Recent developments have dictated remote work environments for teams that were not necessarily ready for it on an immediate basis. This presents new and unique challenges to leaders in terms of keeping team members focused, engaged and motivated while working from home.
According to Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace Report, while 33% of on-premise employees are engaged (not a high number to begin with), only 30% of remote employees are engaged. Fully remote employees are also
- 35% less likely to strongly agree their coworkers provide them with meaningful feedback
- 30% less likely to strongly agree they have talked to their manager about steps to take to reach their goals in the past six months
In remote work environments, success depends on the structured and deliberate efforts of leaders to remain connected and hands-on in their leadership of the team regardless of working remotely. The rule of thumb in leadership in remote work environments is what I call The Rule of Much More. If you are clear in non-remote leadership, be much more deliberate in a remote work environment. If you recognize employees for their efforts, in remote work environments, you’d have to recognize them much more. If you are a good communicator, you’d have done much more work on the effective communication front.
This is all very doable but requires focused and deliberate efforts. Here are five winning tips for steps that you can take as a leader in order to engage your remote team members:
- Provide a consistent platform for communication
Communication holds the master key to engagement. The concern in remote work environments is less communication, less clarity and a whole lot of assumptions on both ends. A platform for communication has to extend beyond emails and an occasional phone call. It has to be set as a weekly online meeting, set in the calendar, where team members get to interact both on a professional and on a personal level. This is the time not only to ask questions, go over goals and tasks and get some much-needed clarity but also an opportunity to learn more about each other in order to have a wider and deeper perspective of who we are working with and how we can help them shine.
- Recognize achievements and effort
It is very easy, even in on-premise work environments, for leaders to miss opportunities to recognize efforts and good work. In remote work environments, it becomes even more challenging. As with anything else in remote work leadership, there is a need for a structured and deliberate approach- designate time in the weekly meeting for recognition, make the recognition public and do not spare words of appreciation. Be specific in your feedback- what exactly did you like? Why was it important? Why would you like to see more of it?
- Clarify goals, roles, and expectations
Being clear is the best thing that a leader can do for the team members because it sets them up for success. Your biggest enemies on this front are assumptions and misunderstandings. Be as clear as you possibly can, spell everything out and remember that team members may be uncomfortable asking too many questions. If you don’t want them to end up guessing what you want and if you do not want to assume what they know and understand- spell everything out and check in with them frequently. Be very approachable for questions and support. This way you help them succeed and they will not feel anxious and confused.
- Culture matters
Culture can easily slip under the rug in remote work environments. Do not let this happen, because the culture is detrimental to engagement. Spell out the culture, demonstrate it yourself and emphasize the “we” and what you stand for in every opportunity that you have.
- Set deadlines
Productivity in a remote work environment faces fierce competition- everyday home life. The temptation to handle chores tend to kids and anything else that can be distracting during work hours, is tremendous. The best way to combat that and assist remote workers with time management and prioritization is to break tasks into smaller units with well-defined deadlines. Alongside that, provide team members helpful resources and ample support when it comes to prioritization and time management. You can incorporate that into your weekly meeting and perhaps pick a tip or two yourself.
Overall, remote work environments have their advantages and challenges, but what wins through any challenge is clear, confident, structured and supportive leadership that highlights helping any team member shine regardless of the circumstances.