Working from home has become the "new normal" - how do you keep your team engaged and motivated?
With even greater restrictions on movement announced on Monday, it looks like we are going to be working from home for a long time. You’ve probably spent the last week getting the technology to work, and making sure that people have a safe space to work from. Now the novelty may be starting to wear off. How do you keep your team engaged and motivated, particularly when they are not used to working from home?
For many people, loneliness is going to become an issue, and they will feel less of a sense of “belonging” to the team. In the worst case scenario, they might even start to look for work elsewhere.
For those with school-aged children, it will be difficult to manage distractions. Pictures on social media of your kids sat alongside you at your desk might be cute to start off with, but it’s not so cute when they interrupt your video-conference with that important client.
How do you know what your team are up to? Are you afraid that they will become less productive?
How do you make sure that you and they know what’s going on? The natural social interactions that take place when you’re making tea, the “water cooler” moments, the overheard conversations while you’re sat at your desk – they are all missing in this virtual environment.
What can you do to support your employees?
Establish a routine of daily check-ins
Be absolutely consistent in their application. This can be in the form of a team meeting at the same time every day, or a daily one-to-one with each member of the team. When people are anxious about their futures and their families, they don’t need stress in their jobs – make sure they know that you are going to be there for them, and where they can go for help.
Provide a range of technology
Provide technology for collaboration (products like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams), for time-critical messaging (eg text, Whatsapp), and for general communication or education (consider a webinar, or an internal blog). Don’t forget to set the ground rules for how and when they can contact you, so that you can achieve a balance between being supportive and being productive in your own role.
Now here’s the good news…
People who are unused to working from home are often more productive – they are often anxious to repay the trust you have shown in them, as long as they are managed effectively.
Manage the team based on outcomes not hours
With home schooling, several members of the same family working from home in a confined space, and the need to fit work around family priorities, the standard 9-5 may not suit some of your employees.
- Agree with them what they are going to achieve and by when,
- Let them know their limits of authority,
- Agree how and when to check in, and
- Let them know where to go for help if they have a problem.
For more on this, look out for my next blog, on how to delegate effectively.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
This is the time to show real leadership. Research shows that employees look to their leaders to identify how they should react to a difficult situation. Effective leaders acknowledge the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling, whilst confirming their confidence in their team.
- Show them that you are doing everything that needs to be done to secure the long term future of the business;
- reassure them that the demand will come back;
- deal with issues immediately, and
- communicate widely when something hasn’t gone to plan and what you have learned from it.
…and then communicate some more
…in a remote working environment, everyone will assume that someone has passed that vital piece of information on to everybody else – try a daily blog of good news, things that you have learnt, problems you have solved, and processes or data that have changed.
And finally – encourage and facilitate social interaction
It takes effort, but it is important to make time at the end of calls to catch up with people socially, do something fun together, or maybe have a virtual beer together at the end of the working day.
How can we help?
If you are a business owner, you may be feeling overwhelmed, or lonely right now, trying to work out how to make sense of the current situation and what to do for the best over the next three months. At Mustard Advisers, we have a combined experience of more than 100 years in business, we’ve been through crises before, and we’ve helped businesses to come out of the other side. We are really keen to help right now, and happy to offer you a 90-minute video conferencing call to help you find your way through this maze. No charge. No sales pitch. Just help. Get in touch by calling 02921 111 262, or email [email protected] and ask for a call back from an adviser.