In the weeks since COVID-19 began its rapid spread throughout the globe, more and more companies have decided to protect their employees with emergency work-from-home duties. While remote work was already relatively common in many industries, most organizations are equipping and have equipped themselves to continue business-as-usual by suddenly shifting gears and adopting work-from-home practices.
“This is unprecedented. It may change the workplace forever. Everyone will need to embrace a different sort of workplace behavior.
– Ann Francke, head of Chartered Management Institute
Having the right tech tools in place for your now-remote team is essential, but you also need a plan for keeping everyone engaged and focused on their work. Most families are now quarantined in their homes together, so employees are now facing more distractions than there might typically be. On top of that, your team may be feeling anxious about their health and safety, so employers must be mindful of how those fears may impact productivity in the coming weeks and months.
Glitches during remote work-
“Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Communication is considered to be one of the biggest challenges for remote teams. Where mix-ups and errors can occur even with systematic face to face communication, yet cutting-edge technology doesn’t promise that something won’t be lost in translation.
For some, remote work improves performance thanks to the lack of distractions like background noise, chatty colleagues, a strict schedule, and commuting. The others stand on the opposite foot – lack of office environment makes it harder to concentrate, lack of accountability disrupts daily working routines, there are even more distractions at home.
Lack of involvement
Remote employees can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the company. Not being able to connect personally with team members may cause remote employees to feel like they are not a part of the company’s culture and essential company moments.
Lack of Accountability
With remote work comes less control. It is not easy to manage and track everything that a remote employee does especially if their work is not highly measurable
If your business deals with sensitive data, remote work can bring risks and challenges. When you put something online, especially when it goes public, it’s almost impossible to take it all back.
Why is it important to keep your team engaged while they are working remotely?
Employee engagement is an integral part of company principles and provides long-term benefits for the ones that have chosen to make an effort in it. Commitment is based on the indication of trust between the employees and the organization, where promises and obligations are understood and fulfilled from both sides.
Being and feeling that you are a part of the team with clear goals, secure and authentic values, and a supportive environment helps employees know that they are valued and have a positive impact on business growth. The companies that understand that their employees are the most valuable asset to their business and make sure they support developing new skills recognize achievements, give and ask for regular feedback and empower their employees’ growth. And it is relatively more natural when you have employees by your side in the office.
Remote employees often feel left out because they are located outside of the company’s physical office and hence, find it hard to align with company culture. So, for remote team management, there’s an additional necessity to ensure that the remote colleagues are treated as equal members of the team and are involved in the company’s decisions.
Here’s what you can do
Create a virtual workplace
To keep the workflows moving, create a virtual office for employees. Invest in the best video conferencing and collaboration tools. Create a forum for employees to share personal as well as professional updates. Try to assign collaborative tasks weekly, encouraging team members to work together, and stay connected. Further, to keep up their morale and boost their moods, you can create virtual team activities like online multiplayer games, quizzes. Or you can even encourage them to learn new things and share them with their colleagues.
Keep your team updated
The key to success as a fully remote team is consistent, transparent communication. This is especially important as the coronavirus situation unfolds and changes. You’ll want to ensure that you have multiple ways to reach employees, including chat software and email, and err on the side of overcommunication. Prepare compelling presentations to keep them engaged and inspired and provide them with all possible updates through communication channels.
For companies that are used to a traditional office environment, it can be tempting for leaders to check in regularly to make sure employees are on task while they’re working from home. However, micromanaging your team will only make them feel like you don’t trust them; engaging your remote workers starts with a high-trust culture. Keep your communication channels open for them and let your team work autonomously.
“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Stephen R. Covey
Lead by examples
If your organization isn’t used to working from home, they may still be adjusting to their new home office, whatever that might look like. As a leader, you can model what a good remote work setup looks like, especially during your video conferences. Avoid or remove any disorder in the background that can distract others in a meeting.
Build a feedback mechanism
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Your team is going to take some time to adjust to the change that the pandemic has rendered upon us. We recommend setting up an employee engagement survey, if you don’t have one in place already, to understand the general mood within your remote workforce. Ask them how the whole process of “work from home” can be improved for them, and what you as a manager can do to keep them on their toes. Upon receiving feedback, you can act accordingly.
Create a Work-from-Home Policy
Clarity is crucial for remote workers to be productive. Therefore, if you do have remote employees, you should also have a work-from-home policy. Even if you support flexibility, some rules should be applied, as this helps employees feel like they are a part of your organizational culture. This will show your team how serious you are about keeping things going.
Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Showing trust to the employees by delegating them some of the duties that affirm their position in the company is an efficient way to show them what role they play in the team. By considering their ideas, giving them the lead in the meeting, and by including them in activities that are outside of their scope of responsibilities, you remind them that they are part of the whole team just as much as their other colleagues are.
In the past few months, normalcy has been taken away from our lives by the Coronavirus pandemic. As we are trying to accept the forced work from home culture, it is becoming more and more thorny for teams to perform to their fullest and deliver to their superiors. At the same time, managers are finding it inconvenient to keep their teams on their toes. These problems will keep on existing as long as we let them; the best we can do is take the situation for its face value and get a grip on things we can. Most importantly, always think in terms of solutions because focusing on the problems gives us more of them.