Engaging with your employees and your teams is easier in a face-to-face situation. However, if you need them to work from home, as is the case with the coronavirus outbreak, then maintaining that engagement can be trickier.
So how can you help your people to adapt to working remotely?
In this article, we feature a series of tactics that you can put into play that will help to foster employee engagement for all staff members, and give your managers tips to maintain collaboration within their teams.
1. Online weekly team meetings
While your employees may be used to sitting round a table once a week for a catch up with their team, a move to remote working means that physical presence isn’t possible.
However, it doesn’t mean they can’t have their weekly catch up – using technology, you can take things online.
Video conferencing tools, such as Microsoft Teams, are pretty commonplace now providing easy access for employees to have their meetings.
And since multiple people can feature and contribute using those tools, your teams can continue to have their regular catch ups, albeit virtually.
If a daily scrum is their catch up of choice, simply follow suit and encourage everyone to show up online for 10 minutes each morning to highlight the tasks of the day before they dive into their work.
2. Switch on your cameras
When your employees have their meetings – be it team catch ups on one-to-one chats – try and avoid doing it in a faceless setting.
To fill the gap of your employees not seeing each other on a daily basis, ask them to be bold and turn their cameras on.
That’s right, rather than speaking to an image of their colleagues, up the ante and see if they’ll switch on their cameras so everyone can see their faces.
By seeing each other, it will help to generate the human interaction that your employees may be lacking when they are working from home.
However, if they’re not keen on doing so, then don’t force the issue – allow your employees to do what’s comfortable for them.
And, with the requirement for schools across the US to be closed in line with local government guidance, don’t be surprised (or worried) if little ones try to take some of the screen time.
Everyone’s in the same situation, so it’s nothing for your employees to get embarrassed about – and the kids may offer some light relief too.
3. Keep up with performance management
How are your employees getting on with their workloads? Are they achieving their goals – or do they need support to stay on track?
Performance management is easier when everyone is working in the same location but when working remotely, that’s not so simple.
To counter that, put processes in place so managers can check in with employees regularly to measure progress and offer guidance. Doing so using cloud HR or performance management software means goals and documents can be kept in one place and easily accessed.
Then use those video conferencing tools (with the camera switched on if desired) so your managers and employees can have regular one-to-one interactions.
4. Employee feedback on how they’re getting on
When your workforce in it’s near entirety (depending on your industry) moves to remote working, some of your employees will be taking a big step into the unknown.
As well as providing support to your people as they work from home, it’s worth checking in to see how they are getting on.
Why not try creating an employee engagement survey and sending it round to your staff?
That way, you can get their views on how they’re finding the experience, what they’re enjoying, what’s not working well and their perspectives on what could be put in place to improve the situation.
You may learn, for example, that your employees want to hear more from the business leaders on how the company is performing and what’s coming up next.
That might lead to the creation of a weekly update – in the form of a newsletter or an online company meeting, where people from around the business get to make a positive contribution.
5. Virtual water cooler catch ups
The chance for spontaneous catch ups may have disappeared from those trips to the water cooler that your employees are used to – but that doesn’t mean they can’t still have quick chats.
By utilizing instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, your employees can stay in the loop with the latest gossip.
However, there’s also a work-related benefit to this too, in addition to the social one.
Say someone from your accounts team has a cash flow management query and needs to check in with the finance director. Rather than sending an email and having to wait for them to get round to reading it, a quick message via a messaging app can result in a faster response.
6. Virtual team building activities
That’s right, paintball trips and go-karting are out when it comes to remote working. But that’s not to say that your employees can’t participate in some team building. You’ll just have to take it online.
There are a number of things your business can do to keep employee engagement levels high in this area.
You could put on virtual coffee and cake sessions where your employees get together in an online meeting to chat about a topic of choice – it could be something light-hearted that allows everyone to avoid talking shop for a while and get to know each other better.
Or you could even venture into online gaming and set up competitions for your employees to participate in, be it via consoles or gaming apps.
Not only will you add a fun element to proceedings, you’ll also bring your people together.
Conclusion on maintaining employee engagement
Employee engagement is one of the key parts of running a business. While maintaining that engagement can be tricky when people are working remotely, it’s not impossible.
By taking steps to ensure that your workforce is involved and communication lines are open, managers and employees will be able to engage with one another, while keeping your business moving.
Utilize technology as part of this, using video conferencing tools and mobile apps, and check in regularly with your people to ensure they are getting the support they need.
This article is part of our Managing uncertainty series which offers practical advice and support to help you keep your business moving as we all navigate these unprecedented times.
Coronavirus and your business
We are here to support you during this time.
We’ve gathered information and resources to help navigate this situation. You can also find out about support for Sage solutions, including enabling home working.