Updated: Sep 30, 2020
How to boost engagement in remote-work
Researchers from Harvard Business Review have found that, when staff worked remotely, they could be significantly less motivated, particularly when they had no choice in the matter. Nowadays remote working is the reality for many of us, and likely to stay that way in some form or another, even after ‘normality’ returns.
So how can you keep your team motivated and engaged in these times of turmoil, particularly as a startup?
There are particular issues if your organisation has always been a sociable and ‘present’ culture, in which few team members worked remotely. You may also be wondering how to promote and amplify your organisational values during these unusual times. How do you hire the right people, and then onboard them successfully without setting a foot in the office? How do you give good virtual feedback?
The challenges for startups can be particularly acute, given that you may not have had previous experience of managing a dispersed workforce. Employees may also feel especially concerned that a less-established business may be less likely to be able to thrive in a challenging economic context.
Here are 5 simple steps to consider:
1) Hire a remote experience manager
This could be a different type of office manager. They would be completely focused on managing the remote experience for staff and create your remote working policy and strategy. From arranging virtual meetups for new teams settling into new offices to creating and sharing internal content to build camaraderie, their focus is to ensure that every member of the team feels like they belong, wherever they are.
2) Forget the nine to five
Some employees will work late into the evening, some will start before breakfast, many will fall somewhere in between. But be understanding and flexible. Talk to each staff member to understand what works best for them. Focus on what needs to be done, but leave the time of day and the ‘when’ to them.
3) Schedule learning
Especially as a startup, you may have younger team members who won’t be able to learn as easily from colleagues or attend training courses. But don’t let development slip – formal mentoring can still happen virtually.
4) Get creative
It may seem hard initially to share creative ideas, or solve problems with colleagues, but technology helps. Online workspace Mural aims to make it easier to visualise a project remotely, Miro provides a virtual drawing board while Sketch is a handy, intuitive product creation tool.
5) Involve team members actively to boost engagement
Give everyone the chance to experiment, solve crucial problems and identify issues and solutions. You may ask questions such as: How is COVID and remote-work affecting you at the moment? What advice do you have for motivating yourself and find joy and purpose in the current context? Remember to listen, take notes and create a safe space where every employee can contribute.
Could working remotely enhance diversity and inclusion?
Hiring remotely means you open up applications to a wider range of potential candidates. However, that doesn’t mean that a remote team is always a diverse one. Remind everyone of your diversity and inclusion policies so this doesn’t slip while your people are dispersed. Consider having a ‘digital wall’ of staff photos on your website’s "About Us" or "Team" page, to highlight that you don’t discriminate. It’s also important to make the whole team feel part of remote meetings and confident in having their say. Make it clear you value everyone’s input. Equally, make sure you actively listen to all viewpoints during virtual meetings and give praise widely and equally where it’s due.
Finally, consider using an online tool such as Slack to boost your inclusion efforts, for example by creating a channel where staff can learn more about each other and their backgrounds, assuming of course that they feel happy doing so. Clearly, creating such channels is not enough. Foster personal connections by ensuring they are active and effective in engaging your workforce.
At Inspired Human, we are well versed in the challenges and opportunities of creating teams that are highly engaged and motivated, and we can help your organisation boost engagement and productivity by building a diverse and inclusive team. Book your initial free consultation today.