“It’s not always straightforward to keep employees engaged in your company’s objectives”, noted Jamie Johnson, CEO of FJP Investment. “Indeed,” Jamie continues, “It’s much more elusive when you’re dealing with identical issues at a faraway location. Companies tried to find a way to keep their new remote workers engaged as the entire globe fell into a sudden lockdown. Engagement levels dropped dramatically because of this.”
When the world is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable to think that remote working is largely a temporary fad. But studies show that more than half of workers want to work from home at least three days per week after the pandemic, and nearly a third want to work remotely full time. Employers’ support for the Great Resignation—also known as the Big Quit—means that some sort of remote or teleworking will be an inevitability in the workplace in the years to come.
Some see employee engagement as loyalty, devotion, and an emotional connection to the job. Engaged employees are better at their jobs, have more work satisfaction, and are more likely to go above and beyond to do a good job.
Modern HR professionals must find new ways to improve the remote employee experience even as the world slowly starts to recover, with many employees (and organisations) choosing to work lengthy work-from-home stints. Here are some simple but incredibly effective ways to keep your remote workers happy and productive.
Tip number one: Give employees more autonomy and use less micromanagement.
Managers often have a difficult time dealing with remote employment. Even though their remote workers miss out on the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, they still need to guarantee that production levels stay steady.
For many managers, the pandemic threw up a new challenge for them in having to quickly adjust to a new working paradigm, and many found they struggled to improve employee work experience and, in fact, made it worse in some cases. Indeed, research has demonstrated that many managers have difficulty believing that their subordinates are working hard but may be slacking off due to not being in constant physical sight. This is a false belief. Many managers use micromanagement, which has been shown to be one of the worst things for productivity and morale.
It may be instinctive for managers to micromanage their employees to gain full engagement, but this can result in long-term adverse consequences and prove counterproductive for employee engagement. Of course, employees still need to be managed, but the methods that produce the best results are ones that are sustainable without having to keep a close eye on every detail. Such methods include things like:
Be flexible in how you measure performance. It’s not necessary to keep pressing employees to get the job done; this can often cause resentment and be counterproductive. A better way is to devise system whereby employees are accountable for their own goals. Goals are very important in achieving something, and the more clearly defined the goals are, the better. A structure of goal setting that allows for more autonomy is thus a very useful tool in engaging employees, such as SMART goal setting and KPIs.
What is SMART goal setting? To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic, and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost-limited, timely, time-sensitive)
Clearly define your expectations. Having this conversation as soon as possible can help you create boundary limits with your remote workers before bad habits set in. Decide on working hours, break periods, and expectations for both you and the employees.
Tip 2: Be open and honest.
Not only may workflows benefit from transparency, In order to instil this daily practise in their teams, high-performing leaders must first establish open channels of communication inside their own organisations. Even more so, in the face of a crisis, when people are more vulnerable to sensationalism and conjecture.
Every company’s future is more uncertain because of the pandemic’s additional difficulties. A big contributor to employee burnout, anxiety, and stress is the inability to perform at their best under pressure. Executives and managers should be very clear about where the company is going and how workers will be affected in certain situations in order to ease any remaining fears.
Having empathy for your employees is a valuable leadership skill that is often overlooked. Empathy is not a weakness; it is a strength that employees will be encouraged by and appreciate. Establishing open and honest communication channels can help you recognise and understand the specific problems your employees who work from home are having.
Leaders, on the other hand, need to be honest about their own flaws. Employees would appreciate it if bad news came straight from you rather than via a third party. As a result, employees are more likely to feel like they belong to the company and have a stronger sense of loyalty to it.
Tip 3: Show your appreciation for your employees by implementing a rewards and recognition system.
As companies grapple with the problems of a virtual or hybrid workforce, it is understandable that acknowledging the achievements of remote employees has fallen by the wayside. However, taking steps to rectify this is a very good idea.
At some point during a difficult period, employees’ demand for recognition rises by 30 percent, according to one expert. These kinds of positive forms of engagement are critical when employees are faced with a new crisis or making the adjustment to a new work arrangement.
Many virtual reward and recognition programmes are plagued by a lack of planning, organisation, and implementation. So, the entire process of recognising workers who work from afar becomes dysfunctional. There is a lot of uncertainty about when, what, and who will be praised for exceptional work by their peers.
There’s no need to complicate simplicity. It may appear to be a daunting task to engage remotely with employees, perhaps even expensive and time-consuming, but you can simplify things, so it doesn’t have to be that way. Below are some ideas for making digital rewards and recognition simple.
Make sure everyone knows about it. Even if it’s virtual, public acknowledgement is vital. This accomplishes two objectives. Firstly, it guarantees that recognition is not just between a boss and an employee but that the whole offsite team has a sense of belonging to one another. As a second benefit, it acts as a reminder to everyone who works remotely that their efforts are being recognised and appreciated. Indeed, there’s something deep within human nature that necessitates being recognised for hard work and achievement.
Be prompt and keep it up. Getting a pat on the back for a job well done months after the fact isn’t going to have the same impact. When it comes to workers that work remotely, management must ensure that they are quickly recognised and valued for their contribution. Moreover, this must be maintained and not seen by employees as a “flash in the pan” to manipulate and get employees motivated. Rewards and recognition must be sincere and heart-felt.
Tip 4: Make employee well-being a top priority.
Employees that are in good health (especially mental health) are said to be more content and more productive. Furthermore, according to Gallup’s studies, engagement and well-being are mutually reinforcing, i.e., each has a direct influence on the other.
It’s a wonderful thing that corporations have started prioritising the well-being of their employees since 2020, when the pandemic hit hard. According to one trend report, more than 80% of organisations believe employee well-being will be critical or very important to their performance in the next 12–18 months, but only 12% believe they are adequately prepared to deal with the issue.
However, it’s crucial to remember that a person’s professional life can be adversely affected by more than just their physical health. Problems with one’s mental health may frequently lead to a decrease in performance and productivity, as well as a decrease in involvement.
Budgets for employee well-being in the workplace typically only cover the basics, including health insurance. Management should pay attention to the parts of the workplace that can help employees achieve optimal health and well-being, such as the following:
Make sure breaks are taken regularly. Apart from providing much-needed downtime, it fosters stronger working relationships among co-workers.
Help employees set up a good home office environment. Work performed at a distance can be physically taxing. Make sure that your staff have access to the highest quality seats and adequate furniture support, as if they were in the regular office setting. This will go a long way to showing employees you care for their wellbeing.
Openly discuss mental health with employees. In some cases, it might be as easy as giving seminars on mental well-being or offering counsellors to chat to. People often find it easier to chat with strangers than with family and friends.
Place limits on when they should be working. This is an important one that is too often overlooked by employers. One of the disadvantages of remote working has been shown to be that some employees find it hard to switch off, constantly checking emails and their phones for messages from their boss or colleagues. For some, it’s like they are at work all their waking hours. One simple step could be to forbid employees from responding to emails at the weekend or in the evenings.
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