Coronavirus and Keeping Remote Workers Motivated
How do we keep remote workers motivated? I’ve worked from home for a number of years now and the one thinh I love about it is the freedom I have to work when I want and where I want. For instance I often work over a weekend so I can take a day off during the week to go somewhere such as the Yorkshire Show. I also sometimes need to hear voices around me so pick my laptop up and go and work in a coffee shop for an hour or so with a coffee and slice of cake obviously. But these are things that none of us can do right now and many of you will be managing teams who have never worked from home before. You will no doubt have others, or in some cases your whole team, who have been furloughed because you have no work for them.
Here Are My Top Tips To Keeping Remote Workers Motivated During The Lockdown:
A key fear is that the length of time that coronavirus will continue to pose a threat is unknown and impact that will have on your business is uncertain. Not knowing how long your business will be closed or whether the impact of the Coronavirus might have a permanent impact on your business levels or viability can develop into a deep worry and anxiety for your employees.
The key to keeping your employees engaged is being transparent and open, it’s much better to say ‘I don’t know but I’ll come back to you when I do know’ than say something that is later proved to be wrong or say nothing at all. My recommendation is to communicate regularly with your employees, whether they are working from home or on furlough leave send them regular updates that provide information and assurance about the status of the business and job security.
It’s important to bring employees together and hold virtual team meetings to bring a sense of collaboration and familiarity that many colleagues need right now. I’d also recommend you hold virtual meetings more frequently than you would have held actual meetings, for instance if you held a monthly team meeting then a weekly virtual meeting may be better in the current circumstances.
It’s important, especially during a period of uncertainty, to instill confidence in your workforce, equipping them with essential qualities, such as purpose and passion, to ensure the work continues to the standards expected despite the many legitimate challenges of a new working environment.
Those who are furloughed are likely to be more vulnerable to emotional distress and anxiety, therefore they will need engaging in a positive way so their fears are elleviated and to ensure they remain positive.
With entire teams being required to work from home, it’s crucial that productivity levels are maintained.
Although some employers may be apprehensive about the impact of working from home, there is no reason why standards should slip if they have been given the skills needed to lead themselves effectively. If your workforce requires training, there are online personal development courses that will give them the tools needed to remain productive over the coming weeks and months.
Without being able to meet in person, it’s important that a new communication system is in place, so employees can collaborate, despite being in different locations. Programmes like Microsoft Teams are designed to be a virtual office, allowing remote workers to share important information and communicate via live chat and video calling features. During the pandemic, this can be a suitable replacement for physical meetings.
Promote Learning & Development Opportunities
Learning is a good way of keeping furloughed employees engaged during the period of downtime. There are many different formats such as such as You Tube, TED Talks and webinars with industry experts, you could also send them books and summaries of relevant reading material and talks by leadership team members.
Introduce Virtual Social Activities
The lonely reality of working remotely can catch some people off guard so it’s important to recreate those chats at the coffee machine and Thursday drinks after work moments to retain and build on those personal connections that exist and develop new ones. So how do we replace valuable in-person forms of communication that are missing from the remote office and increase the chances of talking to and interacting with one another? By introducing virtual team building activities!
Virtual social activities are an excellent way of keeping in touch and keeping moral boosted. There is a vast range of social activities that you may consider using including staff quizzes, lunchtime bingo, Friday virtual drinks, coffee and cake at 11am as well as yoga and mediation sessions.
Fitness trainers can conduct fitness training that can be streamed to your workforce, whether working from home or furloughed. The employees families can also join in the sessions. They may also advise them about keeping safe and provide them with tips on nutrition, dealing with anxiety and being positive.
When remote co-workers get to know each other better their communication and teamwork skills are enhanced.
Here are some team-building exercises and strategies to help you socialise online:
- The “10 Things About You” List
Take in turns for a member of the team to produce and circulate a list of 10 interesting facts about themselves: anything from their favorite types of music, to what they do for fun, to weird stories about their childhood. It’s a fantastic way to spark friendship-starting discussions. You could also have nine interesting facts and one lie, so the rest of the team have to guess which facts are true and which is false.
- Coffee And Learn Sessions
Your team can come together on-line for a coffee break and employees take turns delivering short presentations on something they do or something they know. The expert can be from the same team or a different team, or even from outside the business.
There is an argument that the foundation of effective and successful teams is psychological safety. Long story short, when team members feel comfortable and safe with each other as people they are willing to show vulnerability, take risks, accept challenges, and find new ways to work together and innovate.
The sessions don’t need to be long – 15 or 30 minutes. The aim is for team members to maintain contact with each other and learn from each other, with each other, and about each other.
