More than ever before, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have massively changed the way we live and work. With growing safety and health concerns in 2022, companies and the global workforce continue to adapt to the new normal of work with the rise of remote work opportunities. According to the EY Global Employee Survey 2021, the majority of the workforce, including 1,037 respondents across Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines), prefer to work anywhere (32%) or remotely full-time (29%).
It is not surprising that the Covid-19 pandemic and the global phenomenon of the “Great Resignation” has accelerated the move towards the “future of work” in terms of remote work, freelancing, and other forms of gig economy out of necessity. Given the exciting prospects of remote work and freelancing, a common challenge faced by large organizations and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) is remote employee engagement.
Working in a virtual environment across various locations makes employees feel less included and disconnected without social interaction, unlike working in the same physical space. In this article, we share effective ways for employers in various business models to keep their freelancers or remote employees motivated and engaged.
1) Invest in technology to stay connected
The strategic use of technology to maintain effective communication among freelancers or remote employees is essential. Tools such as Zoom, Asana, and GoToMeeting enable teams to meet, manage, and track their work productively. Encourage your teams to embrace cloud-sharing of files to save time, costs, and better accessibility.
Hosting video-conferencing calls ensures talents, especially those who work from home, feel included and promotes group collaboration. Set aside time regularly to build personal connections with freelancers or remote employees and freelancers via virtual hangouts or virtual teambuilding activities to stay connected socially without the stress of work issues. This way, your freelancers or remote employees will feel motivated to be a part of a team that genuinely cares for their overall well-being.
2) Maintain open channels of communication
Since freelancers or remote employees work during non-conventional hours and in different time zones from their teams or employers, they may feel disconnected. The comfort of knowing they can reach out to their colleagues or managers virtually makes them feel more connected.
Considering the availability of freelancers or remote employees in different time zones to set virtual meetings goes a long way to build strong connections with employees and show them that you respect their personal space and prioritize work-life balance.
3) Cultivate remote work culture
Companies need to develop new work culture around remote work settings. Start by attracting the right fit among international candidates by ensuring your company profiles online highlights remote and freelance work prospects as an integral part of your business model through engaging content.
Communicate company goals, updates on new projects, new work policies, and expectations in clear terms to freelancers or remote employees and touch base with different teams on a one-on-one basis regularly to gain feedback and ensure everyone is on the same page.
As for new hires, a valuable onboarding process that provides relevant training, additional support, and a platform to voice work-related issues will empower them to remain engaged through collaboration and communication with other freelancers or remote employees.
4) Actively listen and give constructive feedback
When employees feel heard, their productivity and work performance increases tremendously. Never fail to remind employees that you are available for a one-to-one chat to resolve any work issues or discuss career advancement opportunities or even tools that may improve their work performance. Give constructive feedback and keep freelancers or remote employees in the know of any action or reasons for not taking action so that their opinions are valued. Regular interaction with freelancers or remote employees helps companies improve workflow processes and manage existing and future remote talent.
5) Make remote workers feel appreciated
Remote employees, freelancers, and other gig economy workers often put in extra hours to meet urgent deadlines. A simple gesture, such as acknowledging their efforts during virtual weekly team meetings, organizing virtual hangouts to celebrate birthdays, and rewarding them with a small token of appreciation for their hard work, shows that you treat them as invaluable assets to the growth of the company.
Based on adequate feedback from your freelancers or remote employees, encourage online resource group sessions for freelancers or remote workers with similar interests and personal experiences or challenges, such as groups for working parents, fitness, mental health support groups, etc. These online resource groups are voluntary and employee-driven so that their active involvement builds trust and employee bonding despite geographical boundaries.
Implementing a virtual recognition system for managers and peers to comment and share feedback on work performance and contributions towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives boosts remote workers’ self-confidence and increases employee retention and engagement. Companies that do not take their freelancers or remote employees for granted provide a sense of belonging and make them feel invested in their role for the long haul.
6) Leverage flexibility
Remote work and the gig economy thrive on flexibility. Although weekly meetings need to be on a fixed schedule for the mutual benefit of workers in different locations, give your freelancers or remote workers the freedom to work out a work schedule that suits them the best while balancing personal commitments. As each talent has different productivity levels, trust that they will get the job done. Flexibility builds trust between management and remote workers and leads to higher employee engagement.
7) Monitor workload to increase efficiency
Managing remote teams can be challenging because it is difficult to determine if an employee is overworked as they have the autonomy to organize their schedule to meet deadlines. Make an effort to connect with your remote team at the end of every week or fortnightly to ensure they do not get burnout by a heavy workload.
8) Equip freelancers or remote employees with the right tools
With the right tools, freelancers and remote employees will perform their work well from anywhere in the world. Adequate training and efficient online technical support make them feel less disoriented. Touch base with them and ask if they have a suitable working space at home or cover partial costs of co-working spaces for employees who find it challenging working from home due to distractions. Showing remote workers and outsourced talents that you care for them will ensure the long-term growth and success of the company.
9) Offer hybrid work options
The “new normal” of work makes us realize that different people are more productive in different work settings. Hybrid work arrangements (i.e., work from home and the office when needed) create a happier and more motivated workforce. If employees work from home need and need some time off to manage family commitments, allow them to stay connected through video-conferencing tools and out-of-office responses. Companies that realize every talent does not fall into a fixed mold should prioritize hybrid work options for better job flexibility that leads to greater employee engagement and lower turnover rates.
As remote work and the gig economy will continue to flourish in the coming years, it is imperative for companies to establish strong remote work culture to manage and engage your freelancers or remote employees. Don’t be afraid to explore other creative ways to engage remote teams.
Start by implementing these strategies for a more productive, healthy, and engaged remote workforce for the long haul!