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An Action Plan to Keep Remote Workers Engaged

July 31, 2020 Leadership
paul pellman
By Paul Pellman

A few months ago, we collectively dove headfirst into working from home. Fast forward a few months and so much has already changed.

Remember the tight labor market of pre-March days? Business leaders are now less concerned with finding new talent, and more concerned with how to keep their current employees productive as they continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. With companies like Google extending work from home until summer 2021 and Twitter allowing employees to work from home indefinitely, businesses have another challenge on the horizon: how to maintain workforce engagement when they won't be face-to-face for the foreseeable future.

One thing that has become clearer since this pandemic started: the impact the employee experience has on keeping employees happy, productive and on customer satisfaction. Now more than ever, we must be diligent and proactive in addressing the needs of our teams. In fact, author Jacob Morgan notes that companies with a proven track record of investing heavily in their employees appeared:

  • 28 times as often among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.
  • 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work.
  • Two times as often in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

8 Steps to Keeping Remote Workers Engaged

Prioritizing employees during times of change starts by understanding the four pillars of a positive employee experience — connection, meaningful impact, appreciation and growth – and putting them into action. Here are eight concrete ways to get started.

Connection

The bonds between an employee and their manager, coworkers and your company’s mission and values.

1. Reduce Panic by Over-Communicating

You might at times feel like a broken record, but communication is extremely valuable during times of high uncertainty. Proactively answer questions about where your company is headed, and how it will get there. Don’t be afraid to give your employees ambiguous answers — just make sure you’re talking to them and being truthful.

2. Get Formal, Anonymous Feedback (and Soon)

Organizations were conducting anonymous employee surveys before going into crisis mode, but have you asked for feedback since then? Anonymous surveys create a safe space for people to share their thoughts and feelings honestly, and say things they may not say unless directly asked. Listening to that feedback is the best way to stay in touch with your employees’ needs.

Related Article: Working Remotely: A Manager's Perspective

Appreciation

Knowing your work has value and being recognized and rewarded for your contributions.

3. Give Employees Something to Look Forward to

It’s hard to scroll through social media without seeing a meme asking “What day is it, again?” The inability to make plans for the future can lead to feelings of hopelessness and even depression. The simple act of having something to look forward to can do wonders for our mental health. Some great ways to show employees your appreciation are:

  • Implement a digital recognition and rewards program, if you haven’t already. It’s easy to send low-cost gifts that bring a smile to someone’s face.
  • Create a celebration Slack channel and set some time aside to review the week’s wins together. My company's marketing team does 'monthly victories' at the start of each month to celebrate work and non-work related wins.
  • Give employees extra time off or, if you’re feeling really bold, move to a 4-day work-week like Microsoft. They tried it and saw a productivity hike of 40%.

4. Limit Virtual Meetings and Schedule Quiet Time

Despite what we might have thought a few months ago, virtual meetings can feel more exhausting than face-to-face meetings. Jeremy Bailenson of The Wall Street Journal attributes the fatigue to “nonverbal overload.”

It’s vital to stay connected, but show your people you respect their time by keeping virtual meetings to a minimum. Take it a step further and encourage teams to schedule no-meeting quiet time during the week. These blocks not only help them have uninterrupted time to work, but will also increase productivity and give  them something to look forward to.

Related Article: Appirio Says a Simple 'Thanks' Can Help You Keep Your Best Workers

Meaningful Impact

The employee’s sense that their work matters — to your company, to themselves and to the world at large.

5. Remember the 'Why'

Getting through a crisis together has a way of strengthening connections between people. Use this time to remind each other why you’re doing the work you’re doing, and what kind of company you want to be on the other side.

6. Give Together

Find meaning in a new way by deciding as a team how you can show up for your community in response to COVID-19 or social justice reform. Some ideas:

  • Give employees two hours per week to volunteer for a relief organization or to protest with their community.
  • Place a group order from a local black-owned restaurant impacted by COVID-19 and have it delivered to employees’ homes.
  • Pool money and/or rewards points for a common cause.

Related Article: 4 Reasons to Start Setting Goals Today

Growth

Learning opportunities, continuous feedback and ongoing support for career development.

7. Increase Employee Autonomy

This might not be the time to add an extra webinar into someone’s week or start a new stretch project, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to grow. Use this time to give away as much autonomy and flexibility as your business can possibly support. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t expect employees to stick to their old schedule while working from home. Show them you trust them to prioritize and get the work done.

8. Give Flex Time to Develop a New Skill

Oftentimes, managers encourage career development by sending an employee to a class or conference, recommending a book or giving targeted feedback. While your team is working from home, and most likely experiencing many new stressors, consider giving them the space and freedom to choose which new skill or quality to develop, and resources to make it happen.

A successful employee experience is the foundation of a healthy, profitable business. And while there’s not much we can control about the future, we can make a concerted effort to prioritize what our employees need from us as business leaders to stay positive during these difficult times.

About the Author

Paul Pellman is the CEO of Kazoo, the only employee experience platform that brings together performance management, recognition & rewards, and engagement surveys in one easy-to-use solution. As a seasoned executive, Paul is committed to giving employees what they need to deeply engage in their work by fulfilling the company’s vision to create rewarding and purpose-filled workplaces where all employees can thrive.

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