We like to say the COVID-19 pandemic threw businesses into an unfamiliar world – one where most employees work remotely. But this is not true.
While the pandemic may have accelerated the process, the trend was already gaining ground a few years prior. According to FlexJobs, in the last 12 years, there was an increase in remote work of 159%.
The trend is visible worldwide, but it’s extremely noticeable in the US, where over 4.7 million (or 3.4% of the US population) work remotely. In addition, big tech companies like Facebook make the case for permanent remote job positions even after the current difficulties.
After all, once the work frame is set up and running, the benefits are obvious for both employees and employers.
Still, there is one issue that needs our full attention – motivating remote workers and keeping team cohesion can be tough without face-to-face meetings and interpersonal relationships. We took a deeper look into the matter and managed to find a few actionable tips on how to keep the excitement going.
Provide a Safe Work Environment
True, not exactly exciting, but it lays the foundation and helps build trust in the system.
So what does this mean, exactly?
Since all the employees will be using remote connections and devices to meet in a virtual setting, it’s the company’s job to create a solid framework that doesn’t allow anyone snooping around.
This means using encrypted communication channels (such as a VPN service), clean devices (usually provided by the company), and only whitelisted addresses. It also means educating the staff on how to handle sensitive information, how to share files, and why it’s crucial to use and respect access rules.
We would also recommend offering access to cyber-security courses for anyone in charge of the network and maintenance, especially if you don’t have enough tech specialists in charge. In addition, it’s a great idea to set a dedicated forum for all employees where you can discuss matters pertaining to security issues and more.
Depending on the age and tech skills of your employees, you may have to create different tutorials and teaching sessions, so anyone can understand. It may seem daunting, but it is the first step towards a cohesive team that follows the same security rules.
Shift the Focus on Goal Achievement
If you still measure engagement by how much time employees spend in the office, you may be doing something wrong. In niches where physical presence isn’t necessary to do the work, the goal needs to be on setting clear expectations with well-defined timelines for achievements.
As such, each employee needs to have clear goals for each day, week, month, and quarter. And, as long as those goals are met according to the timeline, they can do the work whenever they like. This allows people to work whenever they feel more energetic and motivated while creating room for entertainment and time with friends and family.
However, a flexible schedule, with people working from all over the world raises new challenges when it comes to meetings and calls.
So, to keep the collaborative spirit up, encourage people to add their availability for meetings and/or chat in a public calendar that’s visible for everyone. This way, it’s easier to book a call with someone since you know when they’ll be able to include you in their schedule.
Be Present in Your Employees Lives
As the manager of a remote team, it can be easier to assign tasks via your favorite project management tool and then wait for people to call or email if there’s a problem. It may also seem more efficient as there is no idle chit chat and banter to keep track of.
However, studies show that chit chat and banter are at the basis of human relationships and help create connections between team members. It’s also a way to establish who you can trust and who is open to engaging with you in the office environment.
So, when the chit chat is missing, so is the connection.
Sadly, there’s nothing you can do when it comes to face-to-face chats, but there are ways to make sure the chit chat doesn’t stop. Here are a few ideas:
- Organize daily virtual meetings with each member of your team (individually) – it doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but it’s important to keep it friendly and work-appropriate. Also, if the team is large, you can have meetings every other day, but it’s important to be
- Have two or three weekly virtual meetings with the entire team. It helps to have a meeting at the beginning of the week, where you discuss the goals and one at the end, to measure achievements. Also when the entire team meets (even though virtually), it creates discussions and encourages people to get to know each other.
- Encourage people who work on the same project to have video calls rather than just email back and forth. It’s way easier to convey ideas and have a debate when you can use language and gestures.
- Create special chat areas where people can dish out any frustrations or have friendly conversations.
As human beings, we need to be social and express our thoughts and ideas through language. So, to make sure your team members are motivated and happy with their work environment, it’s important to provide the necessary communication means & channels.
It is safe to say that working remotely is not for everyone. In fact, the pandemic proved this quite well and many companies struggled with keeping morale up during the COVID-19 situation. Still, as the workforce is changing, more people look for a workplace that offers a flexible schedule.
Some people don’t like long commutes or crazy morning traffic while others love the idea of spending more time at home, with the family. On the other hand, there are people who would rather work from their comfy couch than a hard office chair.
The level of comfort that a flexible work schedule brings is directly tied to the employee’s productivity levels. So, even though it is challenging for companies, it is a change that can’t be ignored anymore.