Many companies with employees working from home for the first time during current COVID-19 concerns may be wondering how to keep remote employees engaged in uncertain times.
For many who have never allowed employees to work from home, this may require a mindset shift. Supervisors with a tendency to micromanage will find themselves having to assign tasks and trust that the employee will complete them as expected. Likewise, managers that typically rely on “unspoken rules” will need to outline their expectations. Clear communication is critical to remote employees.
Keeping employees engaged is challenging even in stable economic conditions. Companies who have been managing employees who work from home for years have some recommendations for keeping remote workers engaged:
- Invest in technology. Its critical to keep employees connected. Depending on your industry, this may include phone conferencing or video conferencing, etc. It’s important to provide remote employees with the technology that they’ll need to stay connected. Fast Company reports on a study that found that, while 90% of companies felt connected to their remote workers, only 15% of the remote workers felt connected to the company.
- Set clear expectations. Make it clear what is expected of employees, including project specs, deadlines, etc. If you currently have an employee recognition program in place, you can adjust the program to include goals and objectives that are more appropriate now that workers are remote.
- Use Collaboration Tools. The same Fast Company article reports that although 95% of business leaders believe in the value of collaboration tools, only 56% had them in use. Collaboration tools spell out the tasks, the individuals responsible for completing them and allow employees to see progress, message each other and track completion and success. Encourage employees to communicate with each other through the collaboration tool or additional technology such as Skype, Instant Messenger, texts or other communication tools to stay connected.
- Communicate. Communicate. Leadership counts, especially in uncertain times. Reassure employees that their contributions are important and valued. Tell employees as much as possible about the plans for the business and how their role supports those plans. If cuts or temporary furloughs are necessary, explain exactly how that will work and what the company is doing to support employees during the crisis.
- Recognize great work. If you do not currently have an employee recognition or performance improvement program in place, this would be a good time to institute one. Work with an incentive professional to help to design an effective employee program. Strategic program design includes recognizing and rewarding employees for achieving the assigned goals, going above and beyond to complete tasks, offering innovative suggestions and more. Effective recognition and performance improvement programs work to increase employee engagement as well as provide many other benefits to the company.
Employees who are working remotely for the first time, possibly with children at home while they’re trying to work, will experience additional stress. Accommodate those employees who may need to complete their tasks outside of “regular” working hours. Keep the end goal in mind and allow employees the flexibility to manage their time and schedule to complete the work.
When employees don’t have truthful information, speculation, rumors and fear takes over. Company executives have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and calm the fears of employees by assuring them that there is a plan and outlining the critical role that remote employees play in the plan. It’s especially important in uncertain times to show support for employees, customers and the community so that we all get through this together.
For additional guidance in engaging your employees in any business climate, contact us today!