A year ago, a great deal of blog space was still being dedicated to pondering and postulating about home working. How will we scale security? Will employees be motivated at home? Will our company culture suffer? Will productivity take a nosedive?
A year later, those questions are going through a global stress test. According to YouGov, 38% of the pre-crisis workforce are now working at home. The interesting part is, they don’t particularly want to go back, either.
A massive majority of workers simply do not want to go back to the office full-time, according to some recent research by Okta. And that’s while the rest of the world slowly takes the shape of normality.
Eggs and flour are regular features on the supermarket shelves again, along with your favourite craft beer and wines. You can even pop out for a pint and see your friends in the park. But the country’s staff aren’t gagging to give up remote working.
What this tells us is that we’re past the point of adjusting to a crisis. The shock has passed, and most of us are pretty happy with this version of “normal,” at least when it comes to our work. That means it’s time to address one of the downsides of a remote workforce – isolation. Our company, Appreciate Group and Appreciate services, have had to address this ourselves and find a way to make sure everyone’s engaged and motivated at home.
Not just the chat and banter, and the office friends. But the sense of camaraderie, company culture, and the feeling that we’re all contributing to something wider than the narrow furrows we plough. The one thing any company can, and should, do to combat the feeling that staff are plugging away in their own little world is communicate.
Communicate to engage a remote team
If it’s not too gauche to blow our own horn, Appreciate, and our parent company Appreciate Group, have done a great job of handling the sudden dispersal of our teams. At group, department, and team levels, we have tactics to keep employees engaged and connected.
Weekly round ups
Every week, Group and Human Resources put together a round-up of news and views from around the business and push it out to staff. That might include blogs written by people in our company, surveys to get opinions and feedback from staff about their work and their response to Group efforts, news on how the business is responding to COVID-19 developments, and any human resources developments that might affect staff.
Some of the leadership figures around Appreciate have been putting together podcasts talking about what’s happening in their corner of the Appreciate universe. That might be our senior leadership team fielding questions from the staff, our design managers talking about our latest product developments, or even just some stories of kindness to cheer everyone up.
Meetings are not the word that fills everyone with the sense of thrill and wonder, we know. But we’re not trying to blow anyone’s socks off, we’re trying to keep everyone connected to each other.
Weekly meeting are where department-level discussions happen. They’re where we talk about what the individual teams that make up the wider departments are doing, what projects are being delivered, and how we’re performing as a division against our targets. We also run through news, introduce new hires, and talk about what’s happening at Group level and how it might affect our day-to-day work.
Our daily catch-ups give us a chance to see some friendly, familiar faces, talk about what we’re doing inside and outside of work, gripe about some things, gloat about others. It’s also crucial for making sure everyone is on the same page with their tasks.
Which is useful because one of the of the downsides of working remote is that it’s hard to just turn to someone and ask a question. It’s just that much harder to do that at home.
Having a time every day where you can ask some stupid questions to make sure everything is going in the right direction gives you a bit of psychological runway. That runway pushes back doubt and uncertainty, letting staff get through their work with confidence and satisfaction about their efforts.
Don’t let grumbling put you off
You might be thinking “everyone hates meetings though”. Which might be a fair point, but in our experience everyone’s still on time for them, which wasn’t always the case when they were face to face. And they still contribute.
We’d happily err on the side of having one meeting too many, one podcast too many, one email too many, than risk staff feeling like they’re twisting in the wind or not valued.
And ultimately, that’s what why communication and inclusion produces motivation and engagement. We’re putting every day, every task, every role into a wider context. Showing that other colleagues appreciate and depend on their work, and demonstrating that what they’re doing has value.
Cash-value rewards, recognition software, and incentive systems do work, but only prosper long-term when employees are motivated by more than a transaction. That’s why you need to embrace communication to keep engagement and motivation in good supply in the home office.
It’s not always fancy, but it is effective
The importance of talking and communicating with your staff can’t be understated. These are simple tactics, but sticking with them is how you’ll be able to communicate culture, talk about your values and make sure everyone feels connected.
Like we said in another blog recently, you can’t put this genie back in its bottle. We all know now that we could have done this before. It just won’t be possible to tell a workforce in the future that home working isn’t realistic. At least not with a straight face.
Baking these habits into your company now is how you’re going to keep, and strengthen, company culture and staff morale as you navigate the world during, and after, COVID-19.
As always, if you want to talk about motivating and engaging your staff, get in touch. We’re always happy to chat.