If you’re scrambling to figure out how to help your employees work productively from home, you’re not alone. Creating a fully functional remote workforce takes more than just laptops and internet connections – and even after people are plugged in, current circumstances make for a disruptive work environment at best. Leaders are being forced to adapt quickly to this new remote reality, which makes an already stressful time even more so.
But if there’s a silver lining to all this, it may be the hastening of a general trend toward remote work that was gaining momentum even before the pandemic. Handled wisely, this forced transition could offer an opportunity to reinforce your organization’s workplace culture and elevate your teams’ productivity.
[ For more advice on leading remote teams, read 8 remote work lessons: Stay agile and expect surprises. ]
Here are four key considerations to help your newly remote team succeed in their new reality – and come out stronger.
1. Unlock value from what you already have
Your employees may not be in the office, but they are still the driving force behind your company’s success. Some workers may need to adjust their duties and responsibilities if their normal tasks are altered by a remote work setup.
Now is a perfect time to encourage your team members to learn new skills. Identify the right people and provide them with training to elevate and expand their abilities. They’ll see it as a sign of commitment from the company and you’ll likely retain them as valued team members going forward. When the crisis is over, your workforce will be more capable and advanced than ever.
2. Re-evaluate productivity goals
The abrupt shift to remote work will inevitably impact productivity in the short term. Show your employees you trust them to find their own strategies to maximize productivity during this time.
One of the biggest challenges for many remote workers is finding a way to balance their work and personal life. Help ease this by offering flexibility, empathy, and trust. This will instill a sense of accountability and autonomy in your employees, which will in turn help foster productivity.
Encourage transparency in new ways. For example, suggest that team members block time on their calendars as needed to manage personal activities, and ask them to reciprocate by supporting their colleagues during these times. Teams can be very productive while working virtually when everyone follows common principles; they just need a period to adjust.
3. Prepare for new employee behaviors and expectations
Remote work as a forced reality will address a nagging question of many business leaders: “Can I trust my team to be productive remotely?”
Assuming the answer becomes clear, employee expectations will change. For example, once in-office work is possible again, employees may begin to question the time they spend commuting, its environmental impact, and more.
They may also develop a better understanding of when meaningful interpersonal connections are necessary (and when they’re not) and realize that they can prioritize their schedules accordingly.
With one study showing that 80 percent of people surveyed pre-pandemic said they highly value flexible work and one-third willing to take a pay cut in exchange for flexibility, this could be an opportunity to unlock new potential and streamline costs in the long term.
4. Re-imagine remote opportunities and increase engagement
Employees still need to connect, of course, and you need to nurture that. People want to connect, enjoy their work, and find meaning in what they do.
Many remote teams are already experimenting with virtual coffee dates and happy hours, online games, and other remote social gatherings. At Capgemini, different offices are using the MoveSpring app and a fitness channel on Teams to compete against each other. Employees will find always ways to innovate – support their efforts and learn which ways of engaging are working best.
Even as business leaders learn first-hand that employees can be engaged and productive without being in the same building, it will take time to fully adjust. Take advantage of this time to create best practices for a productive and engaged digital workforce that can reinvigorate your culture.
[ Want to build your leadership EQ? See 10 emotional intelligence must-reads for leaders. ]