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6 Great Hacks to Build Engagement in Your Online Team

6 Great Hacks to Build Engagement in Your Online Team

We live in an increasingly globalized world, and it’s changing the way we work. Where businesses used to be confined to hiring from their local area, they now have access to talent from Australia to Zambia and virtually anywhere in between.

Entire projects, entire teams, or entire companies, may operate through telecommuting and work entirely online. Eliminating travel time, letting people work in a comfortable home environment, and even letting them choose their own hours can delight staff, and allow them to achieve a work-life balance.

However, there’s one major problem that remote workers face: isolation.

If your employees are scattered all over the world, they’re likely to be lacking in social interaction. In a good workplace environment, your coworkers are more than just fellow employees; you’re a “team”. Workers who feel a sense of belonging and engagement are much more likely to love what they do, and to work harder. While many office workers dream of working from home, many telecommuters miss the feeling of connection that they get from being in an office.

You may have heard of a psychological theory called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

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    Maslow theorizes that socializing with others is a fundamental human need. Self-esteem and self-actualization are also closely linked with human contact; the serotonin rush that comes with being told that you’re doing a good job is much more meaningful when there’s a face attached to that feedback.

    In short, keep people hunched over a computer alone for months or even years on end, and they’re not going to be happy campers.

    So, what can we do about it?

    1. Build a Community

    Make your remote staff feel like part of your company’s community, and ensure that they get to know each other and the non-remote staff.

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    By building up company culture, and proactively involving remote workers, you can help them to feel like they’re part of something bigger. Put staff profiles up on your company’s intranet, and include remote workers in the profiles. You could even consider using a service like Yammer to encourage team communication.

    2. Blog

    Many companies that hire freelance or remote workers use the company blog to keep remote workers interested and engaged.

    They’ll publish profiles of workers on their blog, articles published by those workers, pictures from the cities that they live, and so on. It’s a great way to encourage your remote workers to put faces to their teammates’ names and get to know each other as people!

    3. Facebook Groups

    Start a Facebook chat group for the team, where people can bounce ideas off each other, and also get to know each other. Many project managers only use e-mail to communicate with their team, and in an entirely top-down way.

    The result of that strategy is that the team members mean nothing more than a name and an e-mail address to each other. If you create a Facebook group, your team members may even send each other friend requests; nothing builds team engagement like seeing pictures of each other’s cats/children/lunch.

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    4. Recognize your remote workers’ achievements

    Lack of recognition can be a major drawback to working from home: remote workers frequently complain of being passed over for promotions because nobody in the office knows who are or what they do.

    Business News Daily suggests creating a system of virtual badges or rewards. One way to implement this to create profiles on the intranet for all staff, remote or otherwise, that show what badges/rewards they have achieved.

    5. Give remote workers opportunities for growth – and encourage them to come into the office!

    Let them know what room for growth there is in your company for remote workers, and also what potential there is to become an on-site worker in the future. Training opportunities that can be completed online are an ideal way to allow these workers to still make progress in their career while maintaining a telecommuting lifestyle, but also make sure that they are aware of training opportunities within the office if they live nearby.

    If they’re doing the same task every day, and there are other telecommuting tasks that they could be doing, let them mix it up a bit so that they can reduce boredom and learn new skills.

    Are there some tasks that are only being done on-site at present, that could be done by your telecommuting staff? Great managers and great companies are committed to nurturing their staff’s potential; this can be a bit more tricky with remote workers, but being a bit creative can really pay off in terms of engagement and staff retention. Who doesn’t want committed, highly skilled staff who love their work?

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    Also, if your staff is mostly located within the local area, you could offer part-telecommuting jobs. A 2014 Gallup poll found that staff who telecommuted less than 20% of the time were more engaged that the average on-site worker, but “active disengagement” with one’s company increased as this percentage increased, to the extent that staff working entirely from home “are nearly twice as likely to be actively disengaged (23%) compared with those who telecommute less than 20% of the time (12% actively disengaged)”.

    So if you want happier workers, part-time telecommuting is a great way to achieve that, but if you can, bring them into the office at least sometimes. Isolated, miserable workers are a high price to pay, and face-time at the office is a great remedy.

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      6. Socialize!

      You probably already have a strategy for engaging your on-site team, such as pizza nights, etc. Make sure that your remote staff are aware of these events and feel welcome. If your remote workers are simply too remote for this to be practical, you can still work on other ways that they can get to know each other. For example, having video meetings is a great way to brainstorm new ideas and make valuable new connections.

      You could dedicate an initial meeting to introducing each other, and playing the usual games that you’d use in an office to promote collaborative teamwork. In future meetings, try to encourage staff to talk about subjects other than just the task at hand: if your team members know each other as people, they’ll naturally be more engaged with the team and with their work.

      Building a team who love their work and who feel engaged with their fellow team members can sometimes be a challenge even when they’re sitting in the same office, but much more so when they rarely or never get any face-time with each other. However, taking the time to create a strategy for engaging your remote workers is a win-win; telecommuters who work in an environment that support their need for interaction and engagement will be happier, healthier, and far more productive.

      Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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      Lara Silbert

      Freelance content writer & University of Western Australia postgraduate student

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      Last Updated on July 13, 2020

      How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

      How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

      Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

      If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

      1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

      The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

      Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

      For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

      The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

      2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

      Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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      As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

      Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

      3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

      Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

        This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

        We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

        Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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        When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

        Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

        4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

        Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

        For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

        Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

        5. Make Decisions

        For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

        If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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        If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

        Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

        I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

        This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

        The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

        6. Take Some Form of Action

        Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

        The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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        It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

        Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

        The Bottom Line

        Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

        When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

        More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

        Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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