Have questions? Ask us!

Keeping Your Remote Worker Happy – A Guide for Employers

The benefits that result from prioritising your remote worker’s welfare can be grouped into both direct, measurable financial benefits, such as not needing to rent office space, to intangible benefits, such as employee loyalty and good mental health, and company branding. This guide illustrates how you can keep your remote worker engaged and happy. 

1. Creating a Safe and Comfortable Work Space for your Remote Employee
2. How to Keep your Remote Worker Connected
3.  Fostering Company Culture with Remote Workers 

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Work Space for your Remote Employee

Just as you would provide your local employees with a conducive work space, remember to do the same for your remote employees. Your remote employees are likely going to spend on average 30-45 hours a week working, and so creating a comfortable space for them to work in is very important. Just because they are out of sight, does not mean they should be out of mind!

Setting up a Home Office for your Remote Worker 

Occupational health and safety (OH&S) is largely taken care of in larger commercial buildings. Items such as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are readily available and taken for granted. This is not the case in home offices. Below is a comprehensive list of requirements which should be met to ensure the safety of your employee while they work from home.

  1. General
  • Floor is clear, and free of clutter and hazards
  • Floor around the work area is level
  • All cables are secured under a desk and away from heat sources
  • Work area is quiet and there is no excessive noise
  • Work area is separated from other hazardous areas in the home e.g. hot cooking surfaces in the kitchen
  • Work area contains a first-aid kit
  1. Fire Safety
  • Work area has a fire extinguisher
  • Work area has a smoke alarm/detector installed
  • All radiators and heaters are kept away from flammable liquids and items
  • Path (walkways, doorways and aisles) to emergency exit is not obstructed
  1. Electrical Safety
  • Ensure all plugs, cords, panels and outlets are in good condition
  • Ensure all electrical outlets are grounded with three-pronged plugs
  • Ensure power outlets are not overloaded and there are not any permanent extension cords
  • Switch off power when not in use
  1. Security
  • Ensure there is adequate security to prevent unauthorised entry
  • Ensure the work area can be secured
  • Ensure that files and data are secure
  1. Environment Conditions
  • Adequate lighting for activities
  • Glare and reflection can be controlled/eliminated
  • Ensure there is air flow and good ventilation
  • Room temperature can be controlled

Home Office Ergonomics for Remote Workers

In addition to having safe and secure working environments in the home, physical items which are used while working, or to produce work, should be set up in the most ergonomic way to prevent long-term chronic illnesses such as back pain and vision impairment.

While providing safe working spaces has obvious reasons, providing ergonomic solutions to employees is less evident. The examination of 250 ergonomics case studies by the Washington Department of State Labour and Industries revealed five benefits of providing ergonomic work spaces for employees, which are:

  1. Reduced costs
  2. Improvement in productivity
  3. Improvement in quality
  4. Improvement in employee engagement
  5. Creates a better safety culture

Listed below are things to check regarding chair, desk and computer equipment.

Workstation Ergonomics

Chair

  • Ensure the chair has a stable base (preferably 5-point base)
  • Ensure the chair moves freely
  • Ensure there is sufficient lumbar support – use a lumbar pillow if it is not adequate
  • Feet are flat on the floor – or use a footrest if you cannot reach – to ensure knees are bent at right angles and thighs are parallel to the floor

Desk

  • Ensure there is adequate leg space underneath the desk
  • Ensure the height of the desk allows the arms and forearms to be at right angles, or slightly greater, when resting on the work surface
  • Ensure forearms and wrists are flat when resting on the keyboard
  • Ensure the equipment that is regularly used is within easy reaching distance from the seated position – stand, do not reach, for items further away

Computer Equipment

  • Computer monitor should be adjusted so that the top of the screen is at, or just below, eye-level – place monitor on a support bracket or a stack of sturdy books to achieve more height if necessary
  • Ensure your main screen is positioned right in front of you when utilising multiple screens
  • Sit at least an arms-length away from the screen
  • Use head-set and speaker to prevent cradling of the phone between the ear and shoulder

Make sure to also remind your remote employees to take regular breaks. Prolonged, static postures can inhibit blood circulation and harm the body. Some ideas include:

  • Take short 1 to 2-minute breaks every 20-30 minutes of work
  • Take a longer 5 to 10-minute break after every hour, switching tasks perhaps
  • Avoid eye fatigue – look away from the screen periodically, refocusing your eyes on something further away
  • Rest your eyes by covering them for 10-15 seconds

This list of health and safety tips was compiled through a number of sources. These sources are listed below. They provide an even more comprehensive insight into certain other considerations which are conducive to helping your remote employees establish a safe and comfortable working environment.

