In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless employees were forced to work remotely. While there are numerous benefits associated with working-from-home, this black swan event threw many out of their comfort zones. Apart from being separated from their colleagues for the first time, these staff members had to set up makeshift office spaces, make sure they had all the necessary hardware/software to work as normal and figure out the balance between work life and home life.
For business leaders, keeping your team engaged when they’re working from different locations can be a challenge. “Without the ability to have organic conversations in the break room or at each other’s cubicles, it takes a more concentrated effort for remote workers to engage with others,” says Rachel Jay, senior career writer at FlexJobs “A lack of engagement can lead to isolation and loneliness, a lack of passion for the company’s vision or goals and feeling unhappy and unappreciated.”
Below, we unpack a few, research-based steps that managers can take to improve engagement and productivity for their remote workers.
#1 Establish structure
Consider setting up a daily call with your remote employees. This could take the form of various one-on-one calls or a team call. The main thing is to make sure that these calls are regular and predictable and that your employees know that they can use these meetings to consult with you, share their concerns and ask questions.
#2 Facilitate communication
When working remotely, your teams need to know that they can reach out to their colleagues and stay in touch via different digital communication channels. This makes virtual workers feel more connected. Today, remote workers need richer technologies, like video conferencing tools, so that they can experience some type of ‘face-to-face’ engagement. These tools also reduce the sense of isolation among teams.
#3 Set boundaries
Your remote teams need to know what is expected of them from the word go. Good managers will set their expectations around the how different information is communicated, the frequency of communication and ideal timing of communication. For example, you may have your daily check-ins via a video conferencing app but use a direct messaging platform to communicate anything that needs to be addressed urgently.
#4 Don’t forget about social interactions
Want to ensure your teams feel connected? Consider setting aside some time at the start of the meeting to have a light-hearted conversation. Ask employees about their weekend plans or what they did on their recent holiday. Not only does this ease tension, it also allows teams to celebrate milestones, offer support and be more understanding of what’s happening in each other’s personal lives.
#5 Listen and show appreciation
Your employees want to be recognised and appreciated, even when they’re not in the office. A simple ‘thank you’ or a genuine compliment goes a long way. These gestures have a positive impact on employee engagement and when your employees feel appreciated, they’re more likely to go above and beyond to get the job done.
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