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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

      More by this author

      Lara Silbert

      Freelance content writer & University of Western Australia postgraduate student

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      Published on January 16, 2019

      How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

      How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

      We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

      You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

      You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

      That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

      Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

      1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

      Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

      We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

      To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

      At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

      The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

      2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

      Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

      The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

      In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

      It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

      It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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      So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

      • Are you a great strategist?
      • Are you an effective planner?
      • Is Project Management your strength?
      • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
      • Are you the ideas person?
      • Is Implementation your strength?

      Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

      3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

      One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

      Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

      Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

      Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

      4. Take Time for Planning

      “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

      One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

      You can take the time to think about:

      • What’s the purpose of the project?
      • How Important is it?
      • When does it need to be delivered by?
      • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
      • What are the KPIs?
      • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
      • Who is working on this project?
      • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
      • What tolerances can I add in?
      • What are the review stages?
      • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

      Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

      5. Focus on Priorities

      Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

      Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

      One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

      1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
      2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
      3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
      4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

      James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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        The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

        If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

        If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

        6. Take Time Out

        To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

        If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

        Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

        In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

        Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

        7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

        Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

        I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

        Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

        If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

        8. Stop Multitasking

        Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

        So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

        When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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        If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

        9. Work in Blocks of Time

        To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

        I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

        Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

        Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

        Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

        Then take another 10-minute break.

        Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

        By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

        10. Get Rid of Distractions

        Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

        “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

        Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

        If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

        11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

        You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

        Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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        Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

        12. Take a Time Audit

        Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

        Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

        You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

        Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

        Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

        At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

        If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

        13. Protect Your Confidence

        It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

        When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

        Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

        When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

        Final Words

        A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

        The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

        If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

        Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

        Reference

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