Prior to the pandemic, working from home was considered a perk or an option that companies might provide in order to offer flexibility to their people. Now, it has become the everyday norm for many. And it is drastically changing the way teams are interacting and doing their work.
It’s also important to note that generally speaking, there is a transition period from working in the office to working remotely. Most people working from home right now didn’t get that transition. So there’s a lot to take into consideration when figuring out how to engage your employees when they’re working from home.
Here are several ways to stay connected and keep your people engaged remotely.
Give them clear goals.
Remote employees can have a higher productivity rate than others, but it’s important that they know where to focus their energy. Instead of monitoring their “minutes worked” and looking over their shoulders to make sure they’re on task, give them specific goals and deadlines. Measure their progress by what they are achieving, not by how quickly they respond to your instant message. Make sure they know their responsibilities and how to choose their priorities. Communicate the team and company goals to them as well, so that there is a sense of alignment.
Have regular videoconferencing check-ins.
Emails are not enough. And with all the technology at your disposal these days, there’s no excuse to not have video calls with your teams weekly, if not daily. Be proactive in communication. Ask them questions and find out how things are going for them and where they need help. Don’t wait for them to tell you about an issue because by then, it’s probably too late. Discuss goals, objectives, and projects. But also make certain times available for non-work topics and socializing. Remember that working from home can leave people feeling isolated and lonely, so do what you can to keep them connected as human beings.
Make sure they have the tools they need.
In addition to the videoconferencing software, make sure they have any other tools they might need to do their jobs smoothly from home. Is there a communication platform (besides email) where your team can message, share information, and stay connected on tasks (like Slack or something similar)? Email communication isn’t always the best option, and it’s harder to share information with the whole team that way. Do they have a streamlined and easy way to share files that is consistent for everyone — whether it’s Dropbox or Google Drive? Whatever tools you decide on, make sure people know how to use them, and make sure people know how to share and get the information they need.
Maintain the company culture virtually.
Culture is the personality of the company. It has to do with environment, mission, values, and goals. It can give people a sense of belonging to the group. And when there isn’t a single space that people are meeting every day, it can be more challenging to feel connected by the thread of culture. You may have to think outside the box to bring your culture to the virtual platform. But it will be worth it to put forth the effort in order to keep your team engaged.
Don’t abandon the IN-PERSON processes that were working.
You may have gone into survival mode with running your team (or teams). And you may or may not still be in that mode. But don’t forget about the things you do “at the office” that keep your people engaged. (And if you aren’t doing these things, then there is no time like the present to start.) Give people regular one-on-one feedback. Provide recognition and rewards. Give promotion opportunities. If it makes sense, continue to offer learning and growth opportunities. And what are the needs they have as remote workers (especially in the current situation) that might be different than before? They might need better access to mental health support or training on a new technology system. And don’t forget to empower people by making sure their voices are heard, giving them power to make certain decisions, and allowing them to generate ideas.
The new norm might be here to stay for a while. The way we work as teams will never be the same again. Be sure to find the opportunity in the challenge, and use it to build better, stronger communication and more effective processes. Make adjustments and continue to be openminded to learning and growth as we move forward in our remote working environments. And don’t forget to continue to uplift and inspire your people, wherever they are working from.
“People are more likely to accept an order if they had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.” –Dale Carnegie