Keeping in close touch with those who are working remote is very important not only for productivity but to minimize the turnover. We know that employees who feel disengaged, leave organizations. Let's not be in this category.
An inclusive work environment structure doesn't just happen, it takes considerable effort. Many people are feeling isolated, alone and disengaged just because of what COVID 19 has done to us all. Whether it be family we aren't able to see, work colleagues or social events, we are feeling very stressed over how our lives have changed. Such a change, changes what we need and employers need to understand this in order to make shifts in culture and dynamics that work best.
The engagement efforts happen through systemic efforts and behavior of individuals who make this type of effort a priority. We know that the more we engage our employees, the more productivity and loyalty we obtain. We also see more trust and sense of belonging that human beings need.
What can you do?
Be empathetic - internal and understand what people need and how they feel about being away from their in person networks and social interactions. How often did we see them stop by to say hello and chat throughout a day, with fellow colleagues? That is now missing completely as one thing. Work sponsored social events are minimal or non existent so again, no meaningful methods of interactions.
Take the time to find out how remote employees are feeling emotionally and physically. Be in touch with who they are as people first.
Determine what type of communication each person tends to value and make that possible.
Team building has to be a focus. How? This is not a one and done. These are regularly scheduled meetings, coffee chats, happy hours, team celebrations. Whatever will create togetherness and cohesive interactions. This is accomplished by creating structured opportunities to "meet" as a team and share challenges, victories and what they need from one another. Those clients of mine who do "unit planning" understand the importance and value of this in person and now online for many who remain remote.
What should these meetings look like beyond the work related? Determine ice breaking opportunities so they get to know one another in a different way. Have each team member "chair" one of the meetings and come up with agenda, content and strategy. This alone engages them and will inevitably meet their needs at least for that one meeting.
Employee Empowerment. Much of my consulting is focused on effectively utilizing the expertise and input of staff at all levels to make meaningful changes to decision making, processes and day to day operations. It is they, who know their work best. This is a no brainer! I love this exercise with clients as the sustainable changes and improved trust and performance related are clearly seen, and quickly. This clearly points to what employees need, resources, support, new practices or whatever in order to make the workplace a better experience. Now with remote working, this is more important than ever. Find out challenges, turn these into goals, actions, timelines and results! It works, I do this all of the time with clients.
Be intentional with developing staff. We need to be more creative than ever. In the public sector, which is one I do a considerable amount of consulting with, we always need to work harder with less resources. So we effectively doe this with the unit planning/employee engagement I previously mentioned. Works like a charm. Best practices for sure! Focus on those employees who don't see potential in themselves and seek to build their skills. Good leaders do that. They know what to look for and how to get such employees to keep moving forward, potentially to set them up for promotional opportunities. Adding such people who are typically quiet to committees where their input is necessary and valued. Seek those who are often overlooked and find ways to help them become better at what they do and to build skills as they desire to move ahead.
Ask rather than assume what people want. Use your performance evaluation process as one way to do so. Have employees actively involved in determining their goals and actions related. Keep this list and find ways to help them recognize their goals! Easy? No but a critical role of a leader. Keep in contact with these individuals one to one throughout the year. Be transparent about how you can help them.
Finally...Resources needed. Those required from home can vary. Take a very careful assessment as to what remote employees need to effectively perform in their role. This isn't a one and done. I would recommend you identify their status at least once a year, perhaps at evaluation time in a formal manner.
In any case, I have found through doing exit interviews for clients, that many leave an organization because of their remote status and feeling disconnected. This is something leaders need to change and ensure isn't the key reason for losing otherwise, strong performers.
Here to help as always if you want additional ideas and policies/procedures related.
Many have found these short webinars on the topic helpful so I share them with you. https://hrwebsource.com/collections/webinars/products/alternative-work-schedules-its-time-we-prepare-for-options AND https://hrwebsource.com/collections/webinars/products/telecommuting-is-here-to-stay-how-can-we-best-manage-it