Mobile workers have been an important part of the U.S. economy long before “telecommuting” and “remote working” became fashionable. Businesses have long depended on employees who spend time working at various job sites, such as manufacturing and construction firms, home and commercial cleaning companies and home health care services.
In recent years, even more jobs have become “mobile.” A recent study estimates that by 2020, 50 percent of all U.S. employees will work remotely, with falling smartphone prices and computer innovations helping to fuel the trend. Millennials, in particular, are driving organizations to create policies that support flexible work schedules.
That said, there can be downsides to working in the gig economy. Global performance management consulting company Gallup found that a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. That begs the question: Do communication and collaboration tools like Skype and Slack really allow for the type of personal connection and trust that is established through daily face-to-face interaction? And how do you ensure that the people you employ feel like they are part of a team that is working together, given that they spend so much time apart?
Here are a few ways in which your organization can bring workers together – even if many are in the field.
Don’t rely on the written word
Even if you’re very warm and approachable in person, over-reliance on email increases the chances that your message might be misconstrued. Rather than communicating solely via email, prioritize one-on-one conversation with your employees as much as possible. Face-to-face is ideal, but even a phone conversation can have a positive impact.
Not only can these discussions help to reduce the barrage of emails we receive in our inbox each day, they can foster a better dynamic amongst teams, helping everyone become more productive.
Make a personal connection
Phone calls and in-person discussions are also helpful in learning more about a person, beyond what the typical email or text conveys. Consider sharing a little bit about your personal life and take a genuine interest in learning about who they are and what they do outside of work. Ask them how they’re liking their job and if there is anything they would like to change.
These types of conversations will help you better understand your workforce and address problems that are easy to overlook. Showing that you care what your employees think and giving them an opportunity to speak their mind will help them feel valued within the company. It will also go a long way in fostering a healthy boss-employee relationship.
Invest in events and team bonding activities
If workers and management aren’t regularly interacting at work, finding opportunities to mingle outside of the office can be time well spent. Happy hours, dinners, volunteer programs or company-sponsored weekend outings are all opportunites to get employees together, talking and feeling connected.
Investing in activities where people can come together and converse with their peers in a casual environment is invaluable. Besides social events, employee volunteer programs can have a particularly positive impact on employee engagement, as it gives people a greater sense of purpose and instills higher workplace morale.
Consider your workplace culture and think about ways to bring people together. For example, a whopping 80 percent of workers eat at their desks, but a recent study looked at teams of firefighters who were notably more bonded and productive when preparing and eating meals together.
Even small gestures like bringing coffee and bagels out to a job site at break time, or providing a catered lunch for staff members to enjoy together, can help boost employee spirits.
Recognize the importance of social media
The role of social media is huge for every industry looking to connect with customers, and it’s also an increasingly important tool for employers to better connect with workers. Millennials, in particular, are likely to find social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to be the most natural ways to communicate. Social media, therefore, has the potential to transform the workplace, build positive co-worker dynamics, and increase morale and productivity.
For example, a company Facebook page where employees can post updates about work, along with invitations to activities outside the office, can be a useful outlet for employees to share important information, as well as create an inclusive workplace culture. These same platforms can encourage peer recognition, where companies can praise high-performing employees for their contributions.
A great way to foster a sense of community is by regularly sharing content and updates with the whole team – whether it’s an interesting article, an important life update, or other employee accomplishment.
If someone on the team has a birthday, is getting married, or is celebrating a significant life event, announce this to their work colleagues – it’s a great way to give people a sense of belonging.
Recognize team members for their achievements. Most employees appreciate when their efforts are applauded. A pat on the back can do wonders for motivation.
Emphasize rewards and recognition
Perhaps even moreso than office workers, mobile employees need to be reminded of their value. Because they don't get the smiles in the hallway or the thumbs up in the cafeteria, it's important to remember to publically thank and congratulate them as part of the team.
Beyond written and verbal praise, monetary incentives – in the form of raises of bonuses – might make sense for worthy employees. Additionally, there are an increasing number of employee reward platforms that allow co-workers to give each other points. Workers can then cash in the points for prizes. WooBoard and KudosNow are two examples of platforms built on providing employee recognition, engagement and motivation, while providing companies with reports and analytics on their talent.
Use technology to your advantage
Technology will continue to transform how and where we work, but we still strive for the same things that motivated our parents and grandparents to go to work everyday. Work is not only about earning money to pay the bills, but also about finding fulfilling opportunities to learn and grow with people we respect and admire.
Particularly now that it’s become more typical for people to work across different locations, technology can be the glue that binds disparate teams. , such as email and Skype, can help. On the clock employee tracking with Timesheet Mobile can also deliver greater visibility as it pertains to worker locations and hours. No matter where the members of your team work, it’s important to foster an environment – whether in-person or online – that ensures all employees feel engaged and appreciated.