3 Keys to Keeping Remote Employees Engaged

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There are many pros and cons of hiring remote employees that you should consider when building out your team. On one hand, having a (partially or entirely) virtual workforce can help you attract and retain top talent outside of your limited geography, while even helping you cut down on certain expenses (office space, relocation fees, etc.). On the other hand, getting distributed teams to work together seamlessly can require you to address some significant collaboration and scheduling challenges.

If you have decided to hire a remote employee(s), one of your tasks as their manager is making sure you give them everything they need to stay productive, and that you keep them motivated, supported, and engaged.

Luckily, that might not require as much extra effort as you’d think. Here are a few tips on how to effectively manage your remote employees.

3 Keys to Keeping Remote Employees Engaged

1) Establish Clear & Streamlined Communication Channels

Whether it’s by phone, email, online chatting, or many of the other options available today, it is essential to keep conversation channels with your remote employees constantly open. Online chatting tools like Slack and HipChat provide a great way to enable and keep track of multiple conversation threads throughout the day.

While you may still prefer to use email to share notes and project work, these tools allow for more instant collaboration, such as brainstorming and quick question/answer discussions. Virtual employees can chat one-on-one with their manager, a team member, or participate in a group chat, making it easy to stay fully up-to-date with the rest of the team.

2) Remember to Give Remote Team Members the Feedback, Updates, and Recognition They Deserve

All employees need to be noticed for and get feedback on the work they do, but that’s especially true for remote employees. It can be easy to forget to include them on updates, and managers don’t always do the best job of keeping them in the loop regarding the big-picture or specific results.

A simple solution is to schedule a regular, recurring video or phone call so you can:

  • provide remote team members with detailed feedback on individual projects
  • maintain a running discussion on performance and results
  • keep them up to speed on how their work is contributing to larger initiatives and goals

You should also make a concerted effort to regularly share and highlight your remote employee’s contributions with the rest of the team.

3) If Possible, Schedule Visits for Face Time at Least Once a Quarter or Once a Year

Another way to motivate and engage your remote employees is to schedule a a retreat or a trip to the office on an annual, quarterly, or monthly basis. For everything that makes working remotely so easy now, there’s still something to be said for meeting, working, and socializing with your teammates face-to-face — even if it’s just for a few short days a month, a quarter, or even a year.

Take the Time to Establish a Good Working Routine from the Start

Each team and employee will have different quirks and needs. At a basic level, though, establishing a regular routine with your remote employee from the get-go will help them stay productive and engaged. Use the interview and later on the onboarding process to discuss how they like to be managed, how often you should have a regular call or video chat, and any other preferences they might have.

The sooner you set a standard for a high level of communication, the more likely you will be able to establish and maintain a healthy and successful working relationship right from the start.

Additional Resources

Buffer has several articles and resources sharing how they’ve survived and thrived as a fully distributed team. Like practically everything Buffer puts out, these posts are incredibly transparent, useful, and absolutely worth checking out:

How have you managed remote employees? What tactics do you find best for motivating and engaging them?


Photo by: Alex Ahom

  • Noel Wurst

    I work remotely as Skytap’s Content Managing Editor, and these are all fantastic tips—tips that are very established within our company.

    Even living clear across the country, I have no problems getting in touch with my team via phone, chat, email, etc., which is HUGE for helping me accomplish my goals.

    This company is outstanding at giving feedback and recognition from top to bottom, and many remote employees like myself are invited to the Seattle HQ, which, like you say, always sends me home with so much inspiration to hit the ground running after even just a couple of days of working face to face with my colleagues.

    Great article!

    • Rose O’Connell

      Hi Noel, thank you for your feedback on the article! It’s great to hear that these tips are already being implemented, and seen as effective, at Skytap. It’s certainly important to maintain engagement to see continued productivity. I’m sure it’s nice to take trips to the HQ as well!