The information in this blog should help clarify the possibility of some or certain employees continuing to work from home even if it is only part-time. It will also provide a clear picture of which employees currently working from the office are suited for remote work and how to keep those employees, whether part-time or full-time, engaged.
Let’s look at what you can do as their manager or leader to keep them engaged.
What is it that employees working remotely miss the most? It is the social engagement, the office sidebar conversations, being present with each other and supporting your coworkers when they are having an off day, having a casual conversation in regards to kids, grandkids, pets, and spouses. It’s hearing the information that is important to your role, position, team, and organization at the same time as all of your coworkers.
It all sounds like communication is the number one need, want, and must have to keep the employees engaged.
Really this isn’t a daunting task. It does take time and effort, yet the return on investment comes back 10 fold. When someone is trying, for maybe the first time in their careers, to work from home they may be challenged with children, spouses, and pets all contributing to a noisier/busier environment. Some may be experiencing silence, something they really do not want to be working in. That’s why now and going forward it is important that you stay connected with your team.
Ways to Keep Employees Engaged
Touching base daily, by video, is the most preferred method if at all possible. Start each day with a quick 30 minute round table (based on 10-15 employees) to see how everyone is doing. Have each employee state 1 thing that brought a smile to their face yesterday, 1 thing that they are working on today, and 1 thing coming up in the future that they may require a conversation with another team member or require assistance from a team member to complete. I know every day seems like a lot, just remember some of these employees have never worked remotely and may be challenged without the social connection. If an employee has an issue that requires further discussion, find out if there are certain people that could stay on the call after the 30 minutes or if you can schedule another meeting as soon as possible to hear the concerns and assist with resolution. Seeing each other face to face adds an element of connection, and if it motivates the employees to get up and dressed, at least from the waist up, it can help with depression that also may become a factor. If viewing by video is not an option, you can still proceed by conference call as something is better than nothing.
Ensure that you arrange these meetings at times that all employees agree to. Excluding any employee and not considering their schedule will send a message that they are not important which may cause them to disengage.
From the Management Point of View:
Keep the meeting time consistent. If all employees know that at 8 am every weekday morning or Tuesday, Thursday if only twice a week, people can plan to ensure that they set aside the time and arrange child care, have a quiet space to have a conversation with their team.
Keep the meetings focused on what you have planned to discuss. If the meeting scheduled is the daily check-in stick to the questions pertaining to update. If the topic requires a more in-depth conversation please schedule a time at a later date. If an employee tends to prolong their update and in the end, some may not have the opportunity to speak, ensure you set a time limit for each update. You can allow someone to speak more if you have time at the end of the meeting. If you have a weekly meeting with an agenda of updates, again stick to the agenda items and time assigned.
Make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak. As people log on to the call make sure you have a list of names and as the conversation happens, check-in with everyone attending for their input. Monitor if someone is always the one speaking which will not allow all individuals to have equal opportunity.
Value everyone’s opinions and thank them for their input. Employees want to make sure when they cannot be seen in person that they can at least be heard in the meeting. By noting and stating back what you heard from each employee you provide a sense of being valued by the manager. This will help to ensure the employee stays engaged.
Let your employees know they are valued. When you close off a meeting let your employees know that you do appreciate their input, attendance, and engagement in all conversations and that you are open for further conversations on a one on one basis if anyone needs to further discuss.
Provide minutes from the weekly meetings. Updates are given so that if any employee was not able to attend any meeting, they still feel like they have the information that everyone else is working with. It also provides them with an opportunity to seek out further understanding if they have questions or concerns.
From the employee’s point of view:
Attend as many meetings as possible. Make sure when they are asking for a time that works best in your schedule, consider all of the factors you have going on within your home. This means factoring in the time that is required to take the kids to school, or get them set up with activities when they arrive home after school. Or it may mean lunchtime, heavily scheduled parts of your calendar or even monthly meetings with other people.
Plan out what you would like to say prior to the meeting. If the meeting is the daily check-in, allow yourself some time before the meeting to write down your answers to each of the following 1 – what brought a smile to your face, 2- working on today,3- future work with another team member. If you are allowed 3 min each to say what you have to say, run through it and time yourself. If you are preparing for the weekly meeting with the agenda, prepare your thoughts ahead of time.
Speak up with your thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Do take this opportunity to say what you have prepared. If the meeting is hijacked by an individual that talks for most of the allotted time, make sure you ask if you can send your comments and thoughts to someone to have included in the minutes of the meeting. Make mention to the person chairing the meeting that you would have something to add.
Offer to participate in special projects. If they are looking for someone to head up or be part of a project, volunteer to be part of the team. This will provide another opportunity to connect with your coworkers.
Remember some people have the home life that is conducive to working remotely, others do not and they will be doing the best they can with the current situation. Be kind, gentle and have patience with them.
Working from home is not for everyone, and it’s not for every manager. You may have found that you really like working from home, it benefits your family ( daycare, before and after school care), financially (gas, parking, lunches)and you have more uninterrupted time to work on your tasks. Yet you have a manager who believes that if they cannot see the employees they are not working and that production goes down if not sitting in the office. Surprisingly for most employees, the production may go down when you’re in the office because of socializing time, bathroom breaks, lunch breaks.
I believe that as we move into the future, you will see more and more corporations moving to remote workers as the cost to provide space for each employee is constantly on the rise.
Managing employees, empowering employees and keeping the employees engaged will take well-trained leaders who know how to value output over hours, manage expectations over perception and value different opinions over entrenched ideas.