It’s a challenge managers have faced before, but in very different ways to the current scenario.
Keeping staff motivated and staying on track has taken an entirely new approach with an estimated 20 million people now working from home in the UK. As if that’s not challenging enough, the Office for National Statistics advised that 70% of the population has no experience working remotely.
And therein lies the new test that managers, HR and business leaders across the world are facing today.
Millions of organisations have had to frantically change their fundamental way of working in order to adhere to social distancing regulations, but if your people have no experience working from home, how can you keep them motivated and on track during an emotionally turbulent period?
Here are some top tips to do just that:
Daily Huddles and Regular Conversations with Line Managers
A great way to start the day (or end it) is with a team conversation, potentially in the form of a ‘huddle’. It doesn’t need to be long, or detailed, but asking your team to highlight the top things they’re working on or planning to complete in the day helps keep focus and ensure the whole team is on track.
In addition to this, ensuring regular conversations with line managers is key. If there are new processes being put in place it’s important to make sure that line managers know the ins and outs of these. They’re the ones employees are likely to come to if they have questions or concerns, so keeping that channel of communication open at all times is vital.
Keep an Eye on Workplace Wellbeing
Workplace wellbeing has taken on a different meaning with recent changes. Now, physical and mental wellbeing is at a bigger threat than ever before, and one of the biggest triggers could be loneliness. According to a report by Total Jobs, 68% of people who experience loneliness at work say it has increased their stress levels. It’s also proven to reduce engagement and increase absence.
There is certainly an argument to say that technology can help reduce this, but it’s important to make sure that any conversations that happen are meaningful, and that the same effort is put in as it would be face-to-face. This can be difficult for everyone.
Liana Persico, Client Services Executive at People Insight, did some great research around isolation at work, some of which highlights that having interactions with colleagues that aren’t meaningful can actually have a negative effect on loneliness. Thankfully, she’s shared her research which can help you recognise and prevent this.
Video Calls and Online Chat
Wherever possible it’s a great idea to use video instead of regular calls. This allows a more meaningful interaction with colleagues as you can see reactions and continue to build relationships. Of course, it’s not quite the same as a face-to-face interaction, but it’s much closer than a telephone call.
A lot of high performing teams also use tools such as online chat – either through Salesforce chatter, Microsoft Teams or Skype. This enables general conversation to happen, as it would if you were sat next to someone. It’s less formal than an email and is a great tool to bat around ideas or send reminders.
‘Happy hour’ and Lunchtime Get-Togethers
For teams who are used to socialising and spending lots of time together, happy hours and lunchtime get togethers can be really successful for continuing to build personal relationships with colleagues. You could organise a 4pm Friday Zoom call where everyone can get together online and recreate their own happy hour. You could just chat, tell stories or even play some games.
One of our team set up a weekly lunchtime chat where everyone can jump online via video call just to keep in touch and have non-work-related conversations.
And you don’t have to miss out on those breaks, or conversations around the coffee machine either. It can be really beneficial to take five minutes out of the day to call a work friend for a virtual coffee and catch up. If you’re going to encourage this, it’s important that managers know that this is okay and communicate that with their teams.
Regular comms from the top / and remaining transparent
As is always the case in times of uncertainly, people are looking to the top to get a thorough understanding of what’s going on. That means it is really important that your CEO, or equivalent, is communicating all the time; being completely transparent, addressing concerns and, of course, remaining human, compassionate and empathetic.
Every person will be reacting differently to these changes, and having someone who is communicating clearly on what’s happening within the business, and genuinely looking out for employees can help people stay motivated and remain loyal and positive towards their employer.
Creating a Supporting and Empowering Culture
With so many of us working from home for the first time, it’s important that people feel trusted to do just as good a job as they would in the office. This means creating a culture where everyone feels empowered and supported.
Already have this culture? Excellent. Make sure it continues during this time.
It’s a common feeling that you have to work more hours, put in more time and always be at your desk when you’re working from home. If you trust your people, let them know and be clear that it’s okay to take breaks like they normally would. They can still make a coffee, take their hour lunch break and stretch their legs every few hours. It’s okay not to answer a call the second it comes through, and you don’t have to sit at your desk (or kitchen table) until 7pm every night, just to make sure you’re online.
This goes both ways – there could be a responsibility on colleagues to not send emails in the evening or being clear that a response isn’t required until the next day. This can help prevent people feeling that they need to be working at all times.
These points might seem like a given, but for the uninitiated in the working from home world, it’s new territory. Be clear of what’s expected and remind them that their wellbeing is important. Empower them to make sensible decisions and be there if they need anything – making sure you’re really listening.
Have a platform for all COVID related questions
This ties in with some of the other points, as it considers employee wellbeing, opens lines of communication and ensures transparency.
Having a platform where people can submit Q&A’s about anything related to the crisis, and making sure they’re answered, can stop your employees worrying about those unanswered questions which keep them up at night. It’s also an opportunity to provide and share tips and guidance (formal, or not).
Not only is it a tough time due to isolation, but there’s so much bad news going around that its’ easy to get seriously demotivated. Therefore, if there’s anything to celebrate – shout about it!
Great feedback from a customer? Let all of your team know. Exceeded or even hit targets? Send a company shout out mentioning all those who contributed. Someone’s had a baby? Put it on the intranet.
Whatever it is – big, small, professional or personal – celebrate every win that you can, either with your work friends, direct team or the wider organisation. Try and spread as much positivity as possible.
Want to read more? Take a look at our recent article, 'What coronavirus will teach us about remote working'.