In my March Tech View column, I wrote about remote work options such as virtual private network, remote desktop services and cloud-based solutions. This month I’d like to focus on how to keep employees engaged while they are working from home.
Keeping employees engaged and feeling appreciated can be a challenge when we’re sitting in the same office, so it’s even harder when team members are hunkered down in their homes. Sometimes the technology that makes us more efficient by automating certain tasks does so at the expense of human engagement, and that’s not something we can afford to do right now. It is critical that we support our teams and remind them that while we might not be sitting 15 feet from each other, we are still in this together.
Some tips for remote worker engagement:
>> Communicate constantly. Instead of emailing or texting, call or schedule video chats with your employees. We need all the face-to-face time we can get right now. Videoconferencing tools like MS Teams, Skype for Business and WebEx make ad-hoc video chats easier than ever. Even if these calls take a little more time, they are well worth it.
>> Consider implementing employee engagement software. This would be used to monitor morale and provide a place for employees to give kudos to their teammates and feedback to their leaders. Now, more than ever, employees need to feel appreciated and supported, and to have a place to express concerns and ask questions. Some subscription-based engagement tools like CrewHu and TINYpulse come with lots of bells and whistles. There are also free platforms like Survey Monkey that provide the basic ability to collect anonymous feedback.
>> Schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your team members and ask thoughtful questions. How is work at home affecting them? How is their family? Be sensitive to their priorities and concerns, and help address them with suggestions and resources. By being genuinely interested in their well-being, you’ll not only get the best out of your team now, but also when you return to your traditional work environment.
>> If your company has an intranet or employee portal, keep it updated with information and resources, and encourage employees to utilize it. If you don’t have one, you can use SharePoint or a similar platform to build a corporate communications site so your team has online access to the information they need 24/7.
>> Dedicate time to be social. I’m usually the first one to say, “Hey, let’s end this meeting early and get back to work!” But in times like this it’s important to give people the opportunity to socialize. Start your meetings with catch-up time or leave your video sessions open after meetings end to let people chat about life or show off their cats who undoubtedly walked by during the call. Host a digital happy hour at the end of the day and encourage your team members to grab their beverage of choice and chat with each other over your video system.
>> Be transparent and vulnerable. We are working through a time of uncertainty that most of us have never dealt with before, so it’s OK that we don’t have all the answers. Be honest with your employees and provide channels for open communication and questions. We will all make it through this together.
I want to close with a word of caution about the social media quizzes that are growing in popularity right now. While it may be fun to share your high school mascot and the name of your first pet with others, these quizzes can provide potentially sensitive data to the internet bad guys. Quiz questions are often similar to the security questions that your bank or insurance provider might use to help you reset your password. They also can be used in spear phishing (highly targeted email phishing) attacks against you. Instead of posting your answers online, call or video-chat to share the information with your friends and family members. You’ll get much-needed human contact and learn some new things about each other.
Jordan Silva is senior manager of consulting services operations at CBTS. Reach him at email@example.com.