You probably have a lot more remote workers than you used to. With social distancing guidelines keeping people out of the office, much of America’s workforce now clock in from home. You may find yourself managing a team of remote employees, which you may be unfamiliar with.
Remote management isn’t impossible, but it does come with a unique set of challenges. You already know how engagement is essential to employee productivity, but how do you manage it from home? Quarantine is changing the face of work, and you should know how to adapt to it.
How Does Quarantine Affect Engagement?
Working from home may have its challenges, but it has several benefits, too. Some studies suggest it can increase productivity by anywhere from 4.4-13%, thanks to factors like increased comfort. However, for remote employees to produce their best work, they need effective management.
Engagement is a chief concern for working from home. Your office is a space made for work, offering an intentionally designed environment to fuel productivity and engagement. You probably can’t say the same thing about your home or those of your employees.
It may also be challenging to stay engaged when you’re not around your co-workers. Lacking the social interaction you’d typically have at work could make you less interested in your job. Feelings of loneliness and isolation may also come into play.
For any number of reasons, your employees may find their new remote status unengaging. You can take steps to work around this issue, though.
Here are 10 ways to manage employee engagement during the quarantine.
1) Start at the Beginning
It helps to engage employees from the start. When you hire someone, you should make an effort during their training to involve and interest them. You should also consider including engagement tips and tricks as part of the training process.
Employee engagement directly affects the success of your company, whether or not they’re working from home. Your workers’ level of enthusiasm and commitment to the job comes across to your clients, for better or worse. If an employee is fully engaged, they’ll create satisfied and loyal customers. The opposite is also true.
You may not be hiring anyone new at this time, but keep this in mind as you educate employees. If you have any workers training for new certifications or positions, add engagement to their curriculum. With the increase of remote workers, there’s never been a better time to start teaching engagement from the beginning.
2) Hold Meetings More Frequently
One of the most substantial challenges remote work poses to engagement is a lack of communication. When you’re at the office, you can talk to your employees throughout the day, keeping everyone involved. When everyone is miles apart, you don’t have this luxury.
How do you make up for this drop in communication? You just make an effort to speak more often. You may not be able to talk to someone by their desk, but you can hold regular virtual meetings.
With online tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts, you can hold video conferences with your entire team. If you do this regularly, you gain two advantages. First, you decrease loneliness by facilitating conversation, and second, you maintain the atmosphere of work.
It can be easy to lose focus on your job when you’re working from home because it doesn’t feel like the office. Frequent business meetings will help fix that issue. They’ll sustain a productive environment and combat feelings of isolation.
3) Make Interactions Personal
The frequency of your virtual interactions shouldn’t be the only thing that changes. You should also make your communication more personal. Instead of copying and pasting the same text for all your emails, write unique and personalized content for each employee.
By talking to people on a personal level, you offer a human connection they may miss in quarantine. Don’t just send them a message telling them about upcoming projects — ask them about their day, as well. Use positive language and make any personal connections you can.
You should make sure your employees know how much you value them as people, not just assets. This level of connection is essential for work in all situations, but especially during this turbulent time. The extra effort it may take to communicate on a personal level is well worth it.
4) Don’t Rely on Email
Email is an essential part of the modern workforce, especially for remote employees. You’ve probably seen some of the countless jokes about meetings that should’ve just email. Ironically enough, with remote employees, you may be sending out emails that should be meetings.
You should use more personal forms of contact for your at-home workers. That’s not to say that you should avoid email at all costs because that would be inconvenient for everyone. However, you should switch it up now and then with video conferences or phone calls.
There are countless telecommunication tools at your disposal, so why not use them? You may already use video conferencing for meetings, but you can use it for one-on-one conversations, as well. You’ll probably find that you benefit from face-to-face communication.
Email’s efficient, but it’s impersonal. When you can hear someone’s voice or see their face, it makes communication more personable. Since most everyone’s out of the office now, these connections are more important than ever.
5) Keep Everyone Updated
There’s a lot of confusion going around right now. The outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unclear, and your employees may still be figuring out this work-from-home thing. To help combat the uncertainty, you can keep everyone updated as much as possible.
Virus outbreak aside, working from home can be confusing for some people at first. Your employees may not know what exactly they should be doing or what their next week will look like. This uncertainty can lead to a lack of engagement.
It’ll help to send regular updates to your whole team. You can do this weekly or even daily, depending on your needs and how dynamic your business is. No matter the specific timeline, your updates should be regular and informative.
