Fully integrating workers into your company is no small task even during normal times, but it’s become much more difficult in just the last several weeks. The speedy transition to remote work has turned many businesses upside down, and workers are often the ones getting lost in the shuffle.
In a time when plenty of firms are just trying to make ends meet, it can be easy to lose sight of your employees’ well being — but it’s crucial that you don’t. Businesses need to be focused on achieving long term stability right now, and cultivating a workforce that feels satisfied in their work is a huge factor in increasing productivity and reducing attrition down the line.
Now more than ever, making your team feel valued is easier said than done. Business leaders looking to support their new remote team should start with these 6 key steps:
1. Focus on culture.
One of the first things to get lost in the transition home is culture. In the office, culture comes naturally as conversations flow and plans make themselves. Over the web, however, it can be easy to sideline more social interactions in favor of keeping things professional. While this may seem like a positive to some, it’s a huge drain on morale in the long run.
Establishing a remote work culture should be the first step most leaders take in showing their employees that they’re valued. Analyze what gave your office the culture that it did like team drinks, a shared TV show everyone watched, or simply having a common purpose. Once you’ve got your finger on what made your culture successful in person, brainstorm ways to bring those elements online. The fit is never going to be perfect, but even putting in the effort can go a long way.
2. Give regular feedback.
Simply put, only being able to communicate remotely can be a serious drag: Zoom calls are exhausting and email is as slow a medium as ever. Despite all of this, consistent communication with your team has never been more important. Leaving a remote worker in the dark can make them anxious, unsure, and less productive.
Whether you’re sharing good news or bad, it’s important to give feedback as frequently as possible with your team. Software giant Atlassian listed a “communication reset” as the first thing businesses need to do when making a quick jump to remote work, and it’s easy to see why — simply knowing where they stand in relation to their company will give most employees real peace of mind. Weekly video calls or regular, in-depth feedback emails can give even the most distant workers a sense of connection.
3. Make scheduling democratic.
Whether all of your workers are in the same city or are spread out across the world, they’re probably working on very different schedules right now. The lockdown has given some people new responsibilities at home and has drastically changed the sleeping patterns of others. While your office may be on a typical 9-5 schedule, you need to give your digital office a bit more flexibility.
Zapier, whose entire team has been fully remote for years, welcomes its employees’ potentially unusual schedules — as should you. Accommodating the different working hours of your employees lets them work whenever they’re going to be most productive, giving them a sense of freedom that can deliver a huge uptick in satisfaction. For larger meetings, send out polls to determine their starting time giving your employees a voice in scheduling brings your company together, even if it indulges the night owls on your team as well.
4. Promote independence.
Because now is such a difficult time for business, many leaders have inched ever closer towards micromanaging in the hopes of keeping everything smooth. While the instinct is valid, remote teams need trust in order to function. Pete Prowitt, head of sales for video chat firm Loom, notes that it can feel difficult to put such a high amount of trust in a remote team but that it’s absolutely necessary for making everything work.
Just because you’re promoting independence doesn’t mean you’re disregarding accountability. When you tell your employees that you’re putting a certain degree of trust in them to work independently, let them know exactly what you expect out of their work thereafter. Setting clear, quantifiable expectations allows you to manage your remote team well while giving them the space they need to operate.
5. Beef up their home office.
In an office, the boss can control the factors that satisfy their employees: bigger screens, better chairs, standing desks, and so on. Once a team has gone home, it’s not nearly as easy to manage employees’ environments. Some of your workers may be operating in a space that, for whatever reason, prevents them from being satisfied on the job. While you can’t always fix it, it’s still important to try and do something about it.
As an example, I recently spoke to Landon Ray and Lena Requist, the CEO and President of Ontraport — a marketing software company setting the standard for how companies can look out for their remote workers. Ontraport has allowed its employees to take whatever items from their office that they need, dropped off treat bags, and Ray and Requist have even paid for air conditioning in the homes of their employees who don’t have it — an invaluable resource for a Santa Barbara-based work team. Not all companies will be able to go this above and beyond, but simply asking your team what you can do for them will show you what they need to succeed.
6. Shake up teams.
At the end of the day, remote work is deeply isolating. If you’re not stuck working alone, you’re likely only interacting with people on your immediate team or the occasional team leader. This kind of siloing is debilitating and unproductive in the long term.
Making employees feel valued is about making them feel like they’re part of something larger. Every now and then, force groups of employees to interact who might not have done so otherwise. Even something simple such as working in the same video call for an hour can make new connections and bridge some of the widest gaps caused by remote work.
Making your employees feel valued is always a win-win: not only are they more satisfied, but they become better workers as a result. By investing in worker satisfaction now, you’re setting your business up for success well into the future.