Some teams work in-house. Some teams work from home. As more companies are creating policies and measures to respond to the current global pandemic and its residual effects, which experts predict to linger for at least two more years, workplaces will look very different from today.
In this video, we explore how you can boost employee morale when you have in-house and remote teams working with and for you in this ever-changing workplace.
The sweeping changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic will affect the workforce in various ways, and this includes employee morale. Many workers have been encouraged to work from home to lower the risk of coronavirus spread. Some companies, such as Facebook, Square and Google, have started putting infrastructure in play to enable some of its workforces to work from home in the long term, or even permanently.
Telecommuting or working remotely is not an entirely new concept as it has existed to some degree for a few decades now. However, the events in recent years, such as globalisation and the emergence of certain risks, such as the coronavirus pandemic, combined with shifts in modern technology and demands for greater workplace flexibility has made remote work more familiar and accessible to more workers.
While remote work has its advantages, particularly in providing workers greater autonomy and flexibility in how and where they work, it also has its downside. Health experts monitoring the effects of increased remote work during the global pandemic reports that mental health issues are surging.
And then there is also the issue of how remote work is viewed by in-house workers who have not experienced working remotely. There is a certain stigma with remote work—some people may think those who work from home, work less to watch Netflix more or take excursions to the mall or the beach more often.
Well, if you’ve ever tried working from home, you know that this is far from the case. In fact, more studies show that people who work from home suffer from anxiety and stress precisely because they work longer hours.
If you’re a business which keeps a mix of remote and in-house workers, this becomes a pressing issue because this affects overall employee morale, and consequently, employee productivity. So how do you motivate your team and boost team morale when your team is a mix of remote and in-house workers?
Here are three key factors:
(1) Keep deliverables and policies clear.
First things first, determine how employees will be evaluated.
Employees are appraised based on whether they show up at work or not. In the traditional workplace, this is measured by their physical presence at work and the number of hours they spend working. Did they show up today? Did they work the full 8 hours?
In remote teams, measures are not as straightforward. While there is software that may allow you to measure whether a remote worker is working on their desktop at particular times of the day, this seems rather counterintuitive to why we allow remote work to begin with, which is to provide greater autonomy and flexibility. In my previous video, How to motivate employees the right way, I explored how cutting the number of work hours to provide employees with a greater (but reasonable) amount of autonomy motivates employees and results in greater productivity.
As work shifts in-house to remote locations, measures of productivity should shift, too. And these measures should apply to both in-house and remote teams. The focus, then, should be on output, creating and enforcing policies that enable and encourages workers to focus on delivery. Did they do the work that they were supposed? Where they able to accomplish the work?
But what if workers are required to “show up” to work at specific hours of the day? What if the type of work requires teams to chat with or deal with customers at particular hours of the day? How do we, as a business, handle that?
Here’s an example of a business whose employees all work remotely but “show up” for work at pre-determined times of the day: Mountain Bikes Direct. In a previous video, I discuss how they keep their team motivated despite all of them working remotely from different parts of the world. The key to this productivity is being clear about what is expected from each team member. Being fair to everyone is an important factor that determines employee morale.
(2) Stay in contact.
Promote a positive, inclusive culture by setting up regular catch up meetings, where both in-house and remote team members are present.
The catch-up meetings can be a venue to update the team about the state of current projects or a venue to elicit help from each other to fix issues. Alternatively, these can be informal virtual coffee or cocktail meetings (depending on the profile of your team) for people to just catch up and share stories to nurture team bonding.
Aside from these catch-up meetings, businesses should also define how employees can report challenges or issues with work specific to them. Determine a communication plan with clear channels for escalation.
What if a remote worker experiences connectivity issues in the middle of critical work? Where should he or she report this issue, and how should he or she proceed? Or, what if an in-house worker needs to reach a remote team at hours outside of operations for a critical issue? Or, what if an employee, whether in-house or remote, suddenly needs to take a day off for personal reason?
(3) Keep health checks and policies in place.
Experts say that the global pandemic will change the way we work. Remember your team member who would report to work even if they are sick just because work needs to be done? We used to measure worker diligence and commitment based on what an employee is willing to sacrifice just to get to work done. It was normal to see a sick person report to work because things needed to get done.
These “norms” should soon change—and as leaders and business owners, it’s our responsibility to keep everyone safe and healthy. There is a need to revise health policies, particularly policies on when employees should not report to work due to particular illnesses. The new policies and norms should also include measures that address employee mental health, particularly to remote employees who are more susceptible to loneliness isolation, anxiety, and even depression.
People are driven by their purpose. They are motivated to work when they see that their work contributes towards this purpose. They are also motivated when there is fairness when policies are equally enforced so that good work is recognised and offences are corrected.
If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.