those employees engaged. That type of focus leads to improved productivity, a better culture – virtual or otherwise – and stronger relationships.  

To help get you started with engaging remote workers in ways that work, we sat down with Kirk Davis, Tandem HR’s senior director of HR client relations, to understand how he guides business leaders through this challenging and seemingly ever-changing issue.

This admittedly can mean a lot of things but comes down to this: Trust your remote workers until you have a real reason not to do so.  

Are they getting all their work done and delivering the results you expect? Excellent. Then don’t worry about whether they’re at their computer every waking second. Maybe they need to pick a kid up from school or go to a doctor’s appointment. If they’re effectively managing their schedule and it’s not impacting their work, don’t give it a second thought. 

When people feel they have flexibility they feel more in control and that leads to them staying more connected to their work environment.

Talking about structure and process on the heels of preaching flexibility may seem odd but hear us out.  

Remote workers need to understand your company’s dos and don’ts, so they can grasp your expectations. That means if you don’t have policies or common practices in place for key aspects of remote work then you need to create them. 

For instance, do you require cameras to be on during meetings? Should remote workers still adhere to a dress code? And, what hours must they be online, even if they have a flexible schedule? 

Clearly spell these policies out, put them in writing and ensure your team understands them.   

Employees are 2-3 times more likely to leave a company if they don’t have a friend or buddy at work. In a remote workplace, this is particularly challenging, because interactions happen almost exclusively online.  

One way Davis likes to break down this barrier is to pair up people on projects or to connect folks with similar work responsibilities so they can discuss their challenges, successes, etc. Davis doesn’t leave this to chance. Instead, he intentionally connects people because he’s aware of the impact it has on employees – both professionally and personally. 

Even the most engaged employees struggle to stay focused in every meeting. Make the meeting virtual and it becomes more difficult.  

One way to address this is to rotate who leads meetings. Maybe once a month, a different person sets the agenda, drives the conversation and manages action items and next steps.  

Davis said this approach helps people find purpose in recurring meetings and challenges them to stay involved. It also helps spur new ideas and ways to approach business problems because not everyone leads in the same manner.

It’s cliché by now, but yea, many meetings could’ve been an email.  

If an agenda is light or you don’t have a real purpose for bringing people together in a formal meeting then cancel it. Trust us, your team has plenty of work to do and will appreciate getting that time back.  

“Don’t get sucked into the routine of just having meetings on your calendar for the sake of it,” Davis said. 

You’re thinking, “homework, really?” 

Yes, homework. We’re not referring to a work-related project or task.  This is about building relationships that foster team growth.  

Along with setting scheduled check-ins with every person on your team, let them know you’re serious about building a relationship with them and helping them grow. For instance, you could give them homework asking them to bring three things that motivate them in life to your next meeting. It shows you care and actively engages them to connect with you.

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Companies counting keystrokes. Managers monitoring mouse movements. This, friends, has to go.  

If you’ve effectively done your job as a leader, your employees understand expectations and the objectives they need to meet. If they’re accomplishing those things, don’t worry about whether they’re at their computer when you “think” they should be.  

“Younger generations are not responsive to micro-management and as soon as they sense its presence, you’ve lost them,” Davis said. “By that point, they’re looking for another job and putting feelers out.”