Keeping employees engaged is critical to productivity and long-term growth and survival.
But while working from home helps businesses stay resilient and operational, it can be quite challenging to keep a whole workforce engaged during these uncertain times.
So, how do you maintain and coordinate engagement with workers who also possibly have to take on a multitude of other responsibilities while working from home? Here are our thoughts;
1. Communication is key
There is a tendency for remote workers to feel anxious, overwhelmed, isolated, or left out of the loop. Encourage 2-way communication regularly in times like these to communicate important news as soon as it comes up. Check on employees to see their progress with the new working arrangement, as well as listen to any issues or concerns they may have. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM, developing a comprehensive organizational communication strategy will be vital to boosting employee morale and satisfaction and keeping them engaged.
Having an effective communication plan for managers is critical. Some tips managers can consider:
Establishing scheduled daily check-ins where employees can communicate their concerns and have their questions heard.
Establishing agreed rules of engagement to determine the means, frequency, and timing of communication for remote teams.
2. Encourage collaboration
To keep employees engaged, they have that sense of belonging to a team. This becomes more challenging when they have to work from home. Managers should devise ways to help employees see and understand that they all share a common goal, whether or not they are not physically present in the office.
3. Recognize and reward excellence
Remote employees need as much motivation as they can get and one great way to do this is to recognize and incentivize exceptional performance. This can be done in a range of ways and does not have to be grand to be effective. It could be in the form of an electronic gift card to a local restaurant or even a simple thank-you email. Regardless of the rewards, the goal is to encourage continued productivity and dedication from the team.
4. Set expectations
The lack of face-to-face supervision often presents a challenge with remote working.
According to research on the role of relationships in understanding telecommuter satisfaction, employees may start to feel like managers lack an understanding of their needs. While employees may feel like they’re not getting the help and support they need, managers may also worry that employees may not perform up to expectations.
The key here is to communicate expectations to employees in clear terms. Employees with knowledge of what is expected of them would be more motivated to meet or possibly exceed those expectations.
5. Encourage work-life balance for remote employees
Telecommuting does not automatically solve all issues related to work-life balance.
In some cases, it could make it a lot more difficult for remote employees to establish a boundary between work and life. Homeschooling, among other home and family demands, can easily get in the way of remote work. Employees may also feel like they’ll have to be available all day for work. Feelings like these can induce stress and burnout. Managers have to make employees understand the need to create boundaries.
6. Making work fun and productive
According to Harvard Business Review, the absence of informal social interaction as obtained in office settings can make workers feel socially isolated or suffer from loneliness. And this is especially more serious with extroverts. There is, therefore, a need to make employees feel less lonely and more connected. This can involve:
Providing opportunities for social interactions among employees to have informal or non-work-related conversations.
Adding a bit of humor and fun activities to make work from home much more fun. It should be noted that even little efforts such as sharing a meme or encouraging employees to share funny moments internally can help spice things up.
While this also helps in regular office settings, it can be of more value when you have to manage remote workers who have suddenly been transitioned out of the office.
7. Offer encouragement and support
The uncertainty of these times and the abrupt change to daily living routines could present added stress and anxiety for employees. It won’t be uncommon to see employees struggle physically, mentally, or financially. More than ever, managers need to be empathetic and supportive to help employees stay healthy, happy, and productive.
Managers should understand it’s no longer business as usual
Almost a quarter of the US workforce now works from home, with many opportunities and challenges being presented at the same time. While many employees are still struggling to adjust to the new normal, it’s important to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing WFH employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there’s no real playbook to follow when dealing with a crisis.
While it’s important to always be there for employees and to always answer whatever questions or concerns they may have, it can be counterproductive to try and make everyone conform to a particular style of work. The goal is to get work done. And, so long as remote employees deliver what is expected of them and they’re happy, hardly will any other thing matter.