On March 10, 2020, the WHO announced that COVID-10 was a worldwide pandemic. As we reach the one-year anniversary of that life-changing moment, it’s time to reflect on the ways that doing business has changed, what new procedures will eventually go away, which will stay, and how we could be doing them better.
One of the most obvious revolutions was in the rapid shift to working remotely for some or all of your employees. It’s already become clear that the majority of employees will prefer to continue working from home. What’s more, many of them have already relocated so far away that they couldn’t go back to a daily commute even if they wanted to.
So, with remote work likely to remain a reality for the foreseeable future, employers must develop long-term strategies to mitigate its disadvantages. The biggest of these for remote workers is loss of engagement with the in-office culture: the interactions which are essential to building relationships, learning, problem solving, tracking progress toward goals, staying motivated and even maintaining mental well-being.
According to a 2019 Gallup study, low employee engagement is associated with 21% less profitability, 41% more absenteeism and 59% more turnover. Promoting engagement should be a high priority for managers of remote employees.
Here are some suggestions for ensuring that your employee experience doesn’t suffer in our new WFH world.
Support remote work
Evaluate the tools you use to stay connected. Decisions made a year ago can now be analyzed for their effectiveness. In the age of the app, there’s no reason that work performed remotely should be more of a struggle than doing it in the office.
Provide employees with:
- Cloud access to work materials and collaboration apps
- Company-owned digital equipment such as laptops or smartphones
- Security against hacking of remote systems
- Bonus money to help set up a home office that’s comfortable and distraction-free
Make sure they’re heard
“Out of sight, out of mind.” There’s worrying evidence that remote workers are left out of decision-making processes and passed over for promotions, with managers’ perceptions being that they don’t work as hard as the employees who are visibly present — when in fact, the reverse is often true. Workers experiencing this unconscious bias will become disengaged very quickly.
Prevent that “lost-in-the-crowd” feeling with:
- Smaller team or one-on-one Zoom meetings
- Regularly scheduled manager’s virtual “open door” hour
- Regular private check-ins to discuss concerns
- Message board for quick questions to managers or colleagues
Foster community spirit
Even when there are regular Zoom meetings to discuss business, remote employees can be left feeling isolated from the team and company culture.
Add socializing opportunities back into your culture with:
- Weekly virtual happy hour
- Online forums for off-work interests, such as cooking
- Online employee events, contests or giveaways
- Introduce new employees, especially if they’ll be remote from day one
Reward a job well done with a company-wide announcement, award, or feature in the company newsletter. You could also set up an employee of the week program with a small incentive.
A popular program among our own teams at Integrity is the intra-company notice board where any employee can call attention to another for a great performance or act of kindness.
The first thing many people put off during the pandemic was their usual health screenings. As well, disrupted lives have caused high levels of stress, anxiety and associated mental and physical ailments. Reduced productivity and increased insurance claims (due to delay in diagnosis) are two of the more unpleasant outcomes we might face as a result.
Self-care should be prioritized during private check-ins, and have also proven popular on the social forums. Remote workers can benefit from a wide range of information, from in-home exercise to setting home office boundaries.
Staying in touch with your remote workers — not just their job performance but their overall job and life satisfaction — is key to keeping them engaged with your company. It’s well worth your effort to do so; after all, they’re some of your company’s most valuable assets!