Is Anyone Out There?

Since the global pandemic, remote work in healthcare services has increased due to insurance carriers allowing providers to deliver telehealth. Working remotely may seem isolating to team members, hurting productivity and performance. In addition, team members can become distracted by household chores, television, or social media. 

In our company, we provide remote telehealth services to clients. Our team members are located in over six states, and some of us have yet to meet in person, even though we have worked together for several years. As a leader, it can seem daunting to try and maintain engagement with remote workers when you don’t have the opportunity to check in face-to-face during break time or at events. 

At K-Now, we work hard to build relationships and nurture our team’s growth, which can be challenging. However, It is our top priority to ensure our team remains engaged. 

While our methods may not work for your company, I want to share a few things that may help your company increase engagement in remote workers. 

Openly communicate with team members. Start by sharing your preferred or expected work hours, including time zones. In our line of work, we often can work later in the evenings and have time off in the morning. Using our shared calendars helps ensure we know when others are available for meetings or check-ins. We use Google chat to have casual conversations that don’t require an email or Slack to share news that may not be “work” related. This helps foster relationships with all team members. Make sure to schedule informal check-ins with team members, and always plan on a little extra time at meetings to let team members talk. 

Make sure team members feel valued. Sometimes, making sure your team members feel valued can seem complicated in a virtual setting, but it is just as easy as if you were face-to-face. The first step is to ensure you know how an individual likes to be reinforced or shown to be valued. Create a preference assessment. Ask things like: Do you like gift cards? Do you like public shoutouts on social media? Do you prefer personal emails or calls from leadership? This assessment can help you individualize your team’s experiences and make them feel more valued.  

Host virtual hangouts. Often times a space to just check in with others is needed. We have tried setting virtual hours and virtual hours that are not scheduled. Both have worked. It just depends on your team and their need for engagement. Virtual hangouts are an excellent opportunity for team members working on projects to check in, ask questions, or see what other team members are doing. We try to have scheduled virtual get-togethers for holidays or special occasions. Team members aren’t required to attend, but most do. 

Encourage health. We provide opportunities for team members to focus on their well-being, whether physical or mental health. We have self-scheduling to a certain extent and encourage team members to be self-advocates for their own personal time and commitments. When team members take vacation or time off, we encourage them to be out of the office, with no email checking, etc. Other team members work to cover shifts and allow everyone to take time off. 

While these suggestions may only work for some, they are a good starting point for creating your own guidelines for remote work. Have you worked in a company that had a great remote work environment? If so, share what worked for your team. We are always looking for new ways to increase our team’s engagement! 

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Anissa Jepsen

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