How to Sit at a Computer

Working (Safely) From Home

Work Health and Safety Checklist

How to Keep your Remote Worker Connected

“One of the most difficult parts about managing remote workers is simply remembering to loop them in,” Grosse says. It’s just as important to include remote workers in team meetings and publicly recognize their contributions as it is for on-site employees.” 

A part of keeping your workers happy is making sure they feel connected to the company. It is easy when colleagues sit next to each other and are able to take lunch breaks together. Unfortunately for remote workers, these smaller activities which establish connections and relationships with the people they work with are harder to come by.

Increased closeness also fosters the desire to work together and achieve goals as a team. As the company grows and your number of remote workers increases, it is important to establish tools and practices which foster activities that allow your in-office employees to get to know their colleagues who work remotely.

Tools to Engage Remote Workers 

Long gone are the days where we have to dial an operator to connect us to someone overseas. Technology has improved leaps and bounds, where we are able to have the virtual presence of our colleagues at a moment’s notice. Perhaps the issue now is choosing which application is the most useful out of the dozens of services available to us.

Different levels of communication call for different applications:

Face-to-face

  • Zoom
  • Skype

Audio calls

  • Skype call
  • Phone

Instant messaging (IM)

  •  Slack
  •  Skype messaging
  •  HipChat
  • Asana

Emailing

However, simply installing all these programs and tools is not enough to get your employees to connect. It is establishing practices that utilise these tools to create seamless communication that is key.

Best Practices for Managing Remote Workers 

Individualised work schedules and times zones all contribute to making it difficult for employees to contact each other, but it is very important to establish times where employees will be consistently available to answer any phone calls, messages or emails.

Scheduled one-on-one video calls are important for remote workers, as they are not able to “pop in” to your office for a chat, or they are not able to engage in “watercooler” chat with colleagues during break time. Conducting frequent video calls is a replacement. How frequently you check in one-on-one with your remote workers depends on their job role, personality, or experience. It is always a good idea to over-schedule and cut back if the extra ones are not necessary, rather than scheduling too little, as a call to increase the number of video calls can give off the feeling of needing to be monitored more often.

Team retreats are also key to building relationships between you and your employees, and for your employees to get to know their colleagues at a more personal level. Although financial committed is high, spending a week on a retreat working, eating and playing together will help to forge bonds that would not happen without everyone getting together in the same place.

Conversely, if yearly employee get-togethers are not an option, taking trips every now and again to visit your remote employees as the manager or the leader of the company will mean a lot to them. It shows your respect for them, and shows that you are willing to get to know them in their environment better. Stay for a little while longer and work remotely too, so that you understand the issues your remote employees may be facing from their end.

The biggest lesson to take away from is that as the leader of the company, the precedent and expectation must be set by you as the leader so that your employees are aware of the standard and the value of properly building channels to create seamless communication.

Fostering Company Culture with Remote Workers

Off-site employees routinely miss events like holiday parties and lunches celebrating team accomplishments. They aren’t there for the Monday morning “watercooler” discussions around who died on Game of Thrones that can bring co-workers closer together. It won’t take long for remote workers to feel left out and possibly become disengaged if they are not included in the culture.” 

Company culture is important for employees, as it provides them with an expectation of how the organisation would like them to feel while at work. It is the experience they should have working for your company or team. The benefits of fostering good company culture, particularly for start-ups, means that turn-over is less likely, and companies with good culture have been proven to be more profitable.

Here are some tips on how to foster good company culture with remote workers.

Get Your Tools Right

Ensure that the tools that you choose match your culture and communication methods. With remote teams, communication and social interaction is very limited without the right tools. By providing a means to communicate easily takes away the feeling that keeping in contact is a chore, and the more seamless and easily accessible the tool is, the more likely employees and colleagues are to use it to connect with each other.

For more general news and updates, regular newsletters (weekly or monthly) can help keep employees up to date with celebrations and events that have occurred, or will occur.

Mandatory Chit-Chat Time

Integrate team building into the culture by enforcing compulsory chit-chat time in the gentlest way possible. Randomly allocate pairs or groups of three people and set aside specific time each week to engage in non-work talk to build camaraderie and trust.

