When employees work outside of the workplace, especially those who aren’t accustomed to working remotely, it can be difficult for them to maintain a sense of engagement with their employer. Outside of daily tasks and basic work functions, they can quickly begin to feel disconnected and demoralized. Keeping employees engaged while working remotely may take a little extra effort on the part of managers and owners, but it can help improve the overall productivity and help ensure that employees return to the workplace with gusto once things return to normal.
Keep the lines of communication open
Just like in any good relationship, communication is key to helping employees remain engaged while working remotely. Without the daily drop-ins, hallway conversations, or breakroom run-ins, it’s important to be intentional about communicating with employees during this period to avoid disengagement.
Quick phone calls, emails, or a chat app can easily fill in the communication gap created when working remotely. Be sure to touch base with all employees periodically throughout the day to discuss the status of a project or just for a quick chat. You’d be surprised how far a simple “How are you?” or “Is there anything you need?” can go in keeping your employees committed to your company.
Focus on achievable tasks
With the current state of unease, stress, and frustration being felt by the business community, it’s important to help your employees take control of their work-from-home situations. One of the best ways to help give them back control is to focus on achievable tasks during this time.
When working with your team on developing a list of assignments that offer certainty, look for projects that can be completed from anywhere. Even if the end-product can’t be completed remotely, look for opportunities to move projects forward while adapting to the new realities of the working situation. Even if you can’t start building a new project while working remotely, can you have initial planning meetings over Webex or Zoom? Also, encourage employees to use this time to catch up on tasks that might have slipped down their to-do lists. You’d be surprised how good it can feel to finally address all those unread or unanswered emails. Helping employees identify tasks that they can complete without frustration can help them feel more productive.
Honor work hours
The flexibility of working from home leaves many employees and managers with an unexpected side effect – the inability to disconnect at the end of the workday. Working remotely may seem like it gives you more freedom until you find yourself returning emails at 8 pm when you should be spending time with your family.
Striking a balance between work and home life is a key indicator of engagement, so helping your employees disconnect at the right time is critical. You can encourage them to keep a predictable work schedule by organizing daily activities or check-in times that help employees know when to work and when to disconnect. Your managers can even set up a morning “check in” session for employees to discuss the activities they have on the docket for the day, and an end of day “check out” session for employees to report the tasks they completed and that they’re signing off for the day.
Stay social while social distancing
Whether managers and owners like it or not, the workplace is as much about being social as it is about business. With employees spending ⅓ of their life with their coworkers, suddenly being cut off from that daily interaction can be jarring and quickly lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Encourage employees to drop a line to one another throughout the day using a chat app or via text. You can even encourage socializing by facilitating virtual activities for team members to share a few minutes of friendly, non-work conversation on Zoom or Webex. Get creative and ask employees to post photos or a video of their home office set up or a virtual tour of their neighborhood while enjoying a quarantine-friendly stroll.
Provide and ask for feedback
When you’re in the workplace, feedback from employees is often instantaneous. When everyone is working remotely, however, it may be hours or days before an employee hears back about a project they’ve completed. Since most of your workforce probably isn’t used to these delayed interactions, be mindful of providing feedback as frequently as possible, especially for newer or more inexperienced employees.
Additionally, seek feedback from your employees while they’re working remotely. Make sure that they have all of the supplies they need to do their job from home and that they are comfortable with the expectations set for them. These informal surveys of how your employees are holding up during this time can help you head off any engagement issues before they result in a larger problem down the road.
Delivering the information you need
Even in the midst of the current situation, it’s important to remember that your most important business asset is your workforce. Shifting to remote working is a challenge. It takes time for employees to adjust and it’s vital that you ensure that your team stays engaged with your company and each other.
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