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Even during normal times, it can sometimes be hard to determine how engaged your remote employees are and the best ways to keep them at the most committed, interested, and responsive. During extraordinary times when a large part of the workforce has suddenly had to transition to working from home, both workers and managers can feel unmoored. However, that doesn’t mean that remote work is negative. Offering the option of working from home can be beneficial for both employees and their employers.
According to a study from Global Workplace Analytics, the average company can save about $11,000 per worker per year when they let employees work from home. Additionally, just under half of all employees who responded to a survey from Indeed said that the ability to work from home is one of the employee benefits that determine their interest in a job. So, how do you keep the workplace working when everyone has gone remote? The tips below can help you keep your employees engaged even when they aren’t physically in the office.
In an office setting, there’s a lot of emphasis on being there and visible. “Face time” is often used as a proxy for productivity and engagement, if an imperfect one. When workers go remote, however, it doesn’t make as much sense to require proof of their presence at certain hours of the day.
Many managers have tried using timing apps and even video streams to confirm when workers are available and working. But, unless a team member’s job is reliant on being available certain times, it’s better to measure results than time spent in the chair. This is one of those employee benefits that free workers to work at the times that fit them best and gives you something meaningful to measure instead.
In a number of employment forums, workers have posted about managers who have posted higher requirements than those that are enforced during normal working times. After all, these managers are saying, the employees no longer have to deal with the time spent dressing for the office and commuting to work.
The problem with this thinking is that, while those burdens are no longer present, people who are working from home often have other duties and commitments that occupy their time. Meals out are replaced by home cooking. Often, they are sharing space with spouses or children, as well.
Rather than introducing changes at this time, it’s better to keep expectations as close to usual as possible.
People who are suddenly working remotely can often feel a little alone and directionless. To combat that, check in with employees by email periodically and by phone a little less often than that. That way, they know that you are out there and available. However, do not ask for detailed reports of time spent or check in multiple times per day. These actions can interrupt workflow and, paradoxically, can interfere with the sort of productivity they are supposed to track.
While you can’t hover over employees, they need to be able to quickly and easily reach you. Make sure that phone lines and emails are forwarded so that you can see very quickly when they need input from you. Quick responses help them feel that they are heard and valued.
There is a good chance that your employees who are used to the social aspects of the office are feeling alone right now. To help combat those feelings, consider creating some sort of virtual water cooler where people can relax and interact. Some companies do this through regular recreational Zoom chats. Others set up Discord chat servers or message boards where people can share news, jokes, and tips.
With some wisdom and flexibility, you can ensure that, no matter what the circumstances, your remote workers are engaged, active, and that the relationship provides benefit to you both.
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