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Engaging a Suddenly Remote Workforce

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Management teams across the world are focused on their Business Continuity plans to ensure continuous operations for their employees, partners and clients. A large portion of these efforts involve asking the majority, if not all, of their employees to work remotely. While most companies already have work from home policies in effect, transitioning an entire company to a remote workforce, and all at once, is going to impact many aspects of a business, including your company culture.

On a daily basis, your culture can be impacted by a number of variables, not the least of which is the general work stress of your employees. If you think about past situations where you could sense pockets of concern across your employee base, what were they based on?

Most likely they were caused by tight project deadlines, changes in direction, late hours and sometimes just general concern for market conditions or overall business direction. Now think about what many of your employees are dealing with today: forced to work from home, kids out of school, and many of us confined to our homes for the majority of the day. Add in general concerns we are all having about the economy, our family health and finances, and there is little doubt that employees are going to become disengaged for large portions of the day.

Focus on Communications

As many employees move to remote working and flexible schedules, it is important to communicate and reinforce the message that “Even as we work from home, the company’s mission stays the same”. Connecting employees to a mission is most easily done in an office environment, when the team is together every day and feels a collective sense of devotion to the company’s vision and values. Now is the perfect time to focus on this messaging even more.

Take the time to communicate your company vision and values to reinforce “the why” your employees are a part of. In a remote working scenario, it is easy to get sucked into delivering quick, short emails to delegate work or pass along decisions. The less time you put into these communications, the more disengaged the recipient will be to the task at hand. Slow down and make sure to take the time to give employees the information they need to understand how their work fits in the bigger picture.

“It is important to communicate and reinforce the message that even as we work from home, the company’s mission stays the same.”

On a micro level this is a key aspect to maintaining engagement and culture throughout your organization. To stay engaged, employees need to understand how their specific actions can propel the company forward and how the company’s success serves a mission that they can support.

Appreciate a Different Way of Working

Over the past few weeks, I have read countless articles detailing best practices for managing remote workers. One reference I have seen in several places is to acknowledge and recognize the quality of work that is produced, rather than focusing on when it is produced. Many of your employees will be unable to meet a traditional 9-5 schedule. I, for one, have two kids at home who won’t be at school indefinitely. As my wife and I divide up the days, it is clear that many of our employees with families will be in similar situations.

Ask your employees and team members to communicate the times they will be online and available as best as they can and give them some leeway to deliver their work. When complete, focus on the finished product rather than  the  time of day it was delivered or how quickly. Our expectations must be tempered by the surrounding circumstances we are all dealing with.

Culture of Recognition

Most importantly, when your employees and peers accomplish their goals, make it a point to recognize them for their contributions. Keeping remote workers engaged and motivated doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the motivational methods you currently use to inspire employees at the office can be applied when they work from home. Most companies have a system in place for peers and managers to say “Thank You” to their team members and co-workers. Remote workers need this affirmation, especially those that are not used to working out of the office.

Quick Tips for Recognizing your Remote Employees

Clearly Communicate expectations to your team.

Show Appreciation when tasks are completed, and goals are achieved. Say “Thank You” via email, instant messenger, and video communications.

Recognize Employees via whatever system or solution your company has in place. It will take  us a while to get back to in-person recognition, looking your employee in the eye, shaking his or her hand. But the electronic means of recognition are well established in most companies. If yours does not have a system in place, just a simple email will go a long way.

Be sure to call out remote workers’ big wins and empower the rest of the team to do the same.

Make recognition highly visible so other members of the organization are aware of the valuable contribution coworkers are making on a daily basis.

And finally, use your company’s preferred video and social communications, to share recognition directly to your employees individually or on team calls.

Keeping your employees informed, motivated and engaged over the next several months will go a long way to supporting them personally and professionally. Making them feel a part of a team, focused on supporting your company’s mission, will help sustain your company culture even as you lose the typical face-to-face interaction we are all accustomed to.

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