Let your employees know about their schedule for the next week or about any potential changes on the horizon. These updates are also an excellent time to answer any questions your workers have. Consistent and reliable information is the cure for uncertainty.
6) Don’t Forget About Water Cooler Talk
It’s easy to get swept away in focusing too much on the business side of remote communication. While you definitely should hold frequent conferences about work while in quarantine, don’t forget about casual conversation. It may seem trivial, but this is essential to keeping your employees engaged, especially in a remote setting.
You can find chances for social interaction everywhere. You can ask employees a few questions in an email before the business-related content. Whenever you start a group video call, you could take a couple of minutes to chat with everyone.
You may want to go the extra mile and schedule events for nothing more than social purposes. Host “parties” on video conferencing software where everyone can talk and joke without worrying about work. Just because you can’t hold in-person events doesn’t mean you have to forgo socialization altogether.
7) Make Information Easily Accessible
Working from home can present new challenges regarding information access. In a traditional setting, if one of your employees needs something, they can walk over to you and ask. That’s not possible when working remotely.
Of course, your employees can email or call you to ask about anything. However, remote communication can be slow or awkward, so some workers may decide to figure things out on their own. To help employees, make sure they can easily access all the information they may need.
Ensure that everyone has access to the necessary cloud servers. On top of granting this access, you should let everyone know where to find the right files. Send out an email with a link to the shared drive and consider reminding employees about where to find things.
If your employees don’t know where to access the needed information, they could become discouraged. You’ll help engage them further if you provide them with easy access to all necessary files and tools.
8) Set a Schedule
When you and your team are working from home, it can feel more relaxed than the office. This comfort is mostly positive since it often leads to higher satisfaction, but it shouldn’t get in the way of work. Make sure you still maintain a set schedule for both you and your employees.
All the video conferences you hold should happen at the same time each day or week. This goes both for work meetings and social gatherings. Having all these gatherings on a schedule helps maintain a productive atmosphere and also keeps employees motivated.
If you were to hold video conversations sporadically, it would disrupt people’s workday, and some employees would be left out. If you plan these things ahead of time, more workers will be able to attend. Employees could schedule their weeks around it instead of having to put their schedules on pause.
Read here about ensuring the employees have access to information all the time. — 6 Ways HR Managers Can Use a Knowledge Base
9) Encourage Good Work Habits
Chances are many of your employees aren’t used to working from home. They may find themselves struggling to stay engaged in their new environments, especially in the first few weeks. You can help them adjust by giving examples of good work-from-home habits.
Encourage your employees to stick to a defined schedule instead of working whenever they find the time. Lead by example and demonstrate good remote work behavior for them to imitate.
Useful working-from-home techniques include things like creating a comfortable working space and taking planned breaks. Follow health guidelines like drinking enough water and getting enough sunlight, as well as taking brief breaks from too much screen time to combat eye strain.
As you learn about things that help you work remotely, send them on to your team. You can’t control how your employees will work from home, but you can provide examples and encourage them to follow them.
10) Understand Your Limits
The final step to managing remote employee engagement is understanding your limits. There are simply some things you can’t do from home that you can in the office. Know your limitations, so you don’t feel discouraged when you encounter them.
You can’t supervise your employees to the same extent as you could in a shared space, so don’t try to do so. You can ask questions and send frequent updates to maintain some level of supervision, but know that it will look different from before.
You should manage your expectations as well as those of your employees. Let them know that some things will have to change or will feel different because of the current situation. Everyone has to adapt at the same time, so it may be slow going for a while.
You can’t plan for everything, especially in a time as intense and changing as this one. Prepare as much as you can, like developing a contingency plan in case things change, but don’t stress over not knowing everything. Remember, everyone is on a learning curve.
Engagement Doesn’t End Outside the Office
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging for everyone. Outside of health concerns, the changing state of many people’s jobs can be hard to get used to. However, just because things are different doesn’t mean that you can’t work effectively.
You don’t have to be in the same room as your employees to be an effective leader. You can still lead by example and continually engage your workers when everyone’s logging in from home. It’ll just take a few small adjustments.
To maintain the same level of engagement from quarantine, you’ll have to be more intentional about your efforts. You’ll have to take the time to reach out to your employees and connect with them on a personal level. With ongoing quality communication and solid leadership, you can keep your workers as engaged as ever.