As more companies adapt to work-from-home policies in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, there’s an even greater need to understand one of the biggest hurdles associated with remote work. Prior to the current state we’re in, 20% of the global remote workforce felt like they were isolated, not just socially – but informatively as well.
Frequent communication is important, but ensuring your employees don’t feel left out from opportunities and resources that those in the office would have is equally as crucial. Feeling like you’re “out of sight, out of mind” as a remote employee can be extremely detrimental to your proactivity.
So, whether you’re an employer transitioning to the remote environment or if your company has been remote for some time, how do you maintain a positive company culture online?
We’ve put together a few suggestions on how you can boost morale and keep employees feeling empowered and united during one of the most difficult times our nation has seen in the last decade.
Show Coworkers That You Care About Them
Everyone’s top priority right now is the health and safety of those around them, and that’s shown by so many employers implementing work-from-home policies to prevent the spread of this outbreak. However, mental health should also be taken into account as life dealing with our current situation can be stressful and tense.
Communicate more than usual – share positive stories, check in on projects, offer to help where needed. Remote workers shouldn’t feel left out just because they’re not able to be in the office. To put it simply:
“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”– Brené Brown
Let your team members know what you expect from them, and check in often. Be kind by being clear about what is needed and touching base as often as possible to avoid employee isolation.
Reach out to a coworker (virtually) and make sure they know you’re thinking about them. Thank your boss for letting you have the flexibility to work from home. Read the memos from your HR rep and let them know you appreciate their efforts to prevent the spread.
A few more ideas to help your coworkers know you care:
- Post trivia questions in the team message board or in a group email
- Send messages to your team with tips on how to make their personal lives easier and reduce stress
- Send a coworker a gift from your company store – a great way to spread positivity and keep your brand identity alive with minimal points of contact.
- Designate a point-of-contact for procuring emergency supplies in case your employees are having a hard time finding them in stores
- Send a text to make sure everything is okay at home and that they’re prepared in case they were affected by the outbreak
- Give a coworker a public shout-out on an online platform like a Facebook group, Slack, Motivosity, etc.
Don’t Let Social Distancing Lead To Team Dissipation
Though we’re spending less time together in person, that doesn’t mean we need to completely distance ourselves from our teams. If you’re like us – part of our business is impossible to complete at home, as we produce the majority of our products at our HQ here in Utah.
This segregation of remote workers vs. those in the office has created an interesting challenge of keeping everyone feeling involved, proactive, and informed. We’re communicating mostly by phone and internal messaging – with social distancing being enforced in every position. It’s definitely difficult to keep employees away from each other while at the same time promoting collaboration and productivity.
At the same time, now is an experimental period to see if productivity increases when face-to-face communication is limited. Think about it – there’s always the meeting that could have been an email, or a visit to a coworker that could have been a Slack message.
According to Entrepreneur.com, 46% of employees rarely (or never) leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next. Working remotely and distancing ourselves from our team members can provide a new opportunity to try out more efficient meeting strategies to improve team collaboration.
Current recommendations from a study of 19 million meetings to make your meetings more effective include:
- Set clear objectives for your meetings
- Have a clear agenda
- Don’t have too many people in the room
- Use visual stimulus such as video and presentations
Consider exploring alternate routes for meetings, measure how much productivity has increased or decreased as a result, and interview your team members to see if it’s something you should continue to implement in the future.
Management – Keep Calm And Stay Proactive
Despite the chaos of the supermarket, it is possible to maintain some sense of normalcy in your day-to-day work life. Plus, it’s something we’re able to control and keep as an avenue to feel more like ourselves. Now is the time for leaders to lead and ensure their teams keep calm, stay proactive, and remain driven toward your company’s objectives.
“Loneliness can contribute to isolation and isolation can contribute to loneliness, but managers can address both by talking about the issues that cause them. Gallup workplace research recommends frequent, ongoing conversation timed for maximum impact.”
There are five types of conversations that should take place regularly to promote remote team productivity:
- Role and relationship development
- Quick connect
- Developmental coaching
- Progress review
These are typically conversations we’d have in the office, and when a piece is left out working remotely, isolation and insecurity can creep in. Even though management is dealing with a variety of moving components as the nature of business shifts during this outbreak, continuing these conversations with employees is an essential way to keep your team engaged.
Overwhelmingly, clear and effective communication in conjunction with frequent reporting are the most important efforts to make to keep your culture alive. And of course, reach out to make sure your coworkers are prepared and feeling protected – we’re all human, and this outbreak affects each of us differently.