Remote work is on the rise. According to a 2016 Gallup report, 43 percent of Americans work remotely at least some of the time, up from 39 percent in 2012. And the trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. A 2016 report from World Economic Forum called flexible work (such as telecommuting, co-working spaces, virtual teams, and freelancing) “one of the biggest drivers of transformation of business models in many industries.”
Although some managers may be wary of the concept, contrary to popular belief, flexible work can actually benefit workers’ productivity. Without common office distractions (think: watercooler chats, unnecessary meetings, and talkative co-workers), 86 percent of remote workers say they’re more productive on their own, and two-thirds of managers agree. It also helps lower stress, reduce turnover, and even decrease overhead costs for employers.
At Fitspot, we have offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York City, with a few employees located in each city. We’ve found that remote workers can stay just as engaged with team members, and are just as productive (if not more!) than they are at the office. As Lauren, one of Fitspot’s remote employees in NYC, explains, “A huge benefit for me to working remotely is that I can change the environment I’m in to help me be more productive, whether that’s my home, a coffee shop, or park,” she says.
All that being said, there’s one obvious drawback: It’s far more difficult to engage remote employees when they’re not in the same office. Remote workers aren’t able to participate in face-to-face meetings, company-wide workshops, or any wellness activities you offer on-site.
Based on our research, experiences, and tried-and-true tools, we’ve come up with several best practices to keep all of our workers happy, engaged, and in the loop. Check them out below, and feel free to integrate some (or all) into your own workplace.
1. Host wellness challenges.
Fitspot’s wellness management tool helps employees engage with co-workers, even if they’ve never met before. Each month, we put a new wellness challenge in place in our employee portal. A typical challenge might be to take 10,000 steps per day, try a new type of fitness class, or drink 10 glasses of water per day. We provide incentives for employees to reach their goal, and they can track your progress as a team or as an individual. This encourages some friendly competition between co-workers, no matter where they’re located.
2. Encourage physical activity.
In addition to our monthly challenges, we invite our employees all over the country to move throughout the workday. We encourage employees to take stretch breaks, go for walks throughout the day, and participate fitness classes offered on-site.
Plus, if you’re a Fitspot client, your employees can take advantage of corporate credits with our partner ClassPass. This service enables workers to book fitness classes in their city, from yoga to kickboxing to CrossFit, whenever it’s convenient for them. This is a win-win: When employees move more, they’re healthier, more productive, engaged, and all-around happier at work.
3. Enable easy communication.
At Fitspot, we utilize a variety of apps, websites, and other tools to make sure remote workers are kept in the loop about projects, company news, and achievements. “Technology has created a seamless connection that keeps me engaged with my team,” explains Becca, Fitspot’s West Coast Wellness Manager based in LA.
- Slack is a great app for casual intra-office communication that cuts down on needless emails. “Slack is our biggest tool of communication, which I love,” Becca says. “In Slack we can organize discussions in separate channels, share videos, photos, screenshots, and even funny gifs (which we have been known to do).”
- Trello is an online tool that helps organize teams’ tasks, projects, and goals.
- We use Zoom or WebEx for video meetings, giving us some (virtual) facetime with remote employees. “The value of adding face-to-face conversation while being remote is one of the best benefits,” Lauren says. “Video calling really makes you feel like you are within the same thinking space.”
- Google Docs and Sheets enable remote employees to write, edit, and collaborate on documents in real time. “We often use these in meetings so that we can view a worksheet and each make edits as we roll along,” Lauren adds.
4. Acknowledge achievements.
Don’t underestimate the positive effect of a few words of praise. Research shows that people perform better after receiving a “social reward,” a.k.a. a compliment, for their effort. This can be easily forgotten when employees aren’t in the office, but it’s super important for managers to remember, and it helps remote employees feel valued and appreciated.
5. Schedule in-person events at least twice per year.
We’re lucky to be able to host our remote employees for a company-wide meeting at our HQ at least twice per year. This is a great time for employees to get to know each other, and we also host fun fitness activities that help bring workers closer together and boost camaraderie. We see the positive effects and improved communication linger for our remote employees for months after our in-person events.
Like many aspects of business today, there are both drawbacks and benefits of remote work. Using these strategies has helped us encourage engagement and reduce the difficulties that remote employees may experience, and we hope they’ll do the same for you.
Want to learn more about Fitspot’s workplace wellness programs?
Jonathan is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fitspot. He co-founded Fitspot in 2016. As any CEO, he is doing anything from fundraising to closing deals, to planning for the future of Fitspot. Jon is a pizza aficionado who’s on the hunt for the best slice of pizza in NYC.