Several months into the coronavirus quarantine, remote work has become more relevant than ever. While working from home has many benefits, one of the major concerns for employers is how to engage remote employees.
Between distractions at home, family life, and feelings of isolation, remote work poses its own unique set of challenges. So how can you keep your team motivated and productive, even from afar?
Simply put, a lot of it has to do with having managers who are willing to listen and provide both professional and emotional support. Read on for our top eight tips on how to motivate remote employees.
1. Get on the same page.
Department heads should meet with their teams to ensure everyone is on the same page about remote work expectations, like:
- Working hours: What is a regular workday? Do different team members have different hours/shifts?
- Response time and method: How soon can we expect replies? Will it vary based on the communication method (e.g.: email vs. chat)?
- Availability updates: How do we inform the team when we aren’t available? Should we tell the manager, send a group email, or use a shared calendar?
Even if response time can’t always be immediate, your team can feel more connected when communication is at least predictable.
2. Dress as if you’re going to the office.
Working in your sweatpants is certainly tempting when you have no one to impress, but sometimes we can get a bit too comfortable sitting in our comfiest attire in our home office.
Advise your remote employees to dress for success. Keeping up with this aspect of their regular work routine often helps motivate employees to stay focused and productive. After all, when you look put together, you feel put together. Plus, they’ll be ready for impromptu video calls with clients or colleagues!
3. Place emphasis on video communication.
Segueing from above into our next point: Use video as much as possible. This encourages people to get dressed!
Video also allows people to use and observe non-verbal communication. No more miscommunication or misconstrued comments causing social anxiety or tension.
Finally, video meetings encourage your team to take meetings more seriously and actively participate in them. They’re a great way to ensure remote workers are truly engaged and listening, rather than driving with the conference call on mute.
4. Help them create dedicated workspaces and healthy boundaries.
While it’s important to separate our work and home lives, it can be very challenging when our home is also the office.
Give your remote employees ideas to help them create a productive and safe work environment at home. Encourage dedicated workspaces, even if it means turning the basement or spare bedroom into a temporary office. This office area should be designated for working, where employees can ask their housemates not to disturb them during working hours. Employees should also feel like they can actually turn off their computers at the end of the day and step away from the desk to relax and recharge.
Additionally, some companies have provided stipends to employees during this time or supplied employees with equipment to make their home offices more comfortable and productive (e.g.: ergonomic chairs, larger/dual monitors, standing desks, etc.).
5. Acknowledge the realities of employees’ living situations.
Let your virtual team know that you’re understanding about things like family responsibilities. For example, parents may need to set times to take care of the kids, then swap with their partner.
Work with employees to create a schedule that ensures they are productive and still able to manage their responsibilities outside of work. This will help them feel focused and accomplished in both their jobs and personal lives, leading to higher productivity.
6. Keep an “open door” and offer emotional support.
Working from home can lead to loneliness and negative emotions due to a lack of face-to-face interaction. This is why it’s so important to be even more available and post virtual office hours when managing a remote workforce. This can be as simple as being available on instant messenger during certain hours.
Remember to promote self-care among your at-home workers. Foster a culture that values things like exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, and even indulging in a bath with a good book. Advise employees to enjoy their favorite form of self-care on a regular basis. Some companies have even done fun team-building activities like virtual workouts, yoga sessions, and book clubs!
7. Help employees prioritize.
Your workers have a lot on their plates right now, so help them determine what needs to get done and when. Communicate priorities and let them know what non-essential items they can remove from their list. Daily check-ins and status updates on priority projects will help you and your remote team members stay on the same wavelength and remain agile in this ever-changing environment.
When you do discuss priorities with employees, encourage them to be realistic with you about what they can and can’t accomplish. Let them know it’s ok and recommended to take breaks regularly. This is much healthier than sitting for several hours without a screen break and a stretch of the legs.
Prioritizing also goes for meetings. Since your team can’t just walk down the hall to ask a quick question or have a brief chat, you’ll need more scheduled meetings now. Make sure they are actually necessary, keep them efficient, and stick to an agenda. Invite all relevant people to the call to avoid having multiple meetings when it could’ve just been one.
8. Communicate often and transparently.
Without the luxury of regular in-person access to our bosses and coworkers, imaginations and uncertainties can run wild. Poor and insufficient communication can cause concern and stress, thus distracting virtual employees from their work and lowering productivity.
Be transparent about company news and updates. Inform employees how performance reviews, rewards, and compensation will work in this remote work environment. If everyone understands that there is a system in place, they will feel more secure and motivated.
During weekly check-ins with their reports, managers should ask:
- How working from home is going
- How they’re engaging with their work and colleagues
- How the company is doing
Last but certainly not least, make people feel heard by acknowledging their feedback and implementing changes where necessary.
Motivating Remote Employees
The key to maintaining happy, healthy, and productive remote employees is fostering a culture of honest and frequent dialogue. This means truly listening to and supporting your team as well as being flexible. As long as you keep this in mind, your business will enjoy a successful remote work environment long after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
For more guidance on engaging remote employees, contact BlueLion to learn more about our human resource consulting services at 603-818-4131 or [email protected]. We’ll be happy to help you create a highly productive virtual workforce!