If you continue these sessions after you return to normal your team will grow closer as you continuously create trust through sharing and receiving in a supportive environment.
- Chat Roulette
Unlike coffee & learn, which works at the team level, Chat Roulettes are coffee-break sessions where co-workers are randomly paired up to have a chat. To keep people communicating outside of work-related tasks, you occasionally have to ‘force’ what would normally be a spontaneous interaction, and set a time and a place to hang out. When it’s time for the chat, both people show up on the chosen app with their beverage of choice (and the optional donut!) and have a long chat. They don’t have to talk about work: they just casually hang out and talk about whatever they want.
- Games League
Game Leagues are always a good motivator and are easily transferable out of the office to the online platforms. There are many online games were the team member can come together to play a game or series of games. You can also use team-building games where members of the team have to work together to defeat a common foe or achieve a goal.
The games themselves are fun, but the activity will help form cross-company friendships as team members have a chance to collaborate with people from outside of their department whom they might not otherwise work with. If these people end up needing to work together on a project in the future, that trust and security already exist.
Cardzmania is a platform that offers tons of online card games, from Gin Rummy to Klondike. Or, you can do a jig-saw puzzle together, chatting online as you choose what piece goes where.
- Pub Quiz
There’s nothing quite like a pub quiz for a few hours of fun and useless facts. You can select one person each time to be the quiz master, or, ask two or three people to each draw up 10 questions to host their own round. Or, if that sounds like too much hard work, sign up to websites like myquiz.org where you can select a quiz to do together in real time. Make it more fun by saving up prizes for when self-isolation is over, you could come out of it with plenty of IOUs.
- Virtual Dinner Party
Choose a meal to eat together, or pick a theme that each household has to build a menu around, and talk each other through your dishes when you sit down to dine. Once the food is ready, the socialising is much the same through the screen as it would be around a normal table, you’ll just have to make do with a virtual “cheers” instead of a real one.
- Have A Bake Off
Why not set your laptop up in the kitchen and have a bake along with your team members? You could each take it in turns to choose a cake or dessert, and follow the recipe step-by-step together. Not only will you be able to help each other through with any questions or problems, you’ll be able to enjoy the big reveal as you pull your cake out of the oven at the same time. And the best part? You won’t even have to share.
- Recipe Exchange
Create a shared Dropbox Folder or other document sharing platform and ask team members to add their favorite recipes. For the virtual dinner party your team members can choose the recipes they want to try making “together” in their respective kitchens, and the partner whose recipe it is can offer tips as they go.
- Virtual Book Club
Your furloughed staff have probably found themselves reading a lot since spending more time at home. A virtual book club is where employees share their favourite reads with each other, members of the club can either discuss new books they have found or, in the traditional book club style co-ordinate what members will read, pick a date to finish reading it by and schedule a virtual book club discussion (cheese and wine are optional but encourage). It’s a great way to spark interesting discussion and connect with like-minded friends, making a usually solitary pastime social.
An oldie, but a goody. Charades is a great way to pass the time, and you can play it without any equipment. Just come up with a TV show, film or book, and act out the title to your fellow team members without saying anything. It’s a game that stands the test of time, even in this new world of virtual socialising.
- Themed Nights
If you are missing the Thursday or Friday night catch up in the pub at the end of a long week, why not add a little fun by arranging a video call and setting. You might have an old fancy dress outfit lying around or just like the idea of getting dressed up after a week spent in loungewear. Regardless, getting dressed up for your team catch up will make you feel like you are heading for a proper night out socialising, and will be a nice break from those same old comfies.
- Gym Buddies
If you can’t be actual gym buddies, holding each other accountable for your fitness goals is the next best thing, so sign up for the same virtual yoga or barre class. Or, download an app like Runkeeper or My Fitness Pal to track and share your respective running routes with photos.
- Shared Playlists
Services like Apple Music and Spotify let you create playlists and share them. Each team member would create a list with their tunes, songs that remind you of work, joke songs etc and then have a virtual listening session. You could also set an agenda so each employee picks 20 songs that fit 20 categories such as makes you cry, happy, reminds you of a holiday etc then other team members guess which song falls into which category.
Don’t Forget Furloughed Employees
Staff that have been furloughed are not allowed to carry out work for their employer, but you must remember to keep them up-to-date on what is happening in the business, in order to maintain their engagement and wellbeing whilst not working.
It can be tough to engage employees, who are staying at home without work. An idle mind takes a toll on the mental and physical health of a person, especially with the added uncertainty and stress that the lockdown has imposed upon all. In such a critical time, it is vital that employees are kept engaged using the best possible means, to upgrade their skills and to remain preoccupied.
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