These are unprecedented times and no matter where we are in the world, we find ourselves in the same boat. That is, fighting a global pandemic that has the workforce retreating to the safety of their homes in some form of self-isolation. The challenge now, for organisations and businesses, is how to keep their teams engaged when most of us are being asked to work from home. Team members might feel isolated because they are working away from each other outside the office setting and could find it hard to align with company values. Managers might need to up their game in order to keep their teams engaged.
Surprisingly, not all companies are equipped to have their employees work from home. For example, some technology might not be available to those who are in their home office. Some companies may offer remote work as one of its perks, but traditionally, most employees work from the office. These new circumstances will impact employees that are new to this remote work set up and organisations that are traditionally office bound would face a few challenges. Here are some of them:
Both managers and team members might face challenges with communication. Non face-to-face communications have built in challenges. Most of how we communicate is made up of non-verbal cues. The nuances and subtleties that come along with non-verbal cues like body language or intonation, get lost when people communicate through instant messaging, chat, and email. This could cause miscommunication and conflict. Things that we DO NOT NEED right now.
To keep their teams engaged, managers have to break the communication barrier by exploring any and all means of communication. This could even mean keeping their personal lines open to accommodate questions, suggestions, and feedback from their team members.
Some examples of technology that can help enable employee engagement are:
- Cross platform instant messaging apps such as Skype, Slack, Telegram, Wrike, WeChat, Viber, WhatsApp, Google, etc. Instant messaging is best for urgent requests for communication, quick questions, or immediate approvals/disapprovals.
- Video conferencing tools like GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, BlueJeans, etc. Video conferencing is best for meetings, collaboration, training, discussions, and giving feedback.
Another area where challenges could arise is productivity. It is easy for managers to keep team members accountable for their productivity when everyone is present at the office. Essentially, managers should be comfortable in delegating work and relying on their teams to do the job well. To keep their team engaged, managers should work with trust and the assumption of good intent. In these trying times, no one wants to lose their jobs. Team members want to work, a good manager will let them.
Teams can install apps that can help improve productivity. Some of these tools include, but are not limited to, Trello, Wrike, BaseCamp, Zoho, Evernote, ToDoist, DropBox, Google Keep, or even plain old and ever reliable, Google Calendar.
We are seeing the start of a new way of working. For sure, other challenges will crop up. Right now, there is a huge opportunity for companies to reinforce their company values by moving away from managing by activity to managing by trust.