As the coronavirus outbreak progresses and fans new fears of worldwide recession, businesses around the globe are shutting their doors, encouraging their employees to work from home.
It is not surprising that companies have restructured workplaces at a breakneck speed, with the emphasis on remote work. Tech giants such as Twitter, Google and Facebook were amongst some of the high-profile early adapters in the initial days of March, and now employers from a range of sectors are following in their footsteps.
Business leaders are rightly concerned about how their companies will be affected and what they should be doing next in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here I present to you three remarkable ways how leaders can motivate and encourage their remote team to keep the business processes running smoothly:
1. Set Clear Expectations
Remote team leaders have almost always found it challenging to keep their workers focused and accountable because when the workforce has stepped out of the office environment, it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain a culture of accountability and alignment.
While a flexible schedule is a significant advantage for remote employees, in order to keep your workforce responsive and engaged during certain hours, you need to clearly communicate that expectation. Expectations should be established around deadlines, availability, individual responsibilities, response times and team goals, to name a few.
Form a clear understanding of what’s expected of them; define the goals so they can work effectively and produce great work consistently. Provide clear and immediate feedback and foster intra-team collaboration.
Regularly check in to make sure schedules align with any persistent challenges like client needs or time zone differences. Follow up on absences if someone doesn’t attend an important meeting, etc.
2. Leverage Technology to Enhance Communication
Perhaps the biggest challenge leaders and remote teams face is communication. When employees work from home, they are often neglected. On the other hand, leaders follow the “hands-off” approach as they fear coming off as domineering or untrusting to their team members. What leaders miss out is the fact that remote workers expect their leaders to be consistently in touch with them with frequent check-ins, updates and reminders, demonstrating their unwavering support with constant communication.
Email alone is not sufficient. In order to make your workforce feel more included, it is essential to leverage “richer technology”, such as video conferencing. Video conferencing allows participants to take visual cues that would otherwise only be possible if they were face-to-face, reducing a sense of isolation among teams.
In circumstances where quick collaboration is more important than visual details, mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack, etc.) serve the purpose. These can prove to be extremely effective for less formal and time-sensitive communication and help to keep the conversation fluid.
In case your company doesn’t have technology tools already in place, you can acquire a simpler and an inexpensive alternative as a short-term fix. No matter which medium you choose, it is necessary to offer your team a reliable outlet where they can discuss, connect and bond. In a nutshell, succeeding as a team remotely is contingent on how well you stay in contact with one another.
3. Offer Emotional Support and Encouragement
The abrupt shift to remote work may leave many of your employees stressed. In such a situation, it is vital for leaders to acknowledge stress, listen to the team members’ concerns, and empathize with their struggles.
If an employee is struggling but not communicating anxiety, ask them if they are doing fine. Sometimes a general question like “How is this remote work situation turning out for you so far?” may elicit useful information that the person might otherwise be reluctant to give away. After you receive a response, make sure to restate it back to the employee so as to verify you understood it correctly.
A research on emotional contagion and emotional intelligence reveals that employees look to their managers for cues when it comes to reacting to crisis situations or sudden changes. If a manager shows stress and helplessness, it will have a “trickle-down” effect on employees.
Effective leaders, therefore, take a two-pronged approach, keeping things running in tandem. They acknowledge the stress and anxiety that employees experience in adverse circumstances while also expressing confidence in their teams, using phrases such as “this is tough, but we are tough too” or “we’ve got this.” When employees have this level of support, they are more likely to rise to the challenges with a sense of focus and purpose.
Equally important is rewarding, recognizing and engaging the team. And since there are limited ways to encourage your team to do more, let your words make up for it. You’ll be surprised how showing constant appreciation to your remote team fuels productivity and inflow of creative ideas.