We’ve had just more than a year to adjust and adapt to our current working conditions. Though there was a large disruption in the way that we work, we’ve learned how to do so in unique environments, and we’ve adapted our use of technology accordingly. Imagine how much of a struggle it would have been to work at home during the pandemic without our current technology.
However, we still must consider how we’re going to continue supporting our remote employees. We’re not likely going to be ready to go back into the office full-time for a while, and even when we are ready, the working conditions of the future may not be the same as they were prior to the pandemic. Given this possibility, it’s worthwhile to discuss how we can support our employees who are working remotely.
What steps you can implement into your team or organization to drive engagement with your remote employees? Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, but they’re worthwhile considerations as a starting point.
1) Remember that more frequent communication is okay.The “office grapevine” isn’t readily available anymore. This has two immediate effects:
- An important source of information and knowledge has been lost. Some employees may feel like they don’t know what’s happening around them anymore.
- Relationships are harder to build because we can no longer engage in quick, casual conversation. Some employees may have started to—or already have—lost that feeling of belonging to the team or organization.
While working in the office, it was always easy to swing by someone’s space and see if they’re available for a conversation. “Check-ins” these days feel more formal because we feel like we need to ask when someone has the time to talk. Your team may feel like they’re inconveniencing others and hesitate to engage with others as a result. Encourage them to reach out and have conversations with their colleagues, especially when it would be easier to resolve the issue through a verbal conversation rather than with a string of e-mails.
You can also support a culture of communication by scheduling regular check-ins with your employees. For example, team watercooler meetings are a great way to get some casual conversation and social interaction time built into everyone’s day. This helps your team maintain a sense of belonging, even while isolated at home.
2) Avoid micromanaging your team.We all can picture that one manager who was spying on their team, to make sure they were in their office and “looking busy” (even if they were browsing social media or looking for a new job). Methods for micromanagement are obvious. If you’re calling your employee every 30 minutes to make sure that they’re working, they already suspect that you don’t trust them. If you’ve installed tracking software of their computers, you’ve just removed all doubt.
Provide your team with some freedom to accomplish their goals. If they were a keen contributor in the office, then it’s likely that they’ll continue to achieve their goals while working from home. The question has been posed many times, but it’s worth thinking about in this new context: If you don’t trust your team, why did you hire them in the first place?
3) Supporting the new work-life balance.Following the point above, we need to acknowledge that the definition of work-life balance is different in our current situation. During the workday, employees often have other things that need their attention, such as demands from their family and home life.
Support your employees by letting them know that it’s okay for them to attend to their personal life when it comes up, but acknowledge that they still need to achieve their goals. Help them find this new balance in their life by providing a flexible schedule and a culture that focuses on achieving goals (rather that the number of hours they’re at the computer).
Also, it can be difficult to switch between “work” and “home” mindsets, given that there isn’t a natural transition anymore (in the form of a daily commute). As a result, it may be harder for your team to stop thinking about work during their evenings, even when their attention should be with their family or personal interests.
Encourage your team to establish routines that they start and end their day with. It can be as simple as making a cup of coffee to start the day and taking a walk around the block at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated; rather, it just needs to be enough to signify the start and end of the work day.
4) Build psychological safety.This is nothing new or different from prior to the pandemic: Organizations that have happy and engaged employees are those organizations that build a sense of psychological safety and trust within the team. However, this is more important than ever due to the fact that we’re constantly navigating changing and uncertain times. From some of my newer research on Canadian organizations, I’ve found that teams are struggling to collaborate. This is having an impact on creativity and innovation as well as preventing us from finding win-win solutions.
Here are some tips on how you can build this trust:
- Communicate regularly. While doing so, be transparent in your communication. Your employees can figure out when you’re trying to bend the truth or put your best foot forward, so just be honest.
- Share your vulnerabilities. Doing so as a leader will set the tone that it’s okay to be human. As a result of you sharing, your team will feel more comfortable doing the same, and you’ll be able to understand the ways that they need support.
- Ask your team how they’re doing. Show that you genuinely care about how they’re doing. Remember, relationships are two-way. If you’re not showing that you’re interested in them, they won’t show any interest in (or loyalty to) you.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Just because we’ve made the adaptation to our current working environment doesn’t mean that we can’t improve it further. Consider the above tips a way to move from surviving to thriving.
To learn more, join me April 15 for the webinar “Leaders and Their Leadership: Common Strengths and Consistent Challenges.”