KEEP EVERYONE IN THE LOOP…
In this uncertain time, it’s important to keep your team up to date with what is going on at the organisation, whether it be via group meetings, official updates or a daily news roundup. According to recruiting giant Robert Walters, almost two-thirds of UK professionals think Covid-19 will have a long-term impact on their jobs and broader unemployment, so where you can, try to provide clarity on how the business is navigating the situation to stop speculation and panic from spreading. “As soon as a change or a new challenge arises, make sure you are communicative and clear,” agrees Karen Young from recruiting and employment firm Hays. “You need to have regular conversations with your team – whether that’s over a phone or video call – to help them feel trusted, valued, informed and included.”
…BUT INVITE FEEDBACK & INPUT
While you might be in regular communication about the different challenges facing your business right now, it’s still crucial to get your own employees’ feedback and input. If employees are involved in decisions, explains Karen, they will feel like they are needed. “If they feel like they are needed, they will feel more confident in their abilities and motivated to continue delivering value.” Yvonne Smyth, head of diversity and inclusion at Hays, agrees: “One of the most important but perhaps overlooked skills of an inclusive leader is to be truly open to new ideas borne from perspectives different to your own. To resist the temptation to take executive-style action and instead consult and actively listen to the views of others.”
ESTABLISH ACCEPTABLE LINES OF COMMUNICATION
“A lack of face-time or conversation can be isolating for remote workers, so leverage the communication tools you have available so your employees aren’t firing off emails all day,” advise employment experts at Robert Walters. To that end, it might be worth establishing an effective communication structure, providing best practice on how communication channels should be used. For example, emails for non-urgent requests, instant messages for quick questions, phone for urgent queries, scheduled calls for project updates and text when you can’t reach a team member by call. “It’s also important to try and keep a degree of separation between work and personal – conduct social chat around WhatsApp groups and respect the boundaries people have between work and home life.”
…BUT STAY OPEN & RECEPTIVE
That said, remind your team they can approach you any time if they have urgent questions or concerns, says Karen. “Make this as easy for them to initiate as possible, using whatever means of remote communication they find most comfortable – whether that’s a phone call, instant message, email or video call – ensure you’re reachable through all platforms during working hours.” Sometimes, adds Karen, a one-to-one session can also be invaluable to keeping employees happy and motivated. “One-to-one, personal conversations are just as important as team meetings to get a sense of how your remote team is feeling. It’s also a chance to intervene early if you’ve spotted any red flags that suggest a team member may be struggling, such as fewer emails, not responding to messages, inhibition or complete withdrawal in group communications.”
CREATE HELPFUL STRUCTURES…
Not every employee is going to be completely self-organised or motivated – something which might become more of a problem for wider team morale when everyone is working from home. Others, meanwhile, are likely to work overtime and forget to take a break, which could result in burn-out. “Structures will help to motivate, because you know what to do and don’t feel overwhelmed with all tasks and emotional circumstances,” explain the experts at Robert Walters. “Set up daily catch-ups in the morning and in the afternoon. Use morning meetings to decide together which tasks and goals employees should prioritise. In the afternoon, you can review the achievements and successes of the day. This way you generate a positive pressure, which motivates your employee to achieve their goals.” Team members will also feel supported during projects, and it offers room for questions and discussion, conflict management and the chance to establish a closer connection.
…BUT REMEMBER TO TRUST
It’s rarely a good idea to try and micro-manage your team, warn the Robert Walters experts. “Micro-management can minimise their motivation as they will think you don’t trust them,” they explain. “Appeal to the employee's sense of duty and responsibility. You can set up intermediate goals and deadlines to help them focus. Try exploring more about how you manage results and the behaviour of your team when they’re working from home to help you do this.” This also applies to the ways in which employees might have found working from home works for them. “Remember that so long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter when it happens,” says Karen. “Your team members may have found new routines that work for their arrangements and responsibilities, and you need to be flexible, understanding and open to that. After all, performance isn’t judged on how long someone sits at their desk each day, it’s judged on the output produced and value delivered.”
RALLY AGAINST THE COMPETITION…
Research tells us that teams will always unite in the face of fierce competition from outside of the organisation. For that reason, try to find out what targets and performance levels your competitors are achieving and challenge your teams to beat them. Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep a critical eye on how competitors are responding to common challenges faced by businesses of all shapes and sizes. Just remember to include a call to action across the team and organisation, rather than putting pressure on a single employee or manager to come up with solutions or new ideas. If everyone feels involved, it will feel like a shared responsibility.
…BUT DON’T FORGET TO PRAISE A JOB WELL DONE
When working remotely, it can be difficult to know the impact you’re having. “Try highlighting employees’ contributions internally, or even rewarding staff with a thank you lunch delivery to boost morale and help team members regain that sense of purpose,” suggest the experts at Robert Walters. Just remember, praising your team remotely doesn’t have to be any different to praising them in person, adds Karen. “Where you once would have walked over to their desk and thanked them for their work, why not send them a quick message to say how grateful you are? This could be an audio or video clip, which would only take you a couple of minutes to record. Or perhaps arrange a video call and let them know that you’re really impressed with a piece of work they completed, or that you’re thankful to have them on your team to help through this difficult time. Communicating your appreciation through video is particularly powerful as it will allow you to demonstrate that the praise is genuine through your body language. Remember that your virtual acts of praise don’t need to be large and lavish, but they do need to be sincere.”
FINALLY, TRY TO ESTABLISH A NEW ‘BUSINESS AS NORMAL’
If there’s one thing that’s bound to help employees feel happier, it’s trying to keep working life as consistent as possible by establishing new routines and habits to provide stability and familiarity, says Karen. “Continue to delegate and oversee workloads accordingly, and keep routine things like team catch-ups, one-to-ones and weekly reports in the diary.” Setting short-term targets with your team will also help to provide clarity on your expectations, and help people to know what good work looks like, while also enabling a sense of achievement as things get ticked off the list. “While this may not be how you would usually work in your normal setting, it will provide your team with clear priorities and goals, enabling them to maintain focus,” adds Karen. “After all, steadiness and routine will reassure any employees who feel negative about their futures and therefore tempted to develop a defeatist attitude.”
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