The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes in our lives, one of those being a major shift to remote work. Countless companies have had to adapt their communication, workflows and processes as they move through uncharted waters of virtual work due to public health restrictions. According to an April Gallup poll, 62% of employed Americans currently say they have worked from home during the crisis.
Cloud-based systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) enable employees to work from virtually everywhere, and now more than ever in the comfort of their home. So how can managers better engage remote employees during this time and beyond? We’ve got five great tips to help your team be successful from home.
Tip #1: Get creative with opportunities for socializing.
In an office setting, employees often get to know each other by grabbing coffee or chatting over lunch. During this time, many of us are missing these face-to-face interactions that make us feel connected to our organizations. Create opportunities that encourage interaction between your employees and create that sense of connection.
● Peer-to-peer recognition: Give them an opportunity to recognize each other with digital ecards, low value monetary rewards or even provide note cards for a good old-fashioned handwritten note. Adding a personal touch will always guarantee a win!
● Use creative team building activities like a virtual book club, group fitness challenges or co-story building.
● Have a virtual happy hour, coffee break or lunch hour. Having that face-to-face interaction creates a sense of togetherness.
Master Manager Tip: Create more personal connections with your employees. Find time to learn about their hobbies or their weekend plans. Show them you are interested in learning more about them!
Tip #2: Schedule regular check-ins.
Establish a predetermined remote communication plan with your employees. Set an appropriate cadence for check-ins – every day calls could be excessive, especially for those with larger, ongoing projects. Aim for 2-3 regularly scheduled check in calls per week, knowing you will have additional communication and meetings as needs arise. There are plenty of tools available for little or no cost these days to connect with remote employees: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime. These check-ins should involve more than just status updates on projects. Discuss other topics such as:
● Recent successes: It’s important for everyone to feel their work is appreciated and valued.
● Career goals: A lack of career growth opportunities is the number one reason employees leave their company.
● Personal growth: Establish rapport with your employees and show you are invested in their lives.
Master Manager Tip: The non-business dimensions of relationships are essential even when your employees are remote. There are humans behind those computer screens that want to be valued.
Tip #3: Stay up to date on digital tools.
There has been a monumental shift towards remote work in the past few years with remote capabilities now a necessity in 2020. As a company, it is important to stay updated with the latest information.
New technologies seem to surface every day to help managers connect with their teams and maximize remote workflows. Cloud-based apps and services are becoming essential tools, especially in companies with many employees working remotely. For example:
● Slack for instant chatting. Create channels for different teams or projects
● Zoom or Microsoft Teams are both great options for video and screen sharing
● Google Drive for sharing and editing files or for real-time collaboration
● Asana for project management & organization
● Clockify for time tracking
Many of these cloud services integrate with one another. Slack integrates seamlessly with Google Drive, while Asana has a handful of apps to add on. Keep that in mind when selecting the tools for your team.
Master Manager Tip: Designate one person to explore new digital tools for communication and workflow. That person can then put together a small team to test out the free versions of these tools to discover what will work best for your company.
Tip #4: Assess your company’s managers.
We’ve all heard the infamous phrase, “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers.” “Some managers haven’t yet developed the skills to motivate [in-office] workers, and virtual workers are even harder [to engage],” said Ellen Raineri, an assistant professor at Kaplan University. Invest in your leaders by helping them grow their management skills. High level management skills are essential to employee success, especially in a remote work environment. Consider these questions as you assess the leadership at your company:
● Do your managers have the tools they need to be successful? If not, talk to your managers about professional development opportunities. There are a plethora of management training classes and sessions online; there may be no better time for your management team to avail themselves of additional training.
● Have you talked to your employees about how they like to be managed? Consider opening the floor to your employees for honest feedback. Listen and take action to show them you understand.
Master Manager Tip: If you’re managing employees that work across multiple teams, be sure to offer support by asking what resources or help they might need to enhance productivity and collaboration.
Tip #5: Continue to offer flexible work options.
According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, remote workers who spend 60-80% of their workweek off-site and 20-40% in the office find the optimal engagement boost. Employees need the opportunity to get face time with managers and colleagues to make them feel like they belong. Gallup also shares that job flexibility engages remote workers — which drives performance.
Remote workers are:
● 20-25% more productive than their onsite colleagues
● 24% are more likely to be happy with their work-life balance
When possible, have remote employees schedule one to two days per week in the office. This gives managers and peers the opportunity to stop by their desk or grab them for a meeting.
Master Manager Tip: Increased engagement levels don’t happen automatically. Managers must be intentional with communication and evoke trust and accountability for remote employees.
With over half of employed Americans experiencing some form of remote work in the past several months, many have adapted to their new work environment. According to Gallup, “three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted.”
Remote work may now become a permanent shift in the way companies conduct business. Those that adapt will thrive, while those resistant to change will be competing for employees with companies that have more flexible accommodations.