The sudden rise in remote work due to COVID-19 has the potential to positively transform your workforce. Research shows that remote workers 20-25% more productive than on-site workers due to a combination of them tending to work longer hours and get less distracted by colleagues.
However, to sustain this productivity boost, you need to make an intentional effort to support your employees. A survey of over a thousand remote workers found that they thrive when they receive consistent manager engagement. If your company has decided to adopt remote work for the foreseeable future, you need to take a proactive approach to lead your team.
Here are six steps you can take to give your remote employees the support they need to be highly productive and engaged.
1) Have Daily Check-Ins
In offices, there are many opportunities throughout the day to casually chat with your employees about their work. These conversations provide a pulse on how everyone is doing and make it easy to share quick updates and concerns. To create these essential interactions occur in a remote environment, have daily check-ins with your team to align priorities and answer questions.
Among our employees, we've found that implementing this has had two key benefits:
- Managers can catch and resolve issues as soon as they're emerging instead of waiting for weekly syncs to determine that an employee was struggling with a project.
- It makes employees feel more connected with their teams since they see each other face-to-face every day. Even if it's only for a few minutes, these check-ins help prevent remote workers from feeling isolated.
This combination of support helps remote employees stay engaged with you and their team even when apart from these check-ins, they may have limited interactions with each other.
2) Equip Your Team with the Right Suite of Tools
In a remote environment, having the right tools is critical for keeping remote employees engaged. Without them, people often feel disconnected and ill-equipped to do their jobs.
At a minimum, remote employees need the following types of tools to thrive:
- Task management
- Project collaboration (this will vary by team function since developers need different collaboration tools than marketers)
These basics ensure that all employees can follow your best practices around maintaining steady lines of communication.
In addition to the basics, carefully think through what other tools would make your remote employees' jobs easier. Explore software to support your entire organization as well as specific teams. Equipping employees with a robust suite of tools will help maintain engagement since they have the resources they need to succeed.
3) Plan Virtual Social Activities
People have an innate need to feel like they belong, and a core component of belonging is feeling accepted as one's true self. In an office environment, people often experience this acceptance through casual interactions coworkers where they can express themselves.
In a remote environment, these interactions are far less likely to occur naturally, so you need to create fun spaces where employees are encouraged to chat about topics beyond their projects.
Here are some examples of easy activities that will help keep your remote employees bond:
- Virtual happy hours. Help your employees wind down at the end of the day by hosting virtual happy hours where they're encouraged to have casual conversations.
- Virtual work parties. Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, team achievements, and other milestones via video chat and PDF certificates.
- Learning lunches. Encourage your talented team members to host learning lunches over zoom, where they teach new skills to anyone interested.
These activities boost engagement by giving remote employees opportunities to connect on a personal level in ways that they are otherwise unlikely to do.
4) Promote Knowledge Sharing
Research shows that one of the biggest challenges remote workers struggle with is a lack of mutual knowledge. Mutual knowledge is all of the essential information that employees learn over time while working for a company and observable context about emerging situations.
In an office environment with a friendly culture, mutual knowledge is shared organically via the vast amount of small conversations and eavesdropping. Since remote employees lack those forms of communication, you have to create structures to promote knowledge sharing.
Here are a couple of options:
- Create an internal wiki and encourage your employees to document their processes and solutions to common problems they encounter.
- Create a forum for employees to post questions and collaborate on answers. This encourages broader knowledge sharing within your organization and allows people to receive advice from colleagues beyond the close team members they'd ordinarily ask for help.
- Assign employees to shadow others who have skills that they're lacking. This helps standardize skills in your organization and can establish bonds between remote employees who normally wouldn't engage with each other.
These structures support remote employee engagement by giving your team access to the knowledge they need to do their jobs well.
5) Host Best Practices Sharing Sessions for Managers
At Prialto, like most other office-based companies, most of our managers had no prior experience leading remote teams before COVID-19 struck. This creates a challenge since newly remote managers don't always know the best ways to support their teams in this environment.
To help your managers learn faster, have meetings every week to share challenges and best practices they've discovered while leading their remote teams.
These meetings should reveal insights on the best ways to approach critical activities such as training sessions and lets your management team work together to quickly find solutions so that no one wastes time on employee engagement issues.
6) Over-Communicate Everything
Over-communicating is critical for maintaining employee engagement in a remote environment. You have to compensate for the lack of organic conversations and reminders that occur in an office environment and the fact that it's much easier for subtle messages around context and prioritization to slip through the cracks.
The key to successfully over-communicating is to use a variety of mediums, so if a message is missed one way, it's also conveyed with a different approach.
- Require everyone to post frequent updates via your task management tool
- Send reminder chats if an email goes unread for a couple of days
- Hoping on quick video chats to resolve areas of confusion
- Require employees to send follow-up emails after meetings that outline the action items that everyone is responsible for
Though this may seem tedious, over-communicating prevents miscommunications that could otherwise make employees feel misunderstood and derail performance.
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About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.