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Article 3 big lessons from Buffer’s State of Remote Work report

Your remote workers are vital to your business. But keeping them engaged—making sure that they’re happy, they feel included, they aren’t overworked or lonely—is hard.

It’s not like the people in your office. It’s easy to pop out for a coffee and catch up over lunch. When you’ve got a million-and-one things on your to-do list, researching ways to improve remote worker engagement can’t always take priority.

Luckily, Buffer’s spoken to 2,500 remote workers around the world, and compiled it into the State of Remote Work report1.

There’s a lot in there. Some of it you probably already know: 40% say the biggest benefit to remote work is a flexible schedule. 95% encourage others to work remotely. 84% primarily work from home.

But some of it was surprising. And it’s these three lessons that will have a big impact on your remote workers.

1. Help your remote workers unplug

We’ve all been there. Those work-from-home days when you just keep working… and working… and working, until it’s well past bedtime.

From time to time, it’s ok.

But when it’s every single day? Then there’s a problem. And it’s one felt by remote workers around the world. Buffer’s report showed that 22% of remote workers struggle to unplug after work.

It’s not just Buffer that found this either. In a Remote.co study, 40% of remote workers said their biggest pain point was unplugging after work hours2.

Overworked employees don’t perform well. A failure to unplug can drain people and stop them from doing their best work—not to mention the risk of burnout.

So, what can you do?

Look for ways to encourage your remote workers to log off. Try incentivizing activities like going to the gym, climbing or swimming. You could include this in your benefits package: offer to pay membership fees or subsidize a certain amount.

Above all: speak to them. Check in at the end of the working day and ask when they plan on logging off—then help them be accountable by setting realistic expectations. And make sure this conversation is always open. You don’t want to mistake ‘struggling with work’ for ‘struggling to unplug’.

2. Make sure everyone’s part of the team

Remote working’s a dream, right? Starting work when the sun rises (or when it sets). Setting up in trendy coffee shops, pausing to post heavily filtered pictures on Instagram. Travelling to bucket-list destinations and replying to emails from the beach.

Maybe it’s the reality for some.

But it certainly isn’t for all.

Buffer’s study found that 19% of remote workers struggle with loneliness.

For them, it’s not an “Instagrammable” lifestyle. It’s days when you might not speak to a single person, or when you feel closer to the characters on Friends than you do to your co-workers.

As an employer, there are a few ways you can help beat this loneliness. Run social activities to engage your remote workers—like shared quizzes on collaboration apps like Slack.

Or maybe try using high-quality audio conferencing technology in all-hands meetings and company catch-ups, so your remote workers feel like they’re in the room. Crackly connections and poor audio are a quick way to make people feel excluded.

You could also foster more introductions between people. And depending on the size of your teams, try setting up a ‘social hour’ every week via conference call to give everyone a space to chat about their week.

3. Offer something out of the ordinary

One practical way to help remote workers avoid loneliness, isolation and overwork is to encourage them to work from coffee shops and coworking spaces.

However, this comes at a price. And more often than not, remote workers are left to pick it up. Buffer’s report shows that few companies contribute to these costs.

71% of respondents aren’t reimbursed for their coworking memberships. Remote workers spend a decent chunk on these memberships too: 61% pay up to $100 per month, while 30% pay between $101 to $300 per month.

Similarly, 87% say their companies don’t cover the cost of food and drinks at coffee shops. And this affects a lot of people: 37% of respondents said coffee shops are the second most common location they work from (compared to 14% who said a coworking space).

Most surprising, 75% of respondents said their company doesn’t pay for their home internet connections.

Covering these costs isn’t always possible, especially if you have an office full of workers. But if you’re trying to attract remote talent—or you want to seriously improve your remote worker engagement—then reimbursing these working costs would give you a massive edge. Especially when you consider what people are spending: 31% spend up to $5 per week. Buffer, for example, has its own coffee shop coworking stipend.

Buffer’s State of Remote Work report is packed full of great insights. If (and when) you get time—it’s worth reading through. In the meantime, if you want to keep your remote workers engaged, happy and productive, these are the biggest and best lessons to take away.

For more information on how you can optimize your remote workforce, read this blog. Or check out this article about helping different kinds of mobile workers stay productive. For any other small business queries, contact us on 1-877-633-1102.

1 https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019

2 https://remote.co/remote-workers-unplugging-after-work/