Kirsty Carter, Solutionize Global, considers how employers can maintain engagement in the new world of agile working
With the Coronavirus global pandemic affecting every aspect of normal life, organisations are having to shift quickly to working remotely and for employees to have greater autonomy, with no real idea of how long it will last.
The key challenges for many tech businesses are around retaining engagement, motivation, productivity and minimising panic across a team demographic encompassing different experiences and skillsets.
It’s been well-documented that firms with an engaged team are said to achieve 21% higher profitability according to Gallup. And, furthermore, a huge 85% of organisations are failing to motivate their staff globally – so the importance on getting remote working right shouldn’t be underestimated.
Shifting the workforce to a completely online model can help to safeguard them during challenging trading times, whilst ensuring the enterprise’s bottom line is not impacted too harshly. Business as usual for all stakeholders is crucial right now.
Without a physical office presence there is the potential for the quality of working life and team relationships to falter, alongside strained mental health and wellbeing issues as uncertainty takes its toll.
Additionally, there is a renewed need to ensure that if employees do contract COVID-19 that they follow government guidelines on welfare and isolation, and don’t have worries around sick leave and time-off that might affect their decision making.
Here are some key ways in which employers can encourage – and nurture – employee engagement when remote working.
1. Starting the day right
A good tip is to begin with a team call – preferably using a video platform – and kick-off the agenda asking employees how they’re doing. During the current climate too, it’s worth asking about their family members as there might be concerns that are impacting colleagues on a physical and mental level. Expectations and deliverables for the day can also be achieved in these calls.
It’s important for tech leaders to understand how successful remote working can be – and how it’s often enhanced with a strong routine and structure, alongside the right support and environment.
Having faith in staff to be autonomous is imperative too – but don’t underestimate the appreciate for regular contact.
2. Setting up for success
Working from home doesn’t just require routine and discipline, it must also have a workspace that suits employees’ needs.
There may be a request for additional equipment – such as laptops, a second screen, power adaptors, and even chairs and whiteboards! Keeping an inventory of what has been signed-out where – and with who – helps to understand what extra support can be provided. Connectivity needs must also be met, and any additional costs they may incur should be organised to be paid.
And as well as making sure everyone is trained in how to utilise their equipment, it’s important to partner teams up where necessary – to avoid someone feeling alone – and remain in contact with employees throughout. Asking if they’re comfortable in their surroundings can be a major morale boost.
3. Upskilling and investment
If a tech business is working towards an accreditation or website update, launching a new platform, preparing internal training courses, updating policies and procedures, when working remotely it’s a great time to focus on these projects so that organisations can come out the other side polished, and ready to return to normality.
If the usual roles and responsibilities have been reduced due to market conditions, share links to online training courses and sign teams up for online learning too. Amongst the uncertainty and worry, this could prove to be an ideal time to re-focus the mind and upskill whilst at home.
Providing a platform for development can help organisations reap a wealth of benefits from their employees – something which has never been more pertinent than in a modern-day tech team that’s constantly tasked with staying ahead of the curve, and challenged to survive in turbulent times.
As well as promoting motivation and engagement, this can also underline how leaders want to invest in staff – and their skills – which is especially pertinent during a challenging climate when commitment and loyalty are vital in helping businesses to come out the other side.
4. Comms, comms and more comms!
Some of the team may never have worked remotely before so it will be a big change for them. Asking senior members of staff – who don’t have reporting lines – to ‘buddy up’ can help motivate and ensure productivity remains at a premium. If, for example, there are 30 reporting lines, it’s a lot for tech leaders to expect staff to remote manage them on their own.
In addition, sending out practical tips on topics such as ‘how to work effectively from home’ and best practice guidelines will help to settle employees who might be new when it comes to operating remotely.
Another good tip for tech firms is to organise ‘virtual socials’ – these can be a mixture of business and team-building. Organisers are advised to change the time of day each time and mix up the invites list so that it keeps things fresh. Ideas for this could include a virtual ‘bring your dog to work’ tea break for 20 minutes or a Friday ‘live at five’ – with a tipple of choice to start the weekend!
By adding in an agenda to these sociable moments – to maximise the outcomes of each catch-up – these can provide fantastic moments for the tech firm to celebrate successes, talk about what’s been difficult, share any new knowledge learnt during upskilling, and deliver business news updates.
This type of regular contact should go a long way towards encouraging a collaborative environment – and keep a team as closely together as though they were all working in one space.
Working remotely requires a little more effort and commitment for many but, in a technology-filled world, there are really no excuses not to be creative and make it work for most organisations.