The coronavirus has turned the way we work completely on its head. With social distancing orders still in effect at many companies, employees are trying to get used to the idea of working from home into 2021 and beyond. Though some people like working remotely, there are still many workers who aren’t completely comfortable working away from their offices.
If your company has the bulk of the employees back to work, your situation is rare. A survey found that more than half of companies have employees that work from home at least a couple of days per week. And 72% of employees would like to work from home at least twice per week.
Company culture is more difficult to promote when the team is partially or fully working away from the headquarters and remotely behind a computer screen. There are ways management can keep employees motivated through these challenging times so they continue to feel they’re part of a team, regardless of their work location, and can better adapt and remain a valuable, contributing member of your company. Keeping your employees productive and engaged is difficult right now, but it’s possible with some intention and effort.
Changes Start From the Top
For employees to feel inspired and motivated, leadership needs to provide the foundation for the changes. Adapting your company’s leadership style to be more sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses of your employees is crucial.
To have more effective leadership and management, getting to know each employee better can provide you with the insights you’ll need to make effective changes in leadership style. There are many leadership styles possible — the most effective for your company and the unique needs of your employees may be different than other organizations. In most cases, the leader that communicates well and shows their expertise works well since employees tend to mirror what their leader does.
Provide Employees With Purpose
Employees aren’t always motivated by a high salary. Feeling as if they’re part of a company in which they can fit in with the culture is important. In addition to feeling as if they belong, purpose-driven work is crucial. Management should express their trust in their team so each employee feels as if they could belong and take ownership in what they’re doing. This means less micromanaging from management and more collaboration.
For example, asking your employees to provide you with a brief checklist or report of what they’re planning on working on over a week or a month can be a good way to help workers find purpose in what they’re working on. Discussing goals and setting targets based on their plans could help them feel as if they’re working towards achievements instead of simply spinning wheels completing tasks.
Keep the Company Culture Alive With Team-Building Exercises
It’s only natural that many remote teams may feel disjointed at this time due to the abrupt change in the workplace culture. Team-building exercises could be a fun and engaging way to get everyone in sync again.
When most people think about team-building exercises, they envision games such as obstacle courses or trust exercise in which one employee catches another falling one. But with many employees reporting from a computer screen at this time, virtual team-building activities may need to replace physical ones.
To get started, schedule a video meeting with all staff. The visual key is essential to rebuild the connection among the staff. Some team activities that could be adapted for a digital world include:
Water Cooler Breaks
Schedule a 30 to 40-minute informal virtual get-together once per week so everyone can informally chat about any topic they’d like. You may need to break the ice first by asking everyone to share the most embarrassing teleconferencing experience they’ve recently had, or what everyone is planning for the weekend.
Set Up a Slack Channel
Use Slack to let employees of shared interests communicate and make personal plans. Your company can take it one step further by hosting videos associated with the most popular Slack channels. For example, if the company health and wellness channel is popular, a guided live 15-minute stretch or workout on certain days could provide a connection among team members. Encourage employees to lead the stretches via video if a portion of your company works from home.
Workplace Pet Chart
Pets play a big role in many people’s lives. And even those who don’t have a pet likely enjoy hearing about them. Add a little creativity and humor to the workplace by creating a pet organization to replace your team members, complete with titles. For example, if someone’s cat enjoys interrupting video chats by meowing into the camera, post a photo of the cat on a virtual board and let employees pin the best job title for the animal. An example could be Snowball, Teleconferencing Software Tester.
Rework the Rewards
Appreciate your employees in new and creative ways. If some of your company’s employee benefits are currently unfeasible because of the changes to workplace attendance, consider diverting the funding from events such as gym memberships or barbecue Fridays to reward your workers. A good way to do so is by nominating one team per week as the top team, and paying for an Uber Eats home delivery for all team members involved.
If rewards such as weekly prepaid and delivered lunch orders aren’t cost-effective for your smaller organization, there are plenty of ways to make your employees feel appreciated and valued for the work they do. A simple, one-on-one meeting, phone call or video chat to say thank you, or sending employees $5 Starbucks ecards could do a lot to improve employee morale and help them feel valued.
The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging, especially for employees nationwide. The spread of the virus, economic uncertainties and rapid changes to the workplace which include working from home are unprecedented. Fortunately for the world, technology has stepped in to make remote work and adaptation possible. The issue is, technology doesn’t replace good leadership to keep employees motivated through difficult times. Don’t forget its importance.
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor