How to keep your employees engaged while they’re working from home
We’re now living through what Time Magazine is calling ‘The world’s biggest working from home experiment’. So how can you keep your people feeling productive, happy, and engaged while they’re working from home?
Ask them how they’re feeling
First and foremost managers should stay as empathic as possible. It’s a scary time for everyone so a simple ‘are you okay?’ should be your initial question. Next, ask them if they have everything they need. Your people can only be productive if they’re feeling physically and mentally well, and have everything they need.
Now is not the time to be expecting 100% from your people. Make it clear that you recognize they’re working under extraordinary circumstances.
Encourage breaks and exercise
It’s easy for work and life to bleed into one another right now. Encourage your team to take regular breaks. When they’d be working in the office, they’d generally get up from their desks to go to meetings, pick up their lunch at lunchtime etc. And all of that goes out the window when you work from home for long periods of time.
And if they’re working from the kitchen table, they could spend the whole day in one room. So, emphasize the importance of regular breaks.
One way to encourage this is through the Pomodoro technique. This is where you set a timer for 25 minutes and then have a five-minute procrastination break. The idea is you’re having a break before your attention starts to wane.
This means that throughout the day you have more attention because you're breaking before you get tired.
Get them to turn off their notifications
Setting aside time to look at emails in one go can be helpful. For every one-minute email interruption, it takes around 15 minutes to get back to the thing that you're doing. Just having that focus of "I've no longer got those things flashing up all the time" is life-changing in terms of your attention levels and ability to focus.
Talk to them about boundaries
If you’re working in a different timezone than your team, it’s easy to ping them outside of working hours. Make it clear you don’t expect a reply, or schedule your emails for a time that you know they’ll be working.
Schedule daily check-in meetings
Employees who have daily catch-ups with their managers, have less anxiety than those who don’t.
Start by scheduling daily check-in meetings to connect on daily tasks, expectations, goals, and upcoming projects. This will help keep them on track as well as giving them something to aim for. But avoid micromanaging. This will make your team feel as if you don’t trust them and could dampen morale.
Use task/project management software
Project and task management software should be used even if you don't have remote employees, but it’s crucial for remote workers to understand what the team is working on. Task tracking can help teams meet deadlines, set priorities, and understand the overall goal of the project. Asana and Trello are good resources for remote teams.
Get to know your people
Remote workers miss the water cooler conversations and the opportunity to know their coworkers over lunch and in-person interactions. In your team meetings (on video), ask your remote questions about their personal lives and families. This will build trust and camaraderie among employees.
Recognize great work
Recognizing employees for their great work motivates them to perform better and interact with their colleagues. Make the recognition visible so office employees and others notice as well. Whether that’s during a virtual Town Hall meeting, or in an all-staff email. Make sure that just because people aren’t always seen, their great work is still being talked about and appreciated.
One major downside of working from home is how isolated people can start to feel, especially if these people aren’t used to working from home – it can be isolating.
Try experimenting with different kinds of virtual gatherings, where people can get on a video call to chat about life and share concerns or stresses. Or create channels on your chat tools where people can discuss shared interests or hobbies (or just share pictures of their pets).
Place emphasis on output, not input. For instance, if a remote worker wants to work 12-8pm because they’re more productive at night, and they can still get to scheduled meetings, let them work at night.
Your people may be struggling with taking care of a child or elderly parent. Not expecting people to be always at their desk immediately responding to every email or message will make them feel less pressured.
Get an accurate picture of how they’re really doing
As well as asking them face-to-face how they’re doing, it’s also important to let them respond confidentially. One way to do this is through daily pulse surveys where your people can anonymously tell you how they’re feeling and what they need to be as productive, healthy and happy as possible.
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