Among so much else, the pandemic has shifted how people view their careers; what they want from them, and how they view their employers. More people want to work remotely, or at least to work flexibly. Therefore, it is of increasing importance to create a strong remote working culture.
Kim Troy, CEO of Civilis Consulting, writes in Forbes that “In traditional office environments, where employees constantly interact with customers and each other in plain sight, and where the physical space subliminally reinforces the significance of the work being conducted, team members are overtly and subconsciously reminded of how their work fits into the overall scheme. This is not so with the remote work environment.
“One’s home office environment can convey a whole different vibe, where the dog pees on the floor, the kids need help with homework and the freezer goes on the fritz. So we recognized that it was important for our people to realise and feel like they were part of something more than whatever was going on within the four walls of their own home offices.”
What to do
This aspect of home working can present problems for management, but they can be overcome by taking the right steps to keep your workforce engaged and focused and will ensure you have a strong remote working culture. The first step is for the business owner to focus on their own skills related to managing a dispersed workforce.
In an interview with Business Leaders, Mark Allan, Commercial Director at Bupa UK, said “Research by Bupa UK has revealed, over the next 12 months 25 percent of the UK workforce would like to see initiatives to boost employee morale and 14 percent of UK employees would like to see their employers introduce policies encouraging workplace diversity and inclusion. The biggest lever, though, is quality of leadership at all levels. Those organisations that invest in developing leadership empathy and compassion will see enhanced rewards from their initiatives.”
And once those measures are in place, it is up to the business leader to manage the team through the end of the pandemic and beyond.
Again talking to BL, Ross Seychell, Chief People Officer at Personio, said “The key to managing a dispersed/hybrid workforce is to engage, communicate, and take them with you on your company vision and mission. Providing employees, regardless of where they are working, with a sense of common values and purpose will help maintain unity and productivity as we move forward.
“Leaders should check in regularly with employees – whether that’s on a 1-to-1 basis, in smaller groups or through company-wide surveys. Each business is different and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing a dispersed workforce. But, by collecting feedback and adapting working procedures and practises accordingly, and ensuring business leaders are both accessible and approachable, businesses can find a management style that works for all.”
Social Media Celebrations
A popular option to manage your team and keep morale high is to use social media to praise workers and celebrate “wins”.
Phil Jones, managing director at Brother UK, told the Telegraph that corporate social media can be an effective glue to ensure people working remotely feel included.
“We use Yammer to share news of business activity, award wins, policy updates and staff trips and experiences,” he said, “as well as celebrating the successes of those who’ve gone the extra mile. It’s also a safe place for employees to access discussions, advice and resources on key topics such as mental health and wellbeing.”
Don’t skimp on context
Research quoted in the Harvard Business Review has detailed the potential pitfalls of remote working, saying that tone of voice, facial expressions and most importantly, context, can get lost in translation. This lack of “mutual knowledge” among remote teams can translate to “a lower willingness to give co-workers the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations”.
In the office, if you’re having a bad day, those around you will pick up on this implicit fact – either by overhearing your phone calls, your sighs of frustration or your body language. As a result, line reports will view urgent demands and blunt responses as “a natural product of [your] stress”, rather than a personal attack. But at home, we have a much smaller understanding of everyone else’s day. Information needs to be explicit. We’re likely to personalise behaviour if we have no surrounding context. As the days of remote working continue, your relationship with your direct reports will have a huge impact on their productivity and motivation – as the saying goes, ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Take the time to give them context when they need it.