With little warning, many companies – including ours – were thrust into a remote-only working environment with the onset of COVID-19 and social distancing. While we are extremely fortunate to work from home fairly seamlessly, it has not been without its challenges. And among those challenges has been keeping employees engaged as effectively as when the team was in the office – especially without a clear end date in sight. Here’s what has worked well so far.
These are unprecedented times, where authenticity, flexibility and sincerity are critical in communications and interactions. Colleagues are acknowledging the change, the challenges and the upsides in direct, empathetic and even humorous ways. These moments help the team realize that we are all in this together.
Keeping it constant.
Engagement does not have to be all business, or solely when there are major announcements to make. Whether it’s a weeklong virtual “spirit week” with new activities daily, a funny meme at the end of a long day, or a poll and follow-up content with the results, we look to engage the broader team every day – a reminder that we’re still here (at least virtually).
Leaning into our values.
Our president shared a note about how our values are more important, and relevant, than ever during the office closure. Our values drive our culture, and understanding how they are helping us persevere during this challenging time has been energizing, comforting and unifying.
Everyone has different interests, availabilities and comfort levels in virtual activity participation. Allowing for options enables individuals to engage in ways that enhance their experience working from home, without the participation seeming overbearing. As a few examples, we conduct daily “brain breaks” to supplement the benefits of “water cooler” talk, a weekly happy hour, and opportunities to share different tips and current realities on photo-sharing platforms. There is something for everyone, and team members participate as they see fit.
Making an extra effort.
Having a finger on the pulse of how direct reports and team members are doing is critical, and this takes more effort than walking down the hall or peeking around a corner when working remote. Actions like suggesting a video chat instead of a phone call for a check in or following up with someone we have not heard from recently are worth it to ensure colleagues feel connected and supported.
Getting feedback and adjusting.
We are a month in, and so far, feedback has been largely positive. Understanding what is working (and what isn’t) has helped us lean into what colleagues value most, so we can make this new, albeit temporary, normal as positive an experience as possible.