Stay-at-home orders around the world saw millions of us become remote workers almost overnight. Managers are now learning to manage their teams remotely, and this comes with a whole new set of challenges. How do you keep remote workers engaged – and effective?
How can you ensure everyone is working together as best they can?
What can you do to support your team so that they can be productive as individuals and collectively?
Do you have the right tools in place to communicate and collaborate effectively?
Should you use video or chat – and how should you use them?
As working from home becomes commonplace, how you respond to the challenges will be critical, not only to your success as a leader but also to your business continuity practice moving forward.
For our recent APAC 2020: Enterprise Risk Management Readiness Survey Report, we spoke to working professionals in around 300 organizations. What was immediately clear was that for some, the remote working learning curve has been steep. While many businesses have existing remote working policies, they’re not confident with the tools and technology that will support this new way of working. From an employee perspective, when asked what they missed most about the office, they said ‘face-to-face time with my manager’.
Better remote work needs better engagement and collaboration
Managers are under immense pressure to produce the same results under new and much tougher professional and individual circumstances. Yet, now more than ever, we need to take a breath, find ways to connect with our teams and show a bit more of our human side. What we do as leaders today will reflect on us tomorrow, and for now, our teams need more engagement and collaboration, and it’s up to us to determine the best way to achieve this.
As we learn to adapt and help our teams stay productive during this time of transition, we must consider more than just the confident and competent deployment of tools like Cisco Webex, and Microsoft Teams. While technology continues to play an essential role in keeping us all connected, leaders should be putting thought into what they’re saying, how they’re saying it and to whom.
Take an individual approach to keep remote workers engaged
Helping your remote working team to thrive means understanding each individual’s personality type when considering the best way to engage. Matching the collaboration tools to each team member’s strengths and weaknesses will help you achieve the best possible performance.
If you know someone on your team needs regular encouragement and guidance, you might find it works best to schedule short, yet more frequent, video calls to run through priorities and task lists. Others, who are self-guided and autonomous, may not need more than perhaps a weekly video call to run through their activities.
Keep in mind the intent and context
Try to match the content and tone of the discussion with the most appropriate collaboration tool. Will ad-hoc messages be sufficient? Or should you plan on specific regular meetings? If you are meeting with a group of colleagues will you establish any etiquettes around speaking, interrupting, or having video switched on? Pre-pandemic, if you had weekly face-to-face team meetings, don’t substitute that experience with a text chat-only meeting if you are remote working. The intent should be to have a more personalized approach, and by making a video call to create more empathy amongst the team members.
It’s also important to draw boundaries to create some structure on how you leverage collaboration tools. You may have ramped-up online chatting at the beginning of the crisis to check on team members but now may feel overwhelmed by the volume of messages. Perhaps create an agreed understanding of how – and via what means – your team can connect with you and each other.
Close engagement with positivity
More than ever in these times of change and uncertainty, your team members will be looking for to you for leadership. Key to keeping remote workers engaged is good communications. Offer insight and clarity wherever possible, empowering people with direction, certainty and involvement. While it may not always be possible in every conversation, a positive and optimistic outlook is bound to help keep your team engaged. Acknowledge the challenges, but focus on what’s working too, including and encouraging your team as they become part of the solution.
Diversity and inclusion matter more than ever, and no one should be left behind. We’re in a window of opportunity to personally relate more with our teams, embrace similarities and differences, and perhaps to get to know them a little better. Strengthen the company culture by breaking down the walls and connecting as individuals. Attending to your team’s feelings of anxiety and frustration will help you get on top of things before it can impact morale and productivity.
Be led by the problem, not the technology
When selecting the right collaboration tools for your team, it’s best to start with the challenges that you’re hoping to solve. Remember the intention is to keep remote workers engaged and effective – and not to feel more isolated or unable to perform productively. Do your homework and don’t rush to implement a solution just because it has worked for others. Tailor the right combination of tools you need to collaborate across all levels of discussion and communication styles of your team.
Do explore the subject further, via our recent on-demand webinar, in which we discuss winning strategies to keep employees engaged and effective