Staying Engaged While Working Remotely

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Staying Engaged While Working Remotely

Meet Justin.  Justin loves his job.  He is extremely engaged in his role, and has fantastic working relationships with others in the office and in the community.  Justin is known as a top performer and known to his organization as part of the future.  Last month,  Justin sat at an office in a shared space with a few others, ate his lunch in the lunch room, took time for a coffee midway through the morning where he would connect with those on his team and find out how their day was going, what their priorities were, and how he could support.  Justin felt  part of a team, and part of a larger purpose.

This week, Justin is working from home. It has only been 4 days and he is already feeling isolated; he is missing his team.  He is frustrated with technology, feels disconnected and is starting to second guess his decisions on projects he is working on; Justin is distracted.  He has started to check his email more often, has found himself looking for an exciting new project to energize him, instead of completing what is already on “his desk”. 

What can we do to help Justin re-engage and get the most out of this remote working experience?  We need to:

  1. Acknowledge that this may be a new experience for many, and provide guidance, support and “rules of engagement”.  How often will people be checking in with their teams and managers? How will they obtain feedback? What does a newly imagined ‘day in the life of” look like?
  2. Ensure that people are communicating and connecting, similar to if they were in the office.  Technology is your friend.  Try to keep as many existing positive habits as possible.  If Justin had a coffee at 10:30 every day with individuals, use a program like ZOOM, or Facetime, and enjoy a coffee together remotely. 
  3. Check in with your people at least once a day.  Make sure you take an interest in what they are working on and keep connected.
  4. Establish remote working groups or a buddy system.  Most office workers have laptops or technology with a built-in camera. Work with someone remotely – use Microsoft Teams, Facetime, Skype, ZOOM, or any other program that you have access to, and have it on so that you are working together. 
  5. Have lunch together remotely. Togetherness is powerful, and can be very effective in a remote working situation.
  6. Ensure that your people have access to the technology that they require.
  7. Embrace distractions.  Now is not the time to encourage people to lock their pets in a different room because they will be on a conference call, working collaboratively on Skype or Facetime with a colleague – now is the time to embrace people’s lives holistically and get to know your employees better, as people.  Remember, people who feel that they are cared about as a “person” first, not an employee, are much more engaged, productive, and typically will stay with your organization longer.
  8. Be flexible.  Where Justin may have been extremely productive for 7.5 hours with a 30-minute lunch break, maybe now, he takes an hour out of his day in the morning and afternoon to take his dogs for a walk, play with his kids in the backyard, or simply spends time with his family.  Being flexible and helping Justin connect with his family and those around him will help him feel less isolated, and more productive.
  9. Put together a remote social committee.  Insert some fun and creativity into your day to keep people engaged – your people have ideas around this……form a committee and give them a small budget to make this happen.
  10. Show appreciation, encouragement, and kindness.  Continue any reward and recognition programs remotely.  If you do not have a program, now might be the time to start thinking about how you will recognize your team and their contributions from afar.
  11. Offer a remote/online happy hour after typical working hours. The “host” sends out the link to the attendees.  Invite families and kids to join – blend work families and personal families together.

Challenging times require exceptional Leadership. How will you navigate these times with your teams and ensure that the exceptional experience you offered “inside” the office, is just as powerful “outside” the office?  The opportunity to lead the way is here; what do you want to be remembered for when this challenging time comes to a close? 

If you have other ideas to share, please use the comments below and let’s keep the conversation going!

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Tanja Halsall

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