Working Remotely? How to Navigate towards Increased Engagement!

Were you wondering why there has been all this recent buzz about engagement? Looking at studies from 2017, Gallup found that in Luxembourg approximately 80% of the respondents felt disengaged in their work and in addition 12% felt actively disengaged – and Luxembourg is among the countries that had better figures than most! This means that a lot of companies have to deal with disengaged and actively disengaged employees, who do not perform to their best ability, all of which inevitably has a direct impact on their productivity levels. In the case of Germany, Gallup estimated the loss in productivity due to actively disengaged employees at between €73 billion and €95 billion per year[1]. This explains why it has become so crucial for companies to consider engagement and to ask themselves how they can turn things around and motivate their employees.

As a company specialized in change management for almost 20 years, MindForest has worked with a variety of companies and has regularly experienced the way they struggle to come to terms with employee engagement. For this reason, MindForest has decided to develop its own methodology called “Engagement & Performance” to help companies develop and sustain their employees’ engagement. The methodology is based on a compilation of different engagement theories whilst also taking its own experience into consideration. More specifically, the methodology comprises a first analysis of nine key drivers for engagement and detects where there may be a deficiency. In this way, MindForest helps to identify the root causes of the identified deficiencies and can subsequently propose an action plan that is suited to the company’s current situation.

In parallel, another trend that has been on the rise for the last decade concerns remote working. Innovation in information and communication technologies has facilitated access to this type of working model. Nevertheless, remote working can take different forms which can range from a couple of hours a week to full time, depending on the corporate culture and strategy. STATEC analysed the situation in Luxembourg and issued the following statistics[2]:

When can one talk about remote working? STATEC considered three principle elements[3] :

  1. The use of information and communication technologies,
  2. Working outside of the physical office,
  3. The regularity of this mode of working.

Remote working as a new model will require managers to review their processes and habits in order to be able to maintain their employees’ engagement levels and to try to turn their disengaged employees into engaged ones.

 

What are the impacts of remote working?

It is important to understand that remote working also has a significant impact on employees and their (current work) routines, although depending on how it is managed and implemented it can also represent a huge opportunity for organisations. Nevertheless, companies should be aware of the challenges that managers might have to face and the need to take some precautions, as there is mostly a flipside to each opportunity. For example while remote working can create an opportunity to increase work-life balance this can be a challenge to others, who tend to overwork and do not set regular workhours to the detriment of their free time.

Furthermore, while some people tend to feel more autonomous when working from home, being able to concentrate better and plan their own day, others become anxious about no longer exercising direct control and start micro-managing.

Some aspects of remote working are summarized in the table below:

Opportunities Challenges
Work-life balance Decrease in a sense of belonging
Travel time reduction Communication issues
Working time flexibility Overworking
Increased autonomy Micromanagement
Stress reduction
Cost reduction

What can managers do to keep their employees energy levels up and to ensure they are motivated and connected?

For MindForest, managers are key drivers to ensure that their employees remain motivated and engaged even if they are working remotely. We are all engaged at work for different reasons, which is why there is no magic formula or set of rules that fits all. However, managers can keep a check on some critical aspects and without too much effort, they can ensure that the process works smoothly. In this context, MindForest proposes eight golden rules to implement in order to help to engage remote working employees:

  1. Provide context and tools: it is even more essential for remote teams to understand the project’s purpose, goals and priorities for themselves and their team. Further, it is crucial to ensure that remote workers have the necessary tools to work with and that they know how to use them efficiently.
  2. Trust and expectations: managers have to review their expectations and let go of the assumption that remote workers don’t work enough or “hide” behind their colleague’s achievements; it is essential that all parties assume responsibility and learn to trust themselves and others to get work done. Studies have even shown that well-functioning remote workers often perform better than their counterparts in the office.
  3. Connect and collaborate: managers also need to show more presence as remote workers need a different form of dialogue from their on-site colleagues. For example, regular team meetings to guarantee cross-functional discussions are necessary. If remote workers are part of a team on site, it is important to integrate the remote workers in all meetings and let them speak first as they have not had any informal information given during breaks or similar. This ensures that they feel heard and included.
  4. Transparency: the information flow needs to be transparent, this is why managers need to implement the right tools and processes for workers to be able to follow and contribute to the different projects they are involved in without the risk of any loss of information.
  5. Culture protection: in a remote setting it is crucial to have an integrative culture and make sure workers understand, are aligned with and live the organisation’s core values.
  6. Valuable and personal: managers should always value and consider feedback received from remote workers and should make it a habit to be in personal contact with them. A sporadic email is not enough.
  7. Employee empowerment: management should implement a clear reporting system, which also values the performance of remote workers and shows recognition for contributions and progress. It should provide guidance and feedback to allow them to work autonomously.
  8. Emotional intelligence and wellbeing: managers should build on their emotional intelligence and help to co-create an appropriate remote working environment and corresponding routines with their employees, including emphasizing the importance of personal and professional wellbeing, both mentally and physically.

Conclusion

The digitalisation of the workplace will challenge companies in various ways among which the question of employee’s engagement will figure significantly. It will require them to adopt new approaches and find innovative ways to keep their employees engaged. It is now time now for companies to collaborate with their employees to develop their workplace of the future together and thus to make sure that this will help to develop their sense of belonging and engagement.

 

[1] https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/183851/employees-germany-engaged.aspx

[2] https://statistiques.public.lu/catalogue-publications/analyses/2019/PDF-Analyses-02-2019.pdf

[3] https://statistiques.public.lu/catalogue-publications/analyses/2019/PDF-Analyses-02-2019.pdf

For more information concerning MindForest’s Engagement & Performance methodology please contact Lene Pedersen: lene.pedersen@mindforest.com