With further progression of the working from home “revolution”, most of us have now experienced the pleasure and pain of running a combined home-office environment. Whilst, for many, this new way of working brings us closer to that elusive phenomenon of a work/life balance it can also result in some additional challenges for employers and managers, especially around roles, responsibilities and trust.
We look at some practical ways to help motivate employees that are currently working from home and help bring the remote working team closer together.
One of our first recommendations is to agree regular time slots with each team member to check-in. These could be points throughout the day, or you may prefer to top and tail the day with a check-in. With such a wide choice of contact mediums available leaders can use several different contact methods to communicate in the most effective way for each team member. The communication method chosen may also vary depending on the discussion content.
Alternatively, use a combination of media including individual phone calls or a team buddy system for contact up to mid-afternoon and a group video call at the end of the week so that everyone can collaborate.
Scheduled check-ins are a proven method for maintaining connection and improving an individual’s motivation within a team. Consistent interaction and engagement with remote staff help them to feel valued and included and can also help to increase productivity.
Trust is a critical component if your workforce is to remain functional and collaborative and committed while you are not sharing the same workplace. As a remote leader, you can best demonstrate trust in individuals by continuing to give staff the time to complete work uninterrupted and by continuing to delegate responsibilities. It would be best to avoid the urge to increase the reporting requirements for each task. It is important not to view remote working as a risk to business productivity as working from home can lead to greater productivity if team members continue to feel valued and trusted.
Make Communication Count
So how do you continue to communicate effectively within teams without physical face-to-face contact? An effective team leader will need to modify their approach to ensure that team members maintain a feeling of connectedness. Over time we have become heavily reliant on email to send dismissive and ill-drafted messages the minute a thought or idea enters our heads. One suggestion is to deliberately and aggressively edit down the number of emails that you send and consider message quality by using only the most important key points that you need to make. By sending fewer emails and making more screen to screen video communication with well thought out content, you will engage on a less superficial level with your team members. Leaders must be providing clear and specific messages to avoid assumptions and instances of miscommunication.
Influential leaders will also encourage staff to take the opportunity to provide personal commentary on both communication content and methods. This approach helps team members feel their opinions are heard and their input valued.
Give your Team a Break
Far from taking advantage of the current lack of visibility, some employees feel on edge every time the phone rings day-or-evening. Remind team members that working from home does not come with the expectation that their home is the new office environment, and therefore they should be available for work calls any time of day (or evening).
Encourage team members to maintain only their usual working hours and commit yourself to only calling within these times. It would be best if you also led by example by taking regular breaks away from your desk to avoid burnout. We suggest that you ask staff to create a daily schedule to include multiple breaks from work and opportunities to check in with other team members as they would do in the physical workplace.
Set Clear Expectations
Some staff, especially those new in a role or new to the business, may initially struggle with the limited in-person contact when working remotely. Some employees may feel that there is no longer a clear and distinct objective being given and feel uncertain about what they need to achieve due to a real or perceived lack of direction. Leaders should be clear about their ongoing expectations and reinforce this with clear communication with everyone within the team. Whilst working remotely, it is critical that leaders stay focused on their business goals but also identify the short, medium and long-term priorities and deliver these to staff only as necessary. An understanding of what is urgent will help to mitigate inefficiency and increase productivity.
Remain Business Focused
When an entire workforce is working remotely, it is easy for growth activities such as professional development to be forgotten. The continued development of your people is vitally important, not only for the individual’s welfare but also for the ongoing interest of the business. Whilst in-person professional boot-camp activities are not currently available to us, for example; business development activities can continue through many widely available online tools.
In summary, key points to remotely motivate your team:
> Effective communication and regular contact using appropriate methods, working to an agreed schedule to keep the team engaged to ensure good productivity,
> Trust your team to execute work, once you have this first foundation established,
> Quality over quantity to ensure communication to the team counts and has the desired outcomes. Eliminate ambiguity with clear written communication in support of the other communication methods. Encourage your team to reciprocate along the same lines as you value their input,
> Make sure your team includes appropriate down time as they would in a normal office environment. Ensure the team maintains relevant interactions with each other as well as using appropriate communication methods,
> Make sure the team is kept well informed for short, medium and long-term priorities as required to ensure an understanding of urgency but at the same time ensuring inefficiency is negated by again being clear through effective communication. Increased productivity will then be the outcome if expectations are clear,
> Ensure team development activities continue, for your team’s welfare and interest in being part of the business is maintained.
As Australia, alongside the rest of the world, continues to embrace the growing trend of remote working, there are some benefits of working virtually.
Leaders need to continue to provide stability and a clear direction that can allow team members to conduct business most effectively among any challenges that may arise.
If you’d like to discuss remote support for your business reach out to On Point Support for a virtual chat.