The arrival of COVID-19 was a shock to companies around the world. Teams that had been working together in an office setting were suddenly sent home to work remotely for the sake of social distancing and public safety. While many people like the idea of working remotely, it is not for everyone, and even those excited by the idea were likely caught completely off guard and may still be adjusting to a new work routine that can sometimes be lonely and uninspiring.
As a manager, you need to do your part to keep your employees engaged, included, and motivated to do their jobs day after day, even in this unique circumstance. The good news is that although you often cannot see them face to face, it is possible to create a positive atmosphere that will keep your staff engaged and happy to return to work every day.
Constant communication is a key aspect of maintaining employee morale. Management needs to have an open-door policy, and employees should be able to come to their supervisor whenever they are in need. Both personnel and human resources managers are involved in ensuring employees are aware of and use the company’s perks and processes to collaborate and to maintain work-life balance. Many HR managers recommend using a tool like Yammer, which allows everyone on the team to collaborate and get the same information so no one feels left out. Mass communications are especially important when introducing and delegating new tasks and processes so that each team member gets the same instruction and can begin at the same starting point.
The solitary aspect of working remotely can be especially stressful for more outgoing folks, so take advantage of video conferencing for your meetings and social gatherings. This gives everyone on the team a chance to see each other and regain that sense of community that many employees desire. You don’t have to only use video conferencing for business either. Instead, you can have social outings after work where you talk about life or have a digital happy hour event.
While the manager must encourage their staff to come to them with issues, some employees may feel better talking to a coworker when they are feeling down or stressed. To that end, consider implementing a buddy system where you pair up two coworkers that feel comfortable with each other, and they can reach out to when they need that extra vote of confidence to keep them going. Management can also set aside a time when these groups can get together during the workday.
Give Them Something to Work Towards
A good manager knows that being thrown into a sudden remote work atmosphere can be jarring for some, and that uneasy feeling won’t go away overnight. With this understanding, it is important to keep your staff motivated so they continue to do their best work, and there are several ways to make this happen. For starters, remember to praise your employees whenever they show positive results. Even a quick email can make their day when you send it right after the event takes place and give it an informal but celebratory subject line that gets them excited to open it.
Employee perks are another great way to improve morale in a remote environment. They can be as simple as an award or certificate sent out to high sales earners, or they can be a bigger gesture like providing an extra day off that they can use at their leisure. Being cooped up inside for too long can also cause stress, so consider setting up outdoor activity challenges, like a competition for who gets in the most steps for a month and reward the winner with a free lunch.
While certificates and perks are nice, what can really motivate an employee is the opportunity to work hard and advance up within the company. Make this program a reality by setting achievable goals that can put them in place for a promotion, like selling over a certain threshold to become a Senior Sales Associate. If you do create advancement opportunities, make sure to follow through with the terms you announced at the start.
Inclusion is As Important As Ever
When you have a remote team, extra planning is required to make the inclusion of all employees a priority. When you don’t see your staff face-to-face, it can be easy to let someone fall through the cracks, but you absolutely cannot let this happen. Managers should have empathy for any employees who are having a hard time, and you should do so by reaching out to every team member each week to see how they are feeling or if they have any concerns.
Team building is especially important during this time. There are many virtual team-building exercises that you can use to help everyone on the team get to know each other a little better. This can be as simple as using your video program to create a virtual campfire where the team can take turns telling icebreaking stories or share what they love and dislike about remote work. The manager can take this information and work with those with issues later on.
Working parents are often underappreciated these days, especially those who still have children that are learning virtually from home. For them, it can be tough to juggle both, and the struggle can impact their work, family life, and cause dangerous anxiety. Managers can ease this stress by talking with employees, and if they have a lot on their plate, you can offer a flexible schedule where they help their family in the morning and come to work afterwards. This arrangement will help out the employee and improve their morale since they know their management truly cares about their wellbeing.
As you can see, there are many ways to maintain morale and inclusion with a fully remote workforce. With active listening and action by management, your team can remain effective and happy.