Posted on 2nd September 2020 by Vanessa Cole
A survey of 1,000 Australians reported that 86% of employees who have worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic would like to continue to do so in a part or full-time capacity, even once there is no longer a health threat.
Big name companies worldwide have recognised the benefits of working from home, such as reduction in overheads for the company, employee satisfaction and increased productivity, and they’re planning to let many employees work remotely on a permanent basis.
The downfall is that prolonged social distancing and self-isolation is testing us to the limit. Monash University has found evidence that social isolation as a result of COVID-19 is linked to an increase in Australians reporting worsened mental health. Early results found that most of the 1,200 study participants reported mild levels of anxiety and depression, while 30 per cent of those questioned showed moderate to high levels.
With this in mind, it’s essential to know how to engage your staff, to keep mood and productivity high, and create a lasting, positive side-effect on your company culture.
Build a culture of doing what you’d normally do if you were in the office, such as gaining someone else’s opinion mid-meeting – don’t let remote working stop you; it’s easy to turn a phone meeting into a conference call to get others’ thoughts in real time, rather than leaving them out or sending an email after the fact.
Actively encourage your team to share their experience, ask for help, and to make suggestions – this will make employees feel they are a valued contributor to the company.
Use the “four pillars” behind employee relationships – communication, recognition, feedback and investment – this Officevibe blog is a great place to gain some understanding of the dynamics behind employee relations.
Small talk matters as it allows your team to feel connected to you and each other, so ensure you build in time during one-to-one phone or video calls to make up for lost moments like the hallway hello and 11am kitchen coffee stop.
Supporting your team in the fine balance between work, family life and learning all the new skills that come with remote working starts with remembering that they are people first and employees second - to get the best out of them you need to keep up with who they are.
2. Make the most of tech
At MAYDAY, we’ve had fun using technology in new ways…
Using Breakout Rooms in Zoom to allow smaller groups to nut-out a topic on the Whiteboard before coming back together to report on findings, and we use polls to gauge group feedback.
Making new things stick in the team’s mind by putting a Kahoot together to engage the brain with a little healthy competition.
Creating Google Docs & Sheets so that every staff member has access to edit and update things in real time, visible to all. The MAYDAY team have found this a great way to collaborate on projects!
Using shared Trello boards to make to-do lists visible, allowing leadership to easily assess workload before allocating new tasks. It’s a handy place for collecting ideas and keeping note-taking ordered under particular topics.
Utilising dedicated Whatsapp groups – it’s important to have one group for urgent questions and a separate group for gifs that make people laugh, jokes, bits of trivia or little anecdotes about the day – a quick giggle between tasks does the world of good.
3. Keep intentions clear
Create high touch-points – When people are apart, communication needs to be stronger than in the past. Keep email communications regular from different leaders in the organisation, or send a casual video of yourself explaining a process, or introducing a new idea or topic to the team.
Be Transparent – Let the team understand what’s really going on. There will be certain things that can’t be shared, however describing results, reasons behind changes, new expectations and business goals builds trust and understanding; even if the news is less positive than hoped, when a team understands where the company is at, negative talk is reduced and productivity stays on track.
Convey tone – It’s wise to remember that it can be difficult to convey tone over email or text, and words written with good intention unfortunately can be taken the wrong way. Use gifs and emojis, so there’s no doubt that you meant your words positively.
4. Encourage staff development and training
Redefine your staff’s goals - There’s been a lot of change over the last six months, so take the time during those one-to-one meetings to understand new directions your staff may be heading in, and draw up a plan to renew their appetite for growth and development.
People crave development – Learning new things can help your team to not only connect with each other, but to reconnect with their sense of purpose, and avoid them becoming stagnant in their roles. Some MAYDAY clients are enabling their employees to be seconded to other departments for one day per week, developing their skills and letting them contribute to projects they are passionate about.
Activate multiple learning sources – Check out the FutureLearn range of free online courses provided by leading universities. You can also search for online courses and training providers on the government’s training website. We love to have our staff run a follow up training session to share new knowledge they’ve gained with the group.
With training comes career progression – while the last few months have been about fire-fighting, adapting to change and finding our feet, it’s understandable if things like career development have taken a back seat. It’s important to remember that your employees still have career goals, and the remote nature of working from home shouldn’t be a barrier.
Plan out some incentives to show your employees you care and to give them the perk-up they need:
We send wellness care packages to our team with healthy nibbles and a note of gratitude for everything they do for MAYDAY, and some of our clients are sending UberEats lunches to top performers for the week.
We continue to mark special dates, such as birthdays and work anniversaries, with cake, video messages, a big ‘hooray!’ during our less-formal video catch-ups. Last week we celebrated Ruby and Caitriona’s birthdays, with some of the team together in person, and others joining virtually!
We communicate work achievements to the wider team; seeing positive feedback is a huge mood booster.
We plan fun into our video meetings, such as scavenger hunts at home, pub quizzes, games, sharing what we’re all grateful for, ending with a happy fact or news story that continues the positivity even after the meeting is over, and celebrating the things we’re proud of at weeks-end over a glass of wine.
While we are all finding our way in changing times, a little bit of creativity and the human touch will go far in helping you engage with your team.
For even more tips and different viewpoints on engaging your remote workforce, attend our Leadership Lunch and Learn with special guest Diana Tapp, High-Performance Team Specialist, and be part of a demonstration on some impressive new team building tech, with a VIRTUAL GAME SHOW by Be Challenged.
Register for the Zoom webinar at https://lnkd.in/g8zA5-A, and see you on Thursday 10th September!
If you’re unable to make the event but would like to know more about how MAYDAY has implemented these top tips, please do reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org / 02 8377 5600