Optimise Work for Remote Employees First

Structure activities to optimise the experience for remote workers first, before in-office workers. Traditionally, the thought may be to streamline processes for in-office employees first, and create exceptions and accommodations for remote workers. However, this attitude can automatically make remote workers feel that they are kept out of the loop due to their physical distance.

Organising an agreed time for employees to collaborate is difficult, particularly when multiple time-zones are in play. World Time Buddy is great for figuring out all the different time-zones and shows the time in all the time-zones you are interested in, making scheduling meetings and tasks much easier. TeamWeek is also another fantastic application which allows all the employees to share the calendars to see all the individual tasks people are working on, making it easier to see when people are available to collaborate on something new, or ask to schedule in a meeting in time slots which are free.

File-sharing tools such as Dropbox, or even Google Docs where employees are able to edit and collaborate on documents in live time without the hassle of over-writing each other’s work.

For more information, refer to any one of these helpful websites which contain more tips and tricks on building company culture for remote workers, and different ways in which to keep your remote workers connected.

Communicating with your Remote Worker

In the case of employing remote workers, the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is something that will cause more grief than none. Due to the physical distance of not being in the office, the likelihood of them being neglected is high. More often than not, your remote workers will be working from a home environment. It may be hard to fathom, but this can be quite isolating, particularly when it comes to building company culture and having them collaborate on team projects.

Here are some ways that you can help make them feel like as if they are working in the office with you.

Get to know them as people

Building rapport with each and every one of your employees is of paramount importance. Scheduled one-on-ones are great for getting to know individuals on a deeper level. Additionally, it is a great way for you to gauge your employees’ feelings – how are they feeling about their work load e.g. are they feeling stressed or overwhelmed? If so, why? By asking these frank and open questions, it shows that you care about their mental health and wellbeing

When working together, talk ventures to the latest episode of the most popular TV show, current political events, or how each other’s children are doing. Find out their hobbies or interests. Messaging tools such as Slack allow for more fun interactions between teams and colleagues, where individuals are able to upload pictures, gifs, and emojis to provide a richer form of communication than just text.

Show your appreciation and recognition

Remote workers are not present in the office environment to hear that someone did a great job. It is even less likely for your remote workers to be acknowledged by you or your in-office employees for something they did well. As such, it is important to show your appreciation for something that they may have done, or give them recognition. This can be done discreetly during one-on-one video calls, or it can be broadcast in the weekly company newsletter which is published to everyone.

Due to the lack of in-person interaction, it is also important to note that any not so good comments or criticisms are more likely to linger longer, or at least until the next meeting. Do not allow it to fester and brew. Deal with the issue right as it happens before it becomes more complicated than it should be.

Tools: Their advantages and shortcomings

Make sure the interactions you have with someone is delivered on the right platform depending on what you want to achieve. In general, there are four levels of communication tools, and each has their place in the day-to-day communication processes between you and your remote employees.

  1. Video
  2. Call
  3. Instant messaging
  4. Email

Starting from the top, providing the richest form of communication, we have video. This is the closest to the real thing. You are able to hear the tone of voice in which the message is delivered, and also the facial expressions of the one delivering the message. These video conferences or one-on-one calls are great for delivering content which is hard to capture using just text, or complex issues which would be easier to discuss in a face-to-face situation.

If video is not an option, the second-best solution is to call. This may not provide you with facial expressions, but it still allows for long, potentially complex issues to be discussed quickly.

Instant messaging is great for “watercooler” chat. Creating general channels of conversation where employees are able to post pictures or discuss topics they find interesting is useful for fun, non-work-related communication. This type of communication is more informal and probably not the best to for conducting serious discussions.

Lastly, emailing should be used to communicate neutral and objective content only. Due to the lack of context that can be built through tone of voice, facial expressions and body language, messages through email are the most susceptible to being misinterpreted, and so should be kept to a minimum when attempting to build relationships with your remote employees.

It is often easy to overlook the welfare needs and comfort of remote workers while handling complicated administrative matters which are common in sending an employee overseas. We can provide you with an easy and fully compliant solution, taking care of all payroll, immigration and employment needs of your remote worker; freeing up time for you to interact with them. 

Need help employing overseas? Get in touch!

Related Articles

Join over 2,000 professionals!

Subscribe to our monthly Global Mobility newsletter