As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, many workers around the country have gotten used to jumping into Zoom meetings, teaming up through Slack, and working via team management software. That doesn’t mean working from home has gotten any easier. In fact, workers who have spent months away from the office may be feeling more isolated and demoralized than ever. To make matters even more confusing, some offices have begun to reopen, putting workers on hybrid schedules where they work some shifts in the office and others at home. In this constantly unsteady environment, how can managers stay connected to their remote team?
The answer goes beyond finding the right software solutions and instead needs to recognize the need for human solutions. Connecting to your remote team requires honesty, integrity, and a commitment to continue reaching out in a time where everything feels uncertain.
1. Confirm your company’s mission statement and values
A great way to restart connecting to your emote team is to reaffirm the company’s mission. Take some time to gather your team into a remote meeting and remind them why you are doing the work you do and what the greater purpose of your company is.
Take this idea a step further and declare what your company stands for. Now, more than ever, employees want to work for companies willing to take strong moral and ethical stances. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 millennials would consider taking a pay cut in order to work at a company that promotes a mission that aligns with their values. Inspired by current events, many companies are affirming their support for racial and economic equality. Inspire your workers by not shying away from the tough topics. If you really want to take a stand, consider donating to a cause your company supports.
2. Check in frequently with your team
You can’t drop by the cubicle of your remote team workers just to catch up, and they can’t knock on your office door with a quick question. These casual lines of communication are extremely important in a company. Don’t let them wither. Instead, the employee communications platform, Smarp, encourages managers to be proactive and to perform frequent check-ins.
“Waiting for an employee to speak up may be too late,” the company explains. “In fact, many of them will never decide to raise a problem themselves.”
Reach out to your employees, even if it’s just to say “hi” or to make sure they’re doing okay. Let them know that your virtual door is always open.
3. Be open and honest
Times are tough right now for our country, both economically and emotionally. Today’s workers need and want honesty and integrity from their managers.
Economically speaking, many businesses are hurting. Your employees may feel worried about their jobs and their financial futures. At the same time, many employees are also struggling with the challenges of parenting children at home while they work, living in a socially distanced world, and facing the painful and sensitive topic of equality in America.
Do not ignore your employees’ concerns. Of course, they don’t need to see your company’s financial books, and you may not feel comfortable presiding over a discussion of America’s history of racial inequality, but you can listen and answer questions. You can, for example, let your workers know, generally, how the company is performing and what future scenarios could look like. Additionally, you can always recognize and validate the emotional turmoil that is occurring in the country.
Employees reward honesty with their loyalty and will appreciate your willingness to give them the truth.
4. Be social while socially distancing
A great way to stay connected to your remote employees is to provide opportunities within or outside normal working hours for your team to socialize and decompress. Why not host a fun virtual trivia tournament every Friday afternoon or finally try out a Zoom happy hour?
As states and cities begin to gradually open up, you may even be able to host small, in-person gatherings for employees who feel comfortable doing so. (We strongly urge you to follow your state and local guidelines regarding public meetings.) If you are operating a hybrid office, what about hosting an outdoor lunch for your in-office workers? Another option could be an outdoor picnic or company barbeque. Maybe even a company hike in small groups?
5. Reward your team members with personalized gifts
Your remote and hybrid teams are working through a truly unprecedented time, and they deserve to be rewarded. One of the best and easiest ways to connect with your remote team is to let them know that you see and recognize them. This could be as simple as praising individuals in your next meeting or sending them a private message letting them know how much you appreciate their work.
But where’s the fun in that? Why not go a little bigger? A Bamboo HR, the company sends get-to-know-you surveys to each employee, which asks questions like t-shirt size, hometown, and favorite candy. These questions may seem silly, but they can give you the information you need to create personalized gifts and rewards for a job well done. Why not send your team matching t-shirts to wear for an after-work virtual party? Or maybe you could send them a box of their favorite candy? What about sending lunches or dinners to the homes of your remote employees, especially during stressful projects that require extra hours? (Bonus – you get to support local restaurants!)
When you show you care, your employees will feel the love. No matter where they are—working at home or in the office—they will feel special and like a valued member of your team.