Employees across the country had a dramatic shift happen to the way they work earlier this year as many moved primary work locations from on-site at their employer to temporarily remote as a result of uncertainty around the pandemic. Now, six months after that initial shift, many employees are still at home and trying to thrive in a new “normal.” Whatever we expected to be temporary now feels much more permanent and is challenging how we are used to working.
According to Gallup, we saw some of the highest levels of engagement in the last decade, followed by a steep decline in recent months. Here at Leverage, the employees that we work with have expressed a wide span of emotions over the last six months – annoyance, fear, disconnectedness, enthusiasm, hope, and inspiration.
As we work to stabilize those emotions and make the most of what’s happening, we’d like to share four steps we’ve taken pre- and post-pandemic to maintain and inspire engagement with a remote workforce distributed across homes and on-site campuses.
1. Listen closely and maintain a personal connection
Businesses thrive as a result of healthy relationships delivering value. Earning the trust of your teammates through consistency, good questions and active listening is critical when you’re in the same physical location and even more so when working remotely.
When working remotely, it’s tempting to move to mostly written communication, but don’t let this become your only method of communicating with teammates. Study after study has shown that body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice are often more important than the words themselves. So, the next time you go to start a new email, consider a video call instead. Set time aside in regular 1-1s with your team to ask them how they’re doing personally and what you can do to support them. Host quick video calls with your immediate team to stay connected on key projects and priorities.
Asking great questions, taking time to listen to what individuals mean in their answers, and what led them to share what they did is an important part of working effectively together. If you haven’t already, consider how you can structure listening into your organizational design, through regular surveys, virtual Q&A meetings about company direction, or book clubs. Coach your leaders to listen well rather than be merely hearers and inspire individual and personal conviction around listening.
2. Clarify expectations often
Any time a major change happens, clarification of your path, pace and results is critical.
When you’re on a road trip, your car breaks down, and you’re given a rental, you’re likely first to review the route on Google Maps before hopping back on the highway. There’s no route change but verifying the direction after experiencing the disruption is still important.
Within the workforce, this same type of validation and reassurance is important. Even if there’s no course change, reminding your team of the absence of change can be useful. Be collaborative in creating expectations and communicating path, pace and results.
Both leaders and individual contributors can drive clarity by starting the conversation and asking questions. Neither party can always anticipate what the other is thinking. If you’re in doubt, ask a question or let the other know what you’re experiencing and that you want to be aligned so that you’re both successful.
3. Offer success-oriented support
We often ask others for a fix-it list of items that need improved. But approaching this type of conversation differently can create a meaningful shift in mindset. Instead of asking about what’s hard or not working right, ask your teammates how you can help them be successful. This allows individuals to articulate more clearly what’s happening and take ownership of the result. They invite you into the parts where you’re needed, and don’t focus only on what’s not working or what’s challenging in their process.
If there’s one thing you do after reading this article, please have it be to ask a few of your teammates, “What can I do this week to help make you successful in your job?”
4. Cultivate and inspire hope
As humans, we often fear and avoid what we can’t control or don’t understand. When our current circumstances surprise us, we often lose sight of our hope in what’s ahead.
When it comes to working remotely, consider challenging yourself and your teammates to evaluate how to thrive in the current environment and ask people to share about this with one another. This could be physical needs in their workspace (a second monitor, a different chair, buying a keyboard), creating a separation between work and home at the end of the day, or more regular time interacting with teammates.
Remind your employees of what greatness looks like in your organization and that despite current challenges, there’s hope for a bright future that you get to create together. Act with resolve to thrive rather than survive.
More About Leverage Talent Enrichment
Leverage is a full-service employee engagement agency offering everything from strategic direction to hands-on implementation. We are made up of the same employees that power the successful brands of Clickstop, a company with a lengthy streak of top workplace and fastest-growing awards.