There’s a lot we can’t control right now, like the continuing pandemic and deep divisions in our country. But there are also many things we can control. And it’s a lot more productive to focus on them. One of those areas within our control is helping our teams stay engaged in this new world of remote work.
Keeping teams engaged is one of the most common challenges I’ve been hearing about as organizations have experienced shock, then fear and now continued uncertainty. Two big shifts are making engagement more difficult right now. First, employees have a new set of stressors, like managing the blurring lines between work and home life. And, as this is happening, managers and leaders find themselves without many of their familiar tools to maintain engagement, like spontaneous walk-and-talks, lunches, coffee breaks or drinks after work.
So, what is a leader to do? Here are four strategies for keeping your team members engaged amid these challenging circumstances.
- Listen Intently
What should you listen for?
- Problems that can be easily solved. I have a client that ensured all of their employees got what they needed to work comfortably and effectively at home, whether that meant a new desk chair or a standing desk. Part of meeting people where they are means listening for simple problems that you can fix with a small discretionary expenditure.
- Emotional stressors. Pay attention to any information about how your employees are managing their lives and maintaining their wellbeing. For example, do they mention needing to get more sleep or needing to exercise more? Statements like these can be signs of emotional stress that lead to disengagement.
- State of mind. As leaders, we see our employees as “working from home.” But, given the number of hours many are working, employees often feel like they are “living at work” — which puts them at risk of burnout.
- Be Transparent
Transparency increases engagement by reducing concern and building trust in leadership. I have several clients that encourage their employees to submit questions to the leadership team anonymously. Then they hold meetings twice a month to answer those questions. Always remember that in the absence of information, people make stuff up! It’s always best to offer accurate information than to have people wonder about what’s going on.
- Provide Challenges and Opportunities
Bring employees together (virtually) to tackle a meaningful problem that can only be solved collaboratively. This type of creativity often leads to new levels of productivity and engagement.
- Offer an Alternative Perspective
For many people, this crisis feels never-ending. Be the person who reminds them that just because something feels a certain way, that doesn’t make it so. This crisis is a moment in time. Yes, it’s longer than any of us would like, but, in the scope of our lives, it is still a moment. These social constraints we are all experiencing – and their consequences – are challenging for everyone. But they will not last forever.
I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.
Let’s keep cultivating our culture, together!