Our businesses have been capable of remote work for many years. But one reason companies failed to embrace remote work – until the pandemic forced its acceptance – was fear that workers would be less productive. Amidst the distractions of home and without managers present, the worry was how to keep work levels high from a distance without physical supervision.
And then a surprising thing happened once so many of us began pandemic mandated virtual employment: productivity either remained the same or went up.
Most people with whom we speak have adjusted quickly to working from home and accepting kids in the background, dogs barking and the usual technology issues. The main challenge appears to be the absence of casual communication enabled by shared physical space and finding ways to provide value in those attempts to stay connected. In our recent survey, 36% of managers said keeping employees engaged was their biggest challenge. Many managers have told us they are speaking more frequently to their employees as they schedule daily touchpoints, but do those touchpoints mean true connection or do they simply check a box?
While managers may be reaching out more, their value is often unrealized by employees. Our recent poll found that only 19% of employees found the extra contact with their managers to be valuable. 49% felt they could “take it or leave it” while a staggering 30% found the extra contact downright distracting.
Deeper examination of the issue tells us that employees want and need communication, but they judge the value of each touchpoint more stringently than they did when it was a casual in-office discussion. We believe you can improve the effectiveness of those communications by keeping a few things in mind when reaching out to your employees:
- Measure productivity not activity
There are many remote work management tools, but use them for convenience and increased efficiency, not as a constant monitoring tool. You want your employees to care about hitting their production numbers, not if they are currently online. Some of the biggest complaints we hear from employees are about being called a few minutes before the workday’s end in a disguised attempt at checking in. Instead, call your employees during the times you think they need encouragement, input or simply when its most convenient for everyone.
- Focus on needs.
It is easy to get caught up in the numbers, but virtual stat reviews can seem redundant when you are in separate places looking at the same screen. There is no need to read aloud every number, and simply pointing out problems is not helpful. Instead, give praise where it is warranted and make trouble areas about ways you can provide solutions to those issues.
- Provide access.
Employees want access to their bosses and co-workers when they need them and HOW they need them. We see managers make the mistake of believing they are accessible because they are “only a text away,” but seem rarely available for a quick, unscheduled call when more than a text is necessary. Conversely, some managers seem to only know how to call when a quick text would suffice. In a virtual environment, be available to your employees in multiple ways that meets their individual needs, but most importantly – be accessible.
- Adapt to each employee.
An advantage to working remotely is the ability to truly customize your communication and management with each employee. Take the time to recognize those employees who seem to enjoy and respond to extra communication and need the energy of connection while giving space to those who are productive and efficient all on their own.