Although many employees are working remotely, companies are finding ways to maintain a strong, productive and collaborative work environment.
You’re only as good as your employees, which means that now perhaps more than ever businesses need to keep their workforce engaged, enthusiastic and collaborative. With many businesses looking at a long-term remote workforce due to the COVID-19 disruption, it’s key to find ways to all stay connected, to maintain camaraderie, and to shift business as usual to something a little bit different.
This moment in time demands that companies up their game when it comes to employee engagement, interaction, and organization. Without a gathering place for face-to-face meetings or even in-person lunches, the virtual meeting has taken on greater significance. In fact, it can be seen as a real lifeline, especially for those who find inspiration in day-to-day camaraderie and the sharing of ideas with managers and fellow employees.
The vital actions that companies can take to maintain and even improve workforce productivity include leadership’s positive interaction with employees; for instance, supporting remote working by building virtual routines.
A recent article from Forbes’ Ellevate by Sarah Neville, Director of Open Line, makes the case for the virtual meeting’s role in battling loneliness and cultivating inclusion when faced with a remote workforce. It emphasized the importance of fostering a sense of belonging, which she says is “fundamental to building a sense of well-being.” She cites research done by EY that showed, for many people, “the greatest sense of belonging comes from colleagues checking in with each other about how they’re doing, ‘both personally and professionally.’ ”
Neville provides some suggestions on how to make the most of a virtual meeting to maximize that sense of belonging, including: use video; allow meetings to start a few minutes early to replicate “pre-meeting chat”; welcome everyone as they join the call; ensure people’s faces are visible, “wear pants” (this one should be self-explanatory!); set an agenda and provide materials in advance; really listen to each other and take notice of body language; be patient and understanding, especially with inevitable technology glitches or kid and pet intrusions; use people’s names; and, finally, practice inclusive communication.
Wirecutter, an online product review platform of The New York Times, provided some additional recommendations for companies to successfully implement telecommuting rituals in order to maintain and even boost company morale among its employees. Small breaks during the workday are known to increase productivity and workplace satisfaction. This could take place casually between employees or in a more deliberate manner, through group chat applications such as Slack.
Another great idea is to have employees submit topics for virtual mini-conferences—whether work-related or just something that someone on the team might be interested in sharing with the group. Of course, virtual happy hours or trivia games are becoming increasingly popular outlets for team interaction, as well as virtual lunch dates—for established office buddies—or through more randomized pairings through an app like Donut, which can help build new relationships. Even a virtual book club or a TV show chat channel are ways in which employees can stay connected, building camaraderie and a sense of inclusion.
If you can embrace the current situation and look at it as an opportunity to reset and build upon your company goals, you’ll be able to identify what makes your organization exceptional, and you’ll be ready for what’s still to come.