Working remotely is the “new normal”, and though one might imagine that working from home is an invitation to spend more time on things around the house and less time on actual work, the reality is the opposite.
The nature of working remotely is to constantly be “on.” And now that many employees have children who are going back to virtual school… phew, this new normal presents a huge challenge for many people.
As leaders, we need to understand what our employees are going through and how to keep people motivated in this obstacle-ridden environment.
Realities of Remote Work
A typical day in the office might have offered many opportunities to recognize and reward team members. Passing randomly in the hallway may have reminded you to give someone a pat on the back, or crossing paths in the elevator may have spurred a spontaneous “thank you” for a job well done. Those small but consistent gestures go a long way toward keeping people engaged and motivated.
Along the same lines, there are some non-verbal cues we pick up on in a snap when we are able to see each other in person: if someone seems glum or more stressed than normal, it can be noticed and addressed right away. But those kinds of cues are a lot harder to pinpoint through a computer screen, and can go unnoticed.
So, as leaders, what can we do from a distance to take care of our team members and ensure they know we appreciate and “see” them more than ever?
Ask How They Are Doing
My best recommendation is to routinely ask employees how they feel and what they need. It’s interesting how easy it is to forget to check in with people, but the simple act of inquiring can make a world of difference.
This can be especially impactful if you notice that you have an employee who is struggling or dealing with a lot of stress in their home and/or work life. It will also help you find out who is feeling bored and needs a new challenge; this is an opportunity to re-engage the employee with a project that will expand their skills and network within the company.
Understand Individual Needs
As leaders, we don’t want to assume we know what employees need. The same thing doesn’t motivate everybody, and not everybody needs the same thing. Some workers appreciate a flexible work schedule while others want to be “in the office” from 9-5 and then be done.
When you check in with your team members, ask them what they need. You might be surprised at some of the answers: some will be as simple as, “I really need a new monitor” or “I need another week to work on this project.”
If you can give them what they need, great. If you can’t, let them know why and see if you can find a workaround. What is the core of their need or challenge? Is there another way to possibly resolve it, or at least, make the situation better?
The worst thing you could do is go radio silent, which will make the employee think that you don’t really care.
Ideas to Recognize Your Employees Remotely
I recently read a survey from www.TheLadders.com that included some great ideas for recognizing your employees. Here are some of my favorites, plus a few ideas of my own:
- Send a handwritten note expressing your gratitude for their hard work.
- Send a work-from-home gift, such as an under the desk elliptical or a box of healthy snacks.
- Provide home office equipment that will enhance the work-from-home experience. Preferably, employees will be able to choose for themselves what they need (some ideas are: noise cancelling headphones, an office chair, standing desk, microphone).
- Extend a gift for the family to recognize that we’re all in this together. A gift basket with popcorn, M&M’s, and a gift card to a movie on a digital platform can be really fun.
- Pay the employee’s internet bill.
- Allow for half days on Friday. Since all employees are plugged in for longer hours during the week, a half day on Friday is a nice acknowledgement.
- Have lunch delivered to the employee’s house, and include the kids! If you know the person has children at home, they will appreciate if the food delivery includes kid-friendly options. Send them a note in the morning and say, “don’t make lunch today, something’s going to show up at your door at 11:30.” They will love it!
Almost all of us are working more hours than ever these days; working from home means there’s little down time and many of us are going, going, going. Being acknowledged by a team leader is so critical to feeling appreciated and successful that I cannot stress enough how important it is for leaders to go out of their way to notice and acknowledge employees, especially now.
Show your team members that you’re there for them, you see them, and you value them. We really are all in this together, and we can make it through stronger than ever if we flex our compassion muscle. If you would like to talk about ways to put these ideas into action, click here and let’s talk.
Photo Source: Snapclarity