Sure, we may have relaxed some of our Covid-19 rules, but many employees are still working from home and are expected to do so for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, we wanted to focus today’s blog on how to foster engagement among your remote workers.
Below, we outline our top tips for keeping the connection going when all you have is an internet connection!
By nature, working from home can be an isolating experience. Is everyone having the same trouble with the system? Can no one see my screen? Is anyone out there? Our top tip when it comes to driving engagement in a remote environment thus focuses on being aware of the potential challenges associated with this unique work environment and having the capacity to respond quickly and appropriately to the issues that arise. As such, we recommend that you make it very clear to employees that they should report any and all issues they are experiencing promptly, have a team pre-assembled to handle specific issues, and a plan for the down-time employees may experience while a problem is being resolved.
Sure, working from home may have been a bonus for the first few weeks, but the reality of remote working during a pandemic, often times when kids and other family members are also trying to conduct business from the same home, certainly presents an array of challenges. Employees will value your ability to understand that now is not the time for rigid rules and will instead welcome a bit of flexibility when it comes to work hours, deadlines (where possible, of course) and the challenges that come with balancing this new normal.
As we touched on above, the work-from-home environment presents unique challenges, particularly to members of your staff that may be far from tech-savvy. To address this, you’ll want to be sensitive to employee’s needs to stay connected to one another through various means and be open to establishing new ways to facilitate communication and foster relationships. Many businesses, for example, are experimenting with using traditional online platforms – such as Zoom, Facetime and WebEx – to allow employees to participate in virtual coffee or lunch breaks or even team happy hours, often times with a theme (group Pictionary anyone?) or goal (celebrating a birthday or work anniversary) in mind.
A casual high five or passing compliment in the hallway for a job well done can be tough to replicate in the virtual world, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t show appreciation for your online employees. Send a quick email to your star performer recognizing their above and beyond service, and you could even follow it up with a virtual gift card to a local coffee spot or other small token of appreciation. Further, you should back up this informal praise by jotting these accolades down for inclusion in their more formal performance review so that they can be recognized again for their contributions in a more formal setting and potentially rewarded more tangibly with a bonus, salary bump, or even a promotion.
Just because folks aren’t physically in the office doesn’t mean that you should stop investing in their growth potential. While it is tempting to put training and other “extras” on hold, doing so can be detrimental to your company culture as folks start to feel stagnant in their role and question how long they can hold the line. Early studies suggest that businesses are gaining the benefits associated with virtual learning opportunities, and that some folks even prefer an online format where they can work at their own pace and deep dive as necessary on topics of interest. Further, this remote work environment can give your company the opportunity to experiment with new online modalities, such as simulations and virtual role-playing opportunities.
Sure, it seems a little counterintuitive to expand your ranks when you’re so concerned with keeping those that you already have satisfied, but we know that a stagnant business very quickly becomes a failing business. And yes, we recognize the difficulty of hiring from outside of your ranks, but you can really drive engagement by promoting from within where possible or asking existing employees to share their talents in new and innovative ways. Should you need to onboard a new employee, maintain company culture by prioritizing the foundational requirements to get an employee up and running and make sure that you are nailing them in the virtual environment, create increased opportunities for direct and frequent communication with new hires (followed by regular check-ins to gage engagement), and then find new ways to help them to forge relationships with others within the company that they may have never had the opportunity to meet face to face.