How to Keep Your Remote Team Engaged

How to Keep Your Remote Team Engaged

New 2020 stats from Global Workplace Analytics reveal that half of the U.S. workforce has a job that can be done (at least partially) remotely. What’s more, the recent increase in companies moving their teams to work-from-home arrangements due to COVID-19 now has many employers and employees alike questioning whether a return to the office makes sense. Many will continue business remotely—especially as some workers have expressed they may change jobs to avoid going back. 

With so many teams now tethered virtually rather than in person, learning best practices around how to keep a remote team engaged is more important than ever. For advice on this topic, Remote.co connected with Gabriel Engel, CEO of Rocket.Chat, who brings more than a decade of experience on how companies can effectively manage and engage remote teams. Read on for Engel’s top four engagement tips.

Master Both Synchronous and Asynchronous Communications

Managers of remote teams should think through various options for online communication to maximize engagement. This begins by understanding the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication

Synchronous communication refers to real-time information exchange that models face-to-face interaction. It allows for instant responses and immediate answers to pings, such as a phone call or various online messenger tools.

Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same expectation of a quick-turnaround reply—for example, email or productivity-tracker tools. Asynchronous communication allows for more focused, uninterrupted workflow, but a balance between the two types of connecting is what really promotes employee engagement.

“When teams start working remotely, they tend to use chatting applications more often,” Engel explained. “Therefore, people might expect that they are going to receive answers quickly/in real-time. That’s where async communication comes into the picture: it’s all about sending a message without the expectation of getting an immediate response.” 

To have better communication, Engel emphasized that people must develop a strong sense of awareness about when they must interact quickly, versus when a particular question or interaction can wait to be answered. 

“That’s why one of the secrets to being productive is balancing async and sync communication,” the CEO said. “You must find a platform to centralize your connection, allowing people to communicate both async and sync.” 

Ideally, the platform will have capabilities so that even when you are chatting with a colleague online, the person will be notified about your message, and you don’t need to interrupt them to communicate an idea. It also helps to have functionality that allows people to mention if they are busy or out of the office in their profiles through their status. 

“Knowing how to use mentions, discussions, and threads are vital to helping teammates understand the urgency of each matter, only being interrupted when necessary,” Engel said. 

Focus on Results and Purpose

According to Engel, engaging a team is proportionally related to the feeling of ownership and self-responsibility. For managers in charge of a remote group, this means letting people steer their own ship in terms of how they get their work done, honing in on their outcomes rather than their processes.

“As a remote-first company, our focus is primarily at results rather than micromanaging or closely tracking how people are working, the times they are online, etc.,” he said. Instead, Engel explained that the Rocket.Chat team facilitates the ability for people to feel united by a common purpose, giving them “maximum autonomy” to perform, deliver, and suggest ideas.

“We want our team to feel empowered to own their results without having to wait for someone to make a decision,” Engel said.  

Invest in Employee Engagement and Team-Building Tools

Engel emphasized that when everyone is remote, building a culture becomes harder. 

“If people are only meeting to discuss work-related issues, they might never truly create rapport or engage with each other,” he said. “You must be able to virtualize the typical water-cooler chats.” 

To that end, Engel noted that it’s important for remote managers to actively provide remote workers with opportunities to bond with each other if they want their team to experience high levels of engagement.

“At Rocket.Chat, we have a biweekly happy hour, and online gatherings are meant to engage our remote workers, creating a positive environment regardless of where our team is,” Engel said.

The CEO explained that the company also uses random questions—such as “What is a waste of money for you?” or “How do you make yourself sleep when you can’t seem to get to sleep?” to promote team connection and boost engagement. 

“We try to stimulate people to interact with each other and possibly find out funny or interesting things about their teammates,” Engel said.

Offer Benefits Based on Your Employees’ Needs

Another way to promote engagement with remote teams is by ensuring that employees are happy with their specific benefits package. Offering standard benefits is critical, according to Engel—but he stressed that being attentive to what your employees communicate is also vital to ensure that your company’s benefits are relevant for them. 

“We see benefits as an essential part that makes Rocket.Chat exciting as well as comfortable for everyone,” Engel said, noting that the company recently added mental health-related benefits to its benefits allowance, including helping employees cover therapy, gym membership, and other activities that can improve mental health. 

“We only found out that such things were important because we are actively listening to our team, taking their suggestions seriously, and providing as much space as possible for them to share their feelings and concerns with us,” Engel concluded. 

Stay Connected

Staying connected with your team is more important than ever right now. And so is helping your employees stay engaged with their jobs and each other. Looking for more advice on keeping your remote team?

Check Out Our Q and A With Leading Remote Companies >


By Robin Madell | October 9, 2020 | Categories: Remote Management


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