Allowing employees to work from home is a new reality right now. Here are some quick facts and best practices to set up your employees and organization for success.
Facts (Purse, N. Engaging the Virtual Team. Training Journal, 2017)
- Home-working life can lead to feelings of monotony and being easily distracted.
- Specifically, 50% of a sampled 1000 virtual employees said they would work more efficiently and productively in a regular workplace.
- Overall, employees working from home report higher levels of feeling isolation, boredom and lack of motivation.
- Update or Create Remote/Virtual Work Policies
Every organization is unique; therefore, working from home policies will differ. Review polices and confirm they are relevant in today’s current climate. Identify gaps where new policies and technology are needed. Next, make sure each policy describes specific expectations of employees and resources available for successfully engaging with coworkers and working collaboratively.
- Explore Current and Additional Technologies to Support Remote Employees
Remote employees require certain technology and systems to promote communication and collaboration, while also ensuring data safety remains intact. Many business use Office 365 or Google G-Suite and may not be aware of solutions already available within those systems. Additional products and tools may also contribute to successful transitions to remote environments. Check out Best Practices for Managing the Technology that Supports Virtual and Remote Employees or contact ASCEND Technology Group for support.
- Establish Expectations
Working independently requires holding one’s self accountable. Without well understood expectations, it is possible an employee could be unsuccessful at upholding their responsibilities. Examples of expectations include: start and end times; calendar sharing; communication strategies (when to use phone, email, IM, text); guidelines surrounding response time of emails and/or calls; use of virtual meetings and when attendance is required; task priorities; and project outlines and deadlines.
- Provide Acclimation Assistance
Transitioning from a traditional work environment to a person’s home requires a collaborative effort. Train your technology team, or hire a third-party vendor, to assist employees with remote log-in access, company laptops and program application so all are using and have access to job-appropriate resources. Care should be taken in designing your remote working solutions to ensure security is at the forefront. While productivity may be the first thing businesses think about in remote working scenarios, the security of company and client data must also be a top consideration. Identify internal people, or utilize a third-party consulting company, to provide performance coaching opportunities to help employees structure their day, set boundaries between work and home life, and optimize self-accountability strategies. Check out our Best Practices to Managing Virtual Employees for more information.
- Outline a Cadence for Communication and Engagement
To help employees reduce feelings of isolation, boredom and lack of motivation, outline regular engagement opportunities. Virtual meetings are helpful to maintain face-to-face contact and a personal connection. Different types of team meetings include virtual morning check-ins and/or end of week recaps. Individual virtual meetings or calls provide personal coaching opportunities and project specific connection points. Business class instant messaging platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack can also help create a sense of team and of working closely together despite geographical separation.
- Model Healthy Boundaries
Without being able to see managers take breaks, eat lunch, go for a walk or leave the office at the end of the day, it can be more challenging to set the tone for how your organization works. Take the time to let people know what hours you are working and what they can expect from you for the day or the week. Send a sign-off email when leaving for the day or a morning check-in when you start. Continue to be socially engaged in electronic communication. It is easy to start cutting out salutations and general inquires which can create a sense of disconnection and isolation.
- Create Community
Community and social engagement are important facets of healthy living. While remote work has many benefits, it does make it more difficult to foster community and connection. When you have team meetings, encourage everyone to use video so you can see faces. Learn how to make eye connection remotely. Take time to check-in and ask how people are feeling. Look for engagement or lack of engagement. Encourage partnerships, teamwork, and give permission for breaks to chat with each other socially.
- Establish a Culture of Empowerment and Trust
With expectations clearly outlined, a commitment toward acclimation, and an ongoing cadence to maintain employee engagement, the only remaining best practice is trust and empowerment. Demonstrate trust and reinforce your presumption of positive intent and trust with remote employees. Use virtual and/or phone meetings as opportunities to explore how the employee is coping with a virtual environment and maintaining accountability to their work. Coach opportunities as they arise and celebrate success throughout!
For more information, contact SOLVE at 402-934-0085.