It’s been several months since the world turned upside down. The reimagined remote workplace is now a reality. The challenges ahead may seem even more daunting because no one seems to have a concise playbook. We got you covered.
These days, engaging and empowering your remote employees may be as difficult as herding cats.
Hank may never figure out that the team can only see the top of his head on Zoom.
Laura’s puppy, while adorable, has very little to contribute to the weekly check-in.
Tabitha’s oversharing on Slack, derailed the project six different times in two months.
And the only thing good about Marketing’s “Game Night” was that it wasn’t recorded.
No one needs to relive that.
Granted, this shift isn’t easy. According to a recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, over 70% of employers report struggles with shifting to remote work. Another survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that about half of companies report a dip in productivity with this shift.
This dip may have something to do with internet access, a home filled with children, or a hesitancy to adopt new technologies. A recent Stanford University study found that only 49 percent of folks who responded to the survey can work privately in a room other than their bedroom. There’s another big challenge — online connectivity.
Internet connectivity for video calls has to be 90 percent or greater, which only two-thirds of those surveyed reported having. The remaining third have such poor internet service that it prevents them effectively working from home.
Then there’s the isolation…
It's human nature to enjoy being part of a group. Creating that camaraderie is the responsibility of managers, who are now also working remotely. If people can’t see or talk to one another every day, can’t pop into someone’s office for a chat, go to the gym after work with one another, the esprit de corps can disappear.
The result is unhappy employees who leave, furthering burdening the organization with the prospect of hiring new people or retraining people already on board.
The Good News
Many of the same employee retention tactics that worked in the “old normal,” still work today. They simply need to be adjusted to address the nature of remote work.
There are seven strategies any size organization can employ to help retain and empower remote employees.
Confidence - The learning curve on new technology can be scary. Remind your employees that people much smarter than them built these platforms, and they cannot break anything. Instill a sense of curiosity with your employees when it comes to investigating new tech. Their investigations will lead to confidence and ownership. Be patient. Not everyone adopts new methods at the same pace.
Check-in - Isolation can destroy teamwork. So, schedule a weekly pulse-taking session. Keep it brief and limit the individual sharing to four minutes each. Pick a timekeeper who can alert the employee when their time almost up. The ability to get challenges out in the open is productive and therapeutic. Most people are going through the same thing, and knowing they are not alone, lessens the burden. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Cued-up - Send out a simple Jotform at regular intervals to every employee. What is their priority today? This week? Where is the flow of work housed? Who is responsible for the next step? What kind of support would make completing the task easier? Reminding employees in a simple, straightforward way of their tasks and micro-goals, keep the line of communication open and increases personal productivity.
Community - Develop a company-wide system of support and encouragement. If you have a CRM, it can be built there. Put FAQs and simple video shares there, so anyone can access them at any time. Drop videos about new systems and processes, so employees can watch them at their leisure. Use tools like Slack to break out different workgroups into smaller group chats and enable notifications for higher-ups. They will be automatically alerted if something needs a response. It’s important to instill the idea that questions never go unanswered and that employee concerns are taken seriously.
Conversation - Make sure to have higher-ups schedule one-on-one meet-ups with each team leader. Go over wins, areas for improvement, and next steps. No more than 15 minutes. Then ensure that the meeting is transcribed using a platform like Temi, and the action steps are communicated with everyone on that team. Again, accountability and transparency can be easily achieved using technology. But humans still have to initiate the process.
Control - Transparency about deadlines or roadblocks helps employees feel in control. It’s easy to get lost when in-person accountability is no longer part of a regular workday. Make sure you have a project management system that illustrates the flow of work in a simple, “To Do, Doing, Done,” way. Use a platform like Trello or Asana, which are both incredible organizing systems that show this movement. It’s also able to assign tasks on individual “cards” complete with deadlines and a place to drop necessary assets.
Connection - Have your employees pick several topics that are not about work, anything other than work. Get on a group call, and if the platform is set up for it, let folks break out into smaller groups to discuss the topic of their choice. Or Invite guest speakers to discuss issues that excite your employees. Sourdough starters. Productivity. Social Justice. Homeschooling. Mindfulness. The list is endless, and most experts are delighted to come for an hour and share their stories. Remember, the well-being of you and your co-workers is the key to higher productivity and ease.
It is difficult, during unprecedented times like now, to look at change as an opportunity. Finding a sense of optimism can also be downright hard. When there is a solid plan that incorporates transparency, accountability, and humanity, the shift toward the “new normal” can actually be transformative.
Now can someone tell Hank we can’t see his face.