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It’s been a year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic changed our entire understanding of work etiquette and norms. While most companies have gotten into the groove of working from home; many of them still struggle with keeping their remote workforce engaged enough to remain as productive as possible. These tips should help to get your employees working at more optimal levels.
COVID – 19 has had a massive impact on virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives. As a result, the workforce in the United States has seen a drastic shift to remote work. Kate Lister, the president of Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25% – 30% of the workforce in the US will work from home at least some of the time by the end of 2021. On top of that, an overwhelming majority of employees say that they would want to work from home at least a couple of days a week. With this massive shift towards remote work, employers need to be ready to tackle any new challenges that will inevitably arise.
Over the past year and a half, employees have become used to remote working. Despite looser restrictions and even a return to normalcy in some places, many employers stuck with a work-from-home model. Remote work not only cuts commute costs — it also allows employees to work in a comfortable and distraction-free environment.
Yet the longer some employees work from the comfort of their homes, their productivity may start to slip. Isolated away from coworkers and an office environment, employees can lose the motivation they once had.
By caring for the well-being of their employees, employers can create a work culture in which workers want to put in their all. By reducing meetings and being flexible with workloads, employees will gravitate naturally to a more productive mindset. Take a look at the graphic below to check out more ways to foster productivity in a remote workplace.
With the end of COVID–19 nowhere in sight, many employees will be working from home for the foreseeable future. This creates new obstacles for both employers and employees. So how has the workforce changed this past year and a half? How do we keep our remote staff engaged while they continue to work from home? Here are the main things you need to do to ensure employee engagement.
Communication is key
Having open and honest communication while employees are remote is one of the most important things employers can do. This creates a sense of inclusion that is otherwise difficult to achieve when not in person. One thing you can do to keep communication open is to hold regular virtual office hours. This allows your employees to reach out to you with questions and concerns as well as keep as much of an open-door policy as possible. Your employees will feel more engaged and connected with you as a leader if they know when and how they can reach you. It is also beneficial to hold weekly or bi-weekly touch bases with your direct reports. This is a time to check-in and see how they are feeling as well as address any concerns that may have come up.
Keeping your employees connected with each other is also crucial to engagement. Working from home can create a feeling of isolation and separation from co-workers that they would otherwise see on a daily basis. Encourage your team to take virtual coffee breaks together. This is a great way for them to take time out of their day to catch up with others. You could also hold weekly meet-ups or happy hours with your team. Invite staff from different departments and most importantly new team members. Have a list of ice-breaker questions or even some virtual games you can play to keep the conversations flowing. Providing opportunities for staff to connect with each other will create a higher sense of community in the workplace and result in higher morale overall.
Continue Praise and Recognition
Or better yet, expand on it. Remote workers can oftentimes feel that they are not as productive while they work from home. This is due to distractions at home that may not otherwise happen when in an office setting. However, data shows that remote employees are actually far more productive than their in-person counterparts. With more productivity happening, it is crucial that you keep any employee recognition programs in place that you had in the office. Something as simple as recognizing an employee of the month can make all the difference when it comes to employee engagement. Consider using an online delivery service to reward their hard work with their favorite treats. This is a great way to show your appreciation while still maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Employers may also opt to hold weekly engagement meetings. This gives your entire staff the opportunity to sync with the company as a whole. A weekly engagement meeting is a great time to give shout-outs to employees who have gone above and beyond and deserve some recognition from their peers. These are also effective times to communicate with the entire team all at once. You can use this time to provide any important news or updates that have arisen during the week. Make sure that these meetings are informal, and a time for the staff to unwind with their co-workers.
One of the worst things you can do to remote employees is micromanaging them. Many employees do not work well when every aspect of their day is controlled. While this is true even in an office setting, it applies just as much while working remotely. As mentioned above, there are many new distractions that remote employees may face at home that take them away from their normal work routine. Factors such as caring for children and pets can be very demanding, and at times, may take priority over their work. Employers can explore using flex time as an option to allow their employees to schedule their work around any other priorities they may have. Flex time gives employees the freedom to plan their life around their work while still maintaining the same amount of productivity overall.
Another effective way to give your remote employees more freedom is to allow for a “no meeting day” once a week. A no meeting day is a day centered around productivity without the distraction of virtual meetings. This allows your staff the opportunity to take a full day to focus on completing any task they have for the week. A no meeting day can be any day of the week that works for your business. It is important that everyone respects this day and does not schedule any meetings unless absolutely necessary. Giving your employees the freedom to complete their tasks around their personal schedule, will create higher employee morale overall. Higher morale will result in a greater return on investment in the long run for your business.
With the shape of the workforce evolving into a more work-from-home environment, it is important that employee engagement evolves as well. Communication, recognition, and giving you employees the freedom to complete their tasks around their daily life will be the keys to success as we navigate the new work from the home landscape in 2021.