Some businesses offer work-from-home or telecommuting options for their employees in a part- or full-time capacity. These options provide great flexibility, but may reduce employee engagement. Small business owners can deploy a variety of strategies to keep remote employees engaged.

Benefits of Working Remotely Come With a Trade-Off

Remote work enables small businesses to free up office space, reduce resource costs and provide convenience and flexibility for employees — it's a win-win situation. However, it's difficult to replace the value of in-person, face-to-face communication. Remote employees are not involved in the day-to-day operations that ultimately make up the company's culture, like on-site employees are. Working remotely could leave an employee disengaged, which in turn could serve as a detriment to the company. Meeting goals or objectives is integral to the survival of a small business. If employees who work remotely do not actively adopt company policies and procedures or have an understanding of their job's expectations, their disengagement could put the business at risk.

Among employees who spend up to 20 percent of their time working off-site, only 35 percent are engaged, according to Gallup. As employees spend more time working remotely, the further their engagement levels drop. More than one in five individuals who spend greater than 50 percent of their time working remotely are "actively disengaged."

Strategies to Improve Engagement

To create a collaborative environment, communicate more efficiently and ultimately keep your employees engaged, consider offering remote employees cloud computing and teleconferencing options. This not only helps employees complete their job's necessary tasks, but it also allows them to participate in activities with other employees who work in different locations. Brainstorming sessions and group chats are examples of employee engagement activities that help facilitate the exchange of ideas among coworkers. By regularly engaging the remote worker, small business owners can create synergy, which helps foster innovation and align activities with company culture.

Regular one-on-one meetings via phone or video chat to discuss the employee's progress, relay expectations and provide feedback can also be beneficial. These discussions allow employees to take an active role in their development at the company. In turn, employees may feel a sense of belonging and develop a sincere interest in achieving the milestones and goals their supervisor sets.

If resources allow, scheduling an occasional face-to-face meeting can also help solidify working relationships and make the employee feel like a valued member of the team.

When done right, both businesses and employees can win in this situation. It comes down to finding the right balance between business requirements and employee satisfaction.

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