Tried and true strategies to maintain engagement with a remote staff.
As a business owner, I never thought I’d see a time where my entire company would be working remotely for five months straight without a definitive end date in sight. But, as for many companies in 2020, that has been the reality for my health and wellness marketing agency, Fingerpaint, since March. Obviously, making the shift to remote work with little to no time to prepare presented a myriad of challenges. From making sure we implemented processes to keep our work moving smoothly, to doing what we could to support our IT team as their workload increased exponentially with the transition, we started by closing our offices for two weeks—back in March, nobody knew the extent of what was to come.
As those two weeks wore on, it was clear we would not be returning to a prepandemic life and work style for quite some time. It was also clear that, with all the new challenges presented by our new way of working, we needed to do everything we could to make sure our staff felt valued, secure in their roles, and remained engaged in their work and our culture.
There was a learning curve to figuring out what worked and what didn’t to ensure everyone felt connected to each other and stable in their roles despite the economic turmoil that surrounded us. Below are some of the lessons learned and best practices for maintaining company culture with a remote workforce.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
When working remotely, you can’t address staff in person or swing by someone’s desk to have a quick conversation about a project, and we know that it’s much easier for things to get lost in translation when most of your communication is done virtually. Thus, we set out working remotely with communication in mind. As the founder of my company, I wanted to do everything I could to keep the staff feeling connected to the business and each other. I began recording and sending weekly video updates to the team, briefing them on the health of our business, our progress in developing plans for if and when we are able to return to the office, and, above all else, thanking them for their continued dedication to our work.
We’ve even gone so far as to share financial data in my updates that we don’t typically go over with the staff, and employees have been appreciative of our transparency. I cannot emphasize enough how important communication becomes when you’re limited to doing it virtually. I’d advise any leader to communicate with increased frequency, clarity, and transparency when working remotely for the best business outcomes. Your staff will appreciate your efforts and stay committed to their work and your culture despite not working together in person every day as they did previous to the pandemic.
- Rethink the company happy hour
Without being able to gather in person, it’s important to rethink company social and team-building outings so as not to lose out on the benefits presented by giving your employees opportunities to connect with each other on a personal level. At our company, some examples of events we’ve held are virtual trivia, beer clubs, and weekly 15-minute meetings at 5 p.m. to recap the week.
While there are obviously limitations to how these outings are held when working with a remote staff, it’s important to offer these opportunities to your employees to help them stay engaged in their work. By building stronger connections with each other, your culture will see a boost in morale and dedication to your business. You can also get creative with these events, too. Some recent 15-minute weekly recaps out of one of our offices have included a visit from a magician, a meet-and-greet with animals, and more. These lighthearted “outings” let people unwind, connect with each other, and, afterward, remain focused on our shared goals as a company.
- Prioritize well-being over profits
If you’ve been working remotely during the pandemic, it’s likely that you’ve experienced moments of frustration that were exacerbated by our current working conditions. While working remotely offers some advantages, it can also result in feelings of isolation and disconnection from teams. To combat this, we try to prioritize the well-being of our employees above the profits of the business.
Whether it’s reminding staff about the mental health resources available through our health insurance; making “meeting-free” zones during the workday to allow people to catch up on household responsibilities and disconnect for a few minutes; or finding fun, simple gifts like snack boxes or gift cards to lift spirits, we have only increased our commitment to our philosophy of putting our people first since our shift to remote work.
We know that a remote way of working presents challenges that can be discouraging, so by trying to get ahead of these challenges, we hope to combat many of the issues that can arise and keep our staff in a good head space. By putting their well-being first, we not only do the right thing, but also know that we’re keeping people engaged and actually decreasing the chance of an interruption to our workflow due to burnout or stress.
While its more challenging to maintain or create a company culture while working remotely, it’s certainly possible. By changing how you communicate with staff, getting creative about team-building, and prioritizing the well-being of your employees, you can still cultivate a positive culture for your employees despite the challenges presented by remote work.
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