After the mass transition to remote work in March, many businesses are gradually starting to return to their offices. Others (most notably, Twitter) have decided to allow employees to telework indefinitely. When making these types of decisions, companies should consider factors like the size of their workforce, their technological and cyber security capabilities, and their employee preferences.
Permitting staff to work remotely can save office space, eliminate employee commutes, bolster satisfaction and retention, and even improve productivity. However, the greatest determinant of whether this shift will help or hinder a company is how effectively its leadership can manage telecommuters. Great remote managers are able to keep employees motivated, involved, and feeling like part of a close-knit team even when they are physically far away.
Here’s how you can keep employees enthusiastic and engaged while working from home:
1. Be Flexible
Many Americans have recently discovered that they love working remotely. About 6 in 10 employees currently working from home say they’d like to continue working remotely “as much as possible” even after it is safe to return to the office. One of the key draws for many employees is the flexibility permitted by remote work. In fact, 40% of those polled said they felt it was the main benefit.
Different remote employees have different schedule preferences. Some prefer to keep a nine to five schedule for the sake of routine; others are more productive during certain times of the day. Yet others have families and opt to work early or late hours so they can spend the bulk of the day caring for their loved ones or running errands.
The key to maintaining productivity even while allowing non-traditional schedules is setting clear expectations, deadlines, and frequent check-ins. Communicate regularly with employees to make sure everything is on track and their work is still being accomplished.
2. Build a Virtual Community
Feeling like part of a team is vital in maintaining employee productivity while working remotely. Employees who feel like they are working towards a common vision or goal are more likely to be motivated at work than those who feel detached. Nearly 9 in 10 executives, educators, and employees polled by Salesforce claimed that poor collaboration or communication played a role in workplace failures. Another 97% cited alignment within a team as a main factor in determining outcomes of group tasks or projects.
Keep your team connected (even when physically distanced) by hosting frequent team or all staff meetings, cocktail hours, or coffee chats. Also encourage frequent calls, Zoom meetings, emails, and messages between staff to help them feel more connected to their team.
3. Offer Development Programs
Remote work is a great opportunity to focus on training and development of employees. Many modern development programs are already virtual, and employees are likely saving time that they might otherwise be commuting or traveling. Mentoring, online webinars, or scholarships for continuing their education online can keep employees motivated while working from home. Sufficient training is essential for employee satisfaction and retention. It helps employees feel prepared to tackle their job and sends a signal that their organization is committed to their future success.
4. Recognize Outstanding Employees
Finally, rewarding employees for a job well done can boost remote worker morale. Some employees may feel like their extra effort might not be noticed when they’re working from home. It’s harder for managers to notice employees who come in early, stay late, or frequently communicate with their team when they’re physically out of sight. Pay extra attention to employees who log extra hours, finish all their work on time, or go above and beyond on assignments. Zoom awards ceremonies, gift cards, surprise thank-you notes, or group email shoutouts all go a long way in making employees feel like their work ethic is being noticed.
With the transition to remote work, managers are charged with ensuring that their organization remains productive even while out of the office. Keeping employees engaged is essential to maintaining productivity. Be flexible, prioritize community, communicate often, and recognize employee achievements to make the most of your transition to telecommuting.