Remote Working during Coronavirus: How to Keep Employees Productive and Engaged

Remote Working during Coronavirus: How to Keep Employees Productive and Engaged

The human race has faced a lot of battles, tragedies, and adversity. When times get tough, we pull together and we find a way to persevere. Currently, Coronavirus is compelling companies to embrace remote working. Companies that, in the past, have resisted this form of flexible working or who have only operated remotely part-time, are now doing their part and allowing employees to self-isolate safely while continuing to work and retain a degree of normality.

While this is great news, and there certainly exists adequate technology to assist us during this time, we have to be realistic — not all organizations are prepared. Not all managers know how to motivate and encourage remote employees. Some might be worried standards will drop, or productivity will wane. While this is understandable, we’re here to reassure you — remote working can be tremendously beneficial for productivity. You just need to know how to help employees transition to remote work, and how to give them the support they need to thrive — especially during these trying times.  

Real-Time Communication Is Your Most Important Tool

If you work in a traditional office setting normally, you’ll have grown accustomed to real-time communication. If you need the answer to a question, you can get up from your desk and look for a colleague, or knock on your manager’s door for reassurance. Working remotely can be a difficult adjustment for those used to this. Thankfully, the technology exists that facilitates real-time communication — and every single organization working remotely at this time needs to be able to communicate in real-time. Real-time communication is a basic necessity when it comes to remote working.

At this time, employees need honest, direct, and regular communication. Managers should take the time to arrange one-on-ones with their employees regularly — we recommend once every two weeks or so. Many organizations do this as a regular part of their performance management system while getting rid of traditional annual appraisals. Such regular contact will help employees feel connected with their managers and their workplace. It also allows managers to keep up-to-date with how the employee is doing, whether they are struggling, and where they can help. Remember, although your employees are working remotely at this time, they might not all be keen on the idea of remote work. For some, working remotely can cause isolation and loneliness. Real-time communication can go a long way to alleviate this loneliness.

To Keep Things Normal, Use Video

Real-time written communication is great, but some employees will feel far more engaged after having face-to-face discussions. Thankfully, this is easily done. Set up video conferencing for team meetings and one-on-ones. Not only will it help your more extroverted employees to feel energized and engaged, but video calls can also help greatly with communication. A lot of what we say is tied up in our tone of voice, our body language, and our facial expressions. To avoid miscommunication, opt for video when you can.

Make Sure They’re Clear on Their Objectives

So much is uncertain at the moment — be sure to give your employees certainty and clarity with regard to their aims and objectives if nothing else. Your employees need to know exactly what is expected of them at all times. Work with your employees to develop clear SMART objectives, so employees understand not only what they should be doing, but how you expect them to do it — as well as “why”. Employees should know why their work matters and how their contribution is helping the business as a whole. This will help them feel part of a well-functioning, wider team, which will aid with engagement.

Remember the Power of Employee Recognition

We all have a lot going on, but employee recognition should never be overlooked. Particularly during trying times, employee recognition is hugely important and can make all the difference between an engaged employee and one who is overwhelmed, overworked, and burnt out.

During your regular one-on-ones, take the time to congratulate your employees on their accomplishments and thank them for their hard work. Appreciate the effort they are putting in and let them know it isn’t going unnoticed. It’s so much easier for employees to remain motivated when they know their efforts are being noticed and appreciated.

Keep Employees Updated with Company News

To keep your employees engaged, be sure to keep them up-to-date on cur­rent com­pa­ny devel­op­ments. Is the company struggling? What obstacles are you currently facing? How can employees help? Employees deserve transparency, and you can remove a lot of the uncertainty, confusion, and fear by being honest and open with the state of your company, and what they can expect.

Have (Virtual) After-Work Socials
Remote working might sound like the holy grail, and it isn’t ideal for everyone. It takes a very specific type of person to thrive with lit­tle to no phys­i­cal inter­ac­tion on a dai­ly basis. We’re social creatures — we need human interaction. And it doesn’t always need to be about work. To keep employees connected, consider hosting virtual after-work socials, where you can play games, share a drink, and have some much-needed relaxation and bonding time.

Stuart Hearn

Stuart Hearn is an HR speaker and writer. He is also the founder and CEO of Clear Review, a performance management software solution that engages employees and teams through more meaningful conversations.

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