There’s no doubt Coronavirus has changed the way we do business in 2020. Now, more than ever, businesses are requiring employees to work from home. While some employees have worked from home in the past, many employees and managers find themselves adjusting to the new, (maybe or maybe not) temporary, “normal.”
Clearly, there are some advantages to working from home: less commute time, saving money by not eating out, and no dry-cleaning bills. Working from home also means more distractions (pets, television, refrigerator), fewer ways to interact with peers, and more social isolation – which can all lead to less productivity. Employers are exploring new, creative ways to overcome these challenges and finding ways to motivate employees remotely.
Here are five ideas to help your team stay connected and motivated while they are quarantined and working from home:
1. CRANK UP THE COMMUNICATION
Pre-COVID-19, most of your team members likely spent their days in close proximity, making it easier to communicate and more effortless. But that close proximity is a think of the past with remote work becoming the norm, and communication breakdown is a possibility. This is especially true if your employees are not used to working from home and the varied challenges it brings.
As managers, this could be your first time managing your team virtually, or your company might not have a ready-to-go suite of tools for remote workers. Even for those accustomed to it, working from home can feel unstructured (and uncertain) in current times.
Pandemic in play or not, the key to working from home is clear communication. Tell the team on a regular basis exactly what is expected of them regarding work assignments and performance goals. Have clear expectations and connect with your team often (see #2 for how often). A quick 10-minute call to start the day or a Fast Wrap-Up at the end of the day can be helpful. These short, touch-base meetings help keep expectations aligned and productivity up.
2. PROVIDE THE RIGHT TOOLS
An important way to help teams succeed while working remotely is providing the tools to help them stay connected and productive. Consider project management tracking apps (Asana or Airtable), chat/messaging apps (Slack or Microsoft Teams), and video conferencing apps (Zoom or Google Hangouts).
Equipping teams with these technologies allows everyone to stay on the same page, whether they are working from their home office or waiting in a long line at the grocery store. These might also help keep your team more productive and connected after COVID-19 fears lessen and people begin to go back to work.
3. ESTABLISH A CHAT ROUTINE
A simple rhythm is recommended for remote teams. It could look something like this:
Monday: Hold a performance cycle meeting for the team that covers the following.
- What impact did we have last week and what did we learn?
- What commitments do we have this week? Who is on point for each?
- How can we help each other with this week’s commitments?
Tuesday-Thursday: Have at least one individual meeting with each of your team members. To help motivate your employees, focus on helping them tackle challenges that are a slight stretch. You can also coordinate small group meetings in which employees can collaborate on the week’s projects and tackle problems together.
Friday: Focus on reflection. Discuss performance issues, how they were resolved, emphasizing the teamwork and collaboration. It’s also important to check in on each other’s motivation and progress. Set the example by asking employees how they are feeling: Where did they struggle this week? Where did they thrive?
4. KEEP TEAM BUILDING AND TRAINING
In addition to focusing on metrics and performance, don’t forget to continue addressing teamwork and training for remote workers. Creating time and space for workers to talk about news, hobbies, and other topics — just as they would have done in the office — helps them relieve stress and feel better connected. One way to do this is to host a regular virtual happy hour (drinking not required) or a “wear a funny hat”, “show us your pet”, or “what’s for lunch” days to build bridges between employees.
You can also encourage employees to register for webinars (so many topics and many are free) and then share what they learned afterwards. Ongoing training is important, even during a pandemic.
5. TAKE CHARGE TO KEEP SPIRITS UP
A recent Harvard Business Review article addressed the importance of developing company culture with remote employees in order to foster engagement which impacts productivity. This can be a difficult thing to do when communicating virtually.
The article suggests that in order to nurture culture, you must first build trust. One good way to accomplish this is to bring team members together on a frequent basis.
By including remote workers on company meetings and other events on a regular basis, your unique business culture is more easily shared by all. Allow time for questions and answers and be transparent about challenges the pandemic brings and how the business intends to charge ahead.
Also, keep celebrating birthdays, give public praise for goals reached and projects completed. These routines are a good way to connect and give people a feeling that they are not alone and everyone is still working toward the business goals. It also helps foster a healthy work spirit and people don’t completely slide so into the work from home slump.
Times are tough, but so are YOU! Remote work does not have to be a setback for your business. You can motivate remote workers, go out of your way to appreciate employees, especially now. Perks can help you create programs to show your appreciation for the genuine efforts and employees that express company values, even when working from home! You’ve got this.
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