When numerous studies and statistics state that a whopping 68% of U.S. employees are totally disengaged with their work, it's no wonder that many managers and leaders are putting engagement at the top of their priority list.

However, the challenge of connecting with employees becomes even greater when they work remotely. They aren't in the office for one-on-one sit-downs or informal chats by the coffee maker, which makes it that much tougher to forge a solid connection.

As a remote worker myself, I've had my fair share of interactions with employers who have done this really well -- and others who, well, left plenty to be desired.

So, how can you go about engaging all of your employees -- even the ones who are across the country or globe? Here are a few key tips to start implementing today.

1. Always over-communicate.

Communication is key, and this is especially true when it comes to your remote employees. It's easy to forget that they weren't in the office to hear things like that impromptu announcement that was made over lunch.

This is why it's important that you make a conscious effort to keep remote team members in the loop -- even on things that might seem insignificant.

One tactic that I've seen work really well is to send a regular update email. Within that weekly broadcast, you can include important updates, announcements, and reminders. That's a helpful practice for all of your employees -- not just the ones who aren't in the office.

2. Don't add to the isolation.

Meetings can be a particularly challenging pain point for your remote team members.

When they need to join in via video and everybody else is conversing in the same room, it's often tougher for them to jump in on discussions or hear every comment -- which leads them to feel like they're there to simply watch the meeting, rather than actively participate.

An effective way to resolve this? If your meeting group is small enough, head to different spaces of the office and have everybody join in via video. It's a simple way to get everybody on a level playing field.

3. Digitize your culture.

Your company culture plays an important role in your level of employee engagement. But, since it's often fostered with in-person interactions, your culture is also something that easily slips through the cracks for your remote employees.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure that your culture extends to your employees who aren't located directly in the office.

For example, set up a weekly photo sharing or "get to know you" question using email or your instant messaging service. That's a great way for team members to connect with each other on a more personal level -- whether they're co-located or not.

Birthday celebrations are another thing to pay close attention to. Remote employees won't be able to join in for free cupcakes in the conference room, so make sure you plan to do something special to recognize their own big days -- like sending a physical card signed by the entire team.

4. Schedule frequent check-ins.

It's nearly impossible to keep any employee -- whether remote or not -- engaged in their work if you aren't staying updated on how they're feeling and performing.

This is why it's important that you set aside time for frequent check-in conversations (preferably done via video conference) to keep in touch with your remote team members.

During these chats, you can ask about any challenges or problems, answer questions they might have, and get valuable feedback on how you and the organization can improve.

This is not only a solid way to continuously take steps in the right direction, but also demonstrate to your employees that you value their opinions and experiences -- whether they're at the next desk or across the globe.

5. Remember to reward and recognize.

When it comes to engagement, recognition is a key piece of the puzzle.

But, when employees aren't directly in front of you in the office, you can often forget to recognize them for their efforts and contributions. And, because these team members are somewhat removed from the daily operations of their departments, it's that much easier for them to feel like another cog in a wheel.

Make a concerted effort to highlight their own accomplishments, ideas, and milestones, whether it's done during a team meeting or through a formal email announcement.

It takes almost no time, but shows these employees that you're just as appreciative of their valuable contributions.

Employee engagement is a challenging hurdle to overcome -- especially when you're working with remote team members. Implement these five key tips, and you're sure to notice an uptick in engagement levels for all of your employees.

Published on: Aug 17, 2017