As workforce leaders find their way through the COVID-19 world, defining ways to keep remote workers happy and engaged is of utmost importance. Remote working isn’t new to the world of work, but for many industries and people, it’s a brand new endeavor.
According to the New York Times, “In a May working paper, Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor in management science at M.I.T., and a group of academics reported survey results indicating that half of those who were employed before the pandemic were now working remotely. That’s a significant increase — pre-Covid-19, the paper estimates, the figure was about 15 percent. (In 2018, a U.S. Census Bureau survey found that just 5.3 percent of Americans worked from home full time.).”
According to SHRM, “This working arrangement may seem exciting at first, but it can lose its appeal over time, resulting in disengaged employees. And, when employees aren’t engaged, their productivity and motivation can suffer.”
As passionate champions of happy, productive workplaces, we’ve gathered some suggestions for embracing remote workers to keep the engine running on all cylinders.
How to Keep Remote Workers Happy & Engaged
Solution #1: Allow Creativity to Infuse Decision-Making
Some workplaces are a hotbed for creative thinking (think advertising agencies), and some industries aren’t exactly wired for out-of-the-box thinking. This is an opportunity to enjoy the freedom that creativity can bring to a group of employees. Instead of “We’ve always done it this way,” NOW is the time to say, “How can we do this differently?” This relates to every organization that has shifted its daily operations.
Engage employees to weigh in on how processes and procedures can be expedited, improved or even scrapped. Look at how innovative companies tackle certain parts of business and push yourself (and your executives and teams) to look at new ways of “getting things done.” Here are some great examples from a recent CNBC piece on innovation.
Remember, this isn’t change just for change’s sake, which can be a buzzkill for employees. Instead, view this as a way to dream up new models that make everyone’s lives (and the business) better!
Solution #2: Embrace New Opportunities for Employee-Up Communication
Most of us have “chat” functions, cell phones, and other technology for basic communication. However, some organizations are taking this a step further to open up employee dialogue – maybe even between people who never had the ability to communicate before!
There are some 24/7 technology tools (such as Glint) that allow employees to share ideas, feedback and even complaints (anonymity is optional). Now is an excellent time to implement such systems. An organization that we work with has rolled out a technology platform across its national network to improve engagement, measure the success of current companywide communication, and learn from the “front lines.”
As a result, they have been able to gather excellent information that would be impossible in many other formats (typical town halls or staff meetings). It offers flexibility and a methodology where the information can be filtered to managers or departments who can respond with agility.
Solution #3: Rethink Meetings
Chances are that these technologies aren’t going anywhere – especially as remote working continues to be the norm. However, now is a great time to think about how to take the funny yet painful examples of why these can be a complete waste of time and use knowledge about your company culture to make them … dare we say it – enjoyable?
What would engage your employees? Keeping check-ins to 15 minutes? Allow for everyone to weigh in on something important? Do a swift but fun icebreaker at the beginning of the meeting to avoid the “Just hangin’ in there” and “What’s the weather like over there?” warm-up conversations?
This is another opportunity to turn the work-as-usual model and turn it on its head. Ask your people – and use some common sense, too!
Solution #4: Consistently Show Employee Appreciation
We are clearly advocates of employee appreciation. In fact, we believe that it should be touched upon every day. There are big gestures and there are also the smallest, nuanced acts that can equally improve the employee experience.
To get started, check out our 2020 Day-to-Day Employee Appreciation Calendar. There is always room for a note of gratitude or a “Thank you for all you’re doing during these shifting times” statement to express thanks. This resource offers insights into the importance of employee appreciation and also delivers excellent examples based on company culture, seasonality (did you know that National Ice Cream Day is in July?), budget and other considerations.
Solution #5: Ask the Right Questions
When looking for solutions, be sure to pinpoint the issues. What can go wrong with a remote workforce? Isolation? Overworking? Lack of trust? Shifting group and team dynamics?
Take the time to define what is most likely happening in the organization – which can vary drastically even among departments. Utilize surveys, ask questions, challenge leaders to ignore the tendency to say, “Everything is fine!” and ask, “What isn’t going right and how can we fix it?”
With the right tools and a sincere listening ear, team members will feel valued – which goes a long way. Medium.com offers employees some tips to fight isolation, which you can offer as a resource here. Forbes addresses how to avoid burnout, another great resource for the high achievers of the world.
For more timely information, check out our blog, “Supporting Remote Workers Now”.
Since 2007, gThankYou has been helping managers delight, honor and thank employees and customers. We’re all about building workplace gratitude. Check us out on LinkedIn and at www.gthankyou.com.
*Photo by Allie on Unsplash
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