Even if you had planned on converting some of your workforce to telecommuting, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that timetable significantly. As a result, you may wonder how you can keep your remote staff engaged.
As you establish new work-from-home policies, remember that your employees must manage a lot, too. Identifying methods to keep them engaged while they navigate the new normal requires consideration and compromise. That said, the show must go on — so here’s how to motivate your staff throughout the transition.
1. Open the Channels of Communication
Have you ever used an app to order something and encountered a problem you couldn’t solve, only to find that the only way to contact customer service is to send an email and wait for a reply? In that scenario, you can do whatever you like during the interim. However, when you’re at work and a staff member has an issue, you don’t want them sitting idly while they await your response.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your employees will know whom to contact and how. Send out a flow chart outlining the channels to use when a question arises. For example, the first point of contact for many staff members is their immediate supervisor. Can they reach them via cellphone? If so, do they prefer text or calls? What about meetings? You can also invest in secure team collaboration software such as Slack to empower workers to coordinate with their colleagues.
2. Favor Praise Over Criticism
Right now, your staff members have to manage a ton of anxiety. Even experts don’t know for sure what the future holds. Don’t compound their stress with vague threats about logging a specified number of keystrokes per hour or stepping away from their workstations for more than five minutes. Many of them have children at home, and interruptions will happen.
Instead, applaud your staff members for what they do well. Fully 96% of workers surveyed said that praise inspired them to take on more duties. What’s genuinely more important? Having employees that show up daily and ready to do their best or stressing over a 15-minute break that stretched into 20?
3. Invest in Training and Professional Development
Even if your squad typically operates like a well-oiled machine, the transition to telecommuting will require them to develop new skill sets. Don’t dismiss webinars on methods to increase productivity while working remotely. These are not fluff — they’re vital to giving your team members the tools they need to perform.
4. Allow Flexible Schedules Whenever Possible
If your remote workers are juggling both family and career responsibilities, interruptions will invariably occur. Sometimes you need staff members to cover the phones to answer customer calls. However, unless a team member fills a client-facing role, allow flexible schedules. This way, your workers can plan breaks for feeding lunch to their little ones or taking them to the park for fresh air before naptime.
5. Ask for Frequent Feedback
Many business owners overlook one of the simplest methods for improving operations — simply asking their team for input. Depending on the size of your organization, you might not have any idea about the day-to-day tasks required by staff members in the accounting or marketing departments outside of reports. What tools do they need to do their jobs more efficiently? Could minor tweaks to daily procedures boost productivity?
You can send out emails and surveys asking your employees for their feedback. Do bear in mind that most staff members will hesitate to raise concerns out of fear of looking like complainers. For the most insightful results, make
the responses as anonymous as possible. Don’t ask for names or other personally identifiable information.
6. Treat Them Like In-office Team Members
Since telecommuting first became possible, many companies have treated their remote team members differently than in-house employees. While this treatment is understandable — previously, many remote workers filled contract or temporary gigs only — it can make full-time staff feel left out and insignificant. It’s okay to reserve some perks for in-office workers, but weigh the pros and cons carefully.
For example, let’s say you run a small general contracting business. It’s one thing to exclude remote workers from a pizza party. However, cutting benefits packages for telecommuters, especially if their roles demand working from home, will cause resentment if others keep their perks. Work is work regardless of where your team performs it, so don’t fall into the trap of treating telework like it’s less critical — unless you want your staff to adopt a similar attitude.
Keep Your Remote Employees Engaged
Switching to a remote staff always involves some transitions. And during a pandemic, it’s more challenging than ever to keep productivity high. Use a few simple tips to engage your workforce and navigate the shift to telework with minimal headaches.