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3 Keys to Fostering Engagement in Remote Work Environments

Dustin Goeglein
Dustin Goeglein

When building engagement in remote teams, we encounter three major pain points: organic interaction, work-life balance, and accountability. In this post, we will address these pain points with some practical tips you can implement.

Organic Interaction

Our challenge right now isn’t lack of communication rather it’s a lack of organic or natural interactions. For example, saying, “Hey, can I schedule 15 minutes with you?” feels different than running into each other in the office.

Give zoom a break. Team members everywhere are feeling zoom fatigue, as a result one action you can take is having a phone call rather than video. Even a text may feel more informal and can be a useful alternative to the monotony of endless zoom conversations.

Skip scheduling. Not everything has to be formally scheduled. Even if it’s a short interaction, that text or phone call should feel authentic, just like the conversations we’re used to having in an office setting.

Throw in some curveballs. When conducting virtual meetings, try to surprise your employees and engage with them differently by asking questions they wouldn’t anticipate. For instance, ask what they’re most proud of in the last month, or what they’re watching on Netflix. It doesn’t matter exactly what the question is; the key is to mix up the conversations you’re having to create more authentic relationships. 

Work-life balance

The manifestation of improper work-life balance is burnout. Burnout is not a new concept, but the causes shift dramatically in a remote work environment.

As a leader, you set the precedence for this balance. That doesn’t mean if someone burns out it’s 100% your fault. While there is a responsibility for you to own, you can take some steps to help reduce burnout for your employees. 

Protect your work hours. If you love clearing out your inbox from eight to 10:30 PM, that’s fine, but when you send an email at 9:30 PM, you’re setting an expectation with your employees that 9:30 PM is a work hour. Unfortunately, adding something like “Hey, don’t feel like you have to respond” doesn’t change expectations. An easy solution is to write the email, then delay sending it until the next morning.

Take time off. If your employees hear you encouraging them to take PTO but have never seen you take a vacation day, you’re sending mixed signals. If you see the need for your people to step back, you might need to do that first. 

Accountability

Accountability is based on trust. Trust exists in your working relationships with the people you lead, but, like a long-distance relationship, you have to create new boundaries for the relationship in a remote environment.

Lean into transparency. We all have this seemingly forced transparency since we often see each others’ physical home on video calls, but this is an excellent opportunity to own that clarity. Be honest with each other about things like capacity and motivation. That is step one in building this new level of trust that leads to greater accountability.

Have hard conversations. Once you build trust, have hard discussions to define what success and failure look like right now. Allow your team to feel safe enough to share where they are and how that may impact their work effort. 

By leaning into transparency and building trust with your team, accountability will improve. 

If you’d like to go deeper on this topic, check out my latest podcast episode.

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