It’s the year 2020, and there are still leaders who’ve never managed a remote workforce–until now. The number of companies asking employees to work from home, due to the Coronavirus scare, is multiplying faster than the actual virus.
Here’s how to keep remote employees engaged and productive during these tumultuous times.
Give people control. Telling everyone they must work from home in most situations does not make sense. Here’s why. There will be people who have to work from the office (mailroom employees, the team in charge of keeping the IT infrastructure intact, etc.) who will feel more anxious if they’re told they have to work from home when they know they can’t.
Instead, tell people to work from home if they’re able to and more comfortable doing so. Then be sure those who are working from home have the equipment and tools needed to be productive.
Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume because you know how to use online video conferencing tools like Zoom, that everyone else in the office knows how to use these tools. Ask a member of your IT team or someone in the office who is a pro at using remote collaboration tools, to host a webinar and invite employees to attend. Record the webinar so that people can refer back to it, should they need to do so.
Be flexible. The workers you’re sending home have lives that may not be conducive to working remotely. They might have kids who’ve been sent home from daycare or school, or a spouse who works remotely. Be less concerned about the hours they work and more concerned about the results.
Check-in with your people regularly. Pick up the phone and ask your team members how they’re doing and what you can do to support them. Offer to extend deadlines, if doing so will lessen the stress they’re feeling trying to balance your needs and that of their family.
Be generous. As someone who has worked from home, while raising two young children, I can tell you from personal experience how far small gestures go. Send your employee an Amazon gift card, with a note telling them to use the card to purchase supplies or groceries or even a new toy to keep the kids entertained. Better yet, ask them to go onto Uber Eats or Grub Hub and place a dinner order on you.
Be transparent. No doubt, you’ll be asked questions that you either don’t know the answer to or are unable to answer. People expect leaders to lead with openness and not withhold information that could help further understanding of the issue. What they don’t expect is for leaders to have all the answers. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m unable to provide you with an answer at this point.”
Reassure employees. Right now, it feels like the sky is falling, but this too shall pass. Your employees are counting on you to stay strong. Feeding into their anxiety will only make matters worse. Allow employees to express what’s on their mind and acknowledge their feelings. Then try to shift the conversation to something they can control, like the quality of their work.
©Matuson Consulting, 2020.
In the spirit of generosity, if you’ve got a question about keeping employees engaged during this time of uncertainty, email me at Roberta@matusonconsulting.com, and I’ll gladly answer your question.