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How to Engage a Remote Workforce During COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, 67 percent of companies expect working from home to be permanent, if not long-lasting. For many businesses, working remotely has helped reduce the spread of COVID-19. And over time, these businesses have also found that working remotely has benefitted both employees (with reduced commute expenses) and the business itself (with reduced operational costs). But, despite many benefits, working remotely can also have its drawbacks if not managed effectively. Employees can often feel out of touch with their team. And, with the pandemic still in full effect, employees may also feel stressed (emotionally and financially) from the impacts of COVID-19. Feelings of loneliness and anxiety can significantly impact an employee’s engagement and productivity level at work. In this post, we share insights on what managers can do to support their remote workforce and keep them engaged during the pandemic.

Engaging and Supporting Your Remote Employees

Engaged employees with low stress are more loyal, productive, and deliver better service, which contributes to a positive work environment and better business results. If you feel like your remote workforce has become distant, anxious, and morale is low, consider the following practices to improve and maintain employee engagement:

Foster a “camera on” culture
Many people don’t like seeing themselves on camera, and let’s face it, working remotely has enabled many people to become more casual in their appearance. These employees may not want to show their colleagues the “no makeup” or “haven’t shaved” looks; however, using the camera has many benefits that asking employees to turn their camera on during an online meeting should be a must.

  • Using a camera reduces the interruptions that tend to happen via conference call.
  • It allows the host to see who’s engaged, who may have questions, and who’s checked out.
  • It allows everyone to see each other’s face, which actually builds the human connection we’ve all been longing for during quarantine.
  • It humanizes meetings when seeing everyone’s at-home work setting.

Communicate regularly
Being at a business onsite, it’s easier for employees to quickly huddle to discuss a project or to ask their manager if they can meet for a few minutes. But, sometimes it’s not as easy when working remotely; employees can often feel like they’re left out of the loop and are working on an island. Here are a few ideas to communicate regularly with (and welcome communication from) employees.

  • Host weekly team meetings – Plan on having a weekly team or project meeting to review goals, tasks, and deadlines. Use this time for planning and delivering announcements. Talk through team successes and opportunities for improvement.
  • Conduct one-on-one meetings – Schedule meetings with your employees once a month to catch up not only on work, but also on their mental health. The frequency of these one-on-one meetings will depend on the number of employees you manage. For five or more employees, you may need to plan meetings bi-monthly or every quarter.
  • Leverage communication tools instead of emails – Communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Yammer, and Slack have made it easier for teams to collaborate with each other online and in real time. Avoid sending another email and use communication tools to engage your team in brainstorming sessions, ask for feedback, or share training tools and resources.
  • Be transparent and timely when needs change. With policies and guidelines always evolving due to the pandemic, you’ll want to ensure your employees are the first to know when anything changes, especially if it impacts their jobs.

Provide virtual training opportunities
Whether its corporate or professional development, many employee trainings are traditionally conducted in-person. But just because your workforce has to work remotely doesn’t mean that training should pause.

  • Conduct virtual Lunch & Learns. Change up the typical online training format and invite employees to train together during lunch. You can try connecting with an HR partner that offers corporate online training for your staff; share a TEDtalk that would benefit staff; or have a colleague from your business, one of your vendors/partners, or an industry expert share their knowledge insights or a provide a quick product tutorial.
  • Create a learning playlist for your staff. Platforms like LinkedIN Learning and have a multitude of online offerings available. Create a playlist for your staff to review on their own.
  • Explore online conferences or workshops. Continue professional development and ongoing education for your staff to improve and expand their skillsets. Explore relevant online conferences, workshops, and classes and recommend they attend.

Make work fun
Just because your staff is in a remote environment doesn’t mean your business has to cancel the joy of having fun together. Try a few of these ideas to break up the monotony of the workday and breathe some life back into working remotely.

  • Start meetings with ice breakers. Take a few minutes before your team meetings to have a few ice breakers and let a different individual from your team choose the icebreaker for each meeting. Ice breakers can be as simple as asking for the team members’ favorite quotes, what their weekend plans are, or what is a hobby or positive habit they have developed over quarantine. Want to take it up a notch? Conduce a 2-minute scavenger hunt or host a “Show and Tell.”
  • Plan virtual celebrations. For small teams, plan on sending employees special treats to celebrate successes, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and schedule a team meeting where everyone can celebrate together. For larger teams and/or businesses without the budget, you can consider having a virtual happy hour afterhours where employees can tune into a virtual space with their beverage of choice in hand and play games or just catch-up, without the pressure of having to talk about work.
  • Create and schedule wellness activities. These can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. The intention is to help keep employees healthy, as oftentimes working from home can cause employees to become more sedentary. You can start by scheduling online exercise breaks and having employees post their activity on social media or internal communication tools. Make it a challenge and distribute a health and wellness bingo card to employees. Get more ideas for challenges on Pinterest!

Get More Guidance on Managing Your Workforce During COVID-19

OROhr understands that businesses of all scales are challenged with the impacts of COVID-19. Specifically, HR departments are being relied upon heavily to stay current on regulations, adhere to COVID-19 workplace and employee law compliance, and train employees on health and safety protocols.

OROhr can help offload your COVID-19 compliance workload. OROhr is current with COVID-19 workplace health and safety regulations and is knowledgeable with tax credits that your organization can take advantage of business incentives and economic relief, while they are available. As a full-service HR provider, OROhr assists your business with payroll, employee benefits, tax services, risk management, and legal services. Partner with OROhr for all of your HR needs and experience an increase in workplace profitability and productivity without worrying if your business is at risk for loss due to COVID-19.

Learn how to protect your business and support your employees during COVID-19. Download our free ebook on COVID-19 Employer Preparation now.