Implementing remote work programs has helped to ensure the health and safety of many employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s mitigated the spread of the disease while allowing businesses to stay on course. While remote work has demonstrated it can be a viable alternative to onsite operations in many cases, it is still an abrupt change for employers.
An April 2020 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that the switch to remote work due to Covid-19 has caused disruption for many companies. The survey found that:
- 65% of employers say maintaining employee morale has been a challenge
- More than 1/3 of employers are facing difficulties with employee productivity
In many ways, these two issues are related. It can be difficult for some employees to work in an environment where they need to structure their own schedules. In the absence of ongoing feedback from fellow employees, they can feel out of touch or unmotivated, which can impact their work output. Many of the same guidelines that ensure productivity can also maintain morale.
What are some best practices employers can apply with regard to employee morale and performance management to ensure a successful remote work experience?
Support Employee Morale
Navigating a new remote work protocol can be difficult, so employers need to ensure that they are doing what they can to ease the stresses of the situation. Communication is the key to fostering a sense of community — keeping employees engaged and working toward the same goals they have when working on site.
- Let your employees know that their mental health and wellness is a priority and encourage them to come to you with concerns or questions.
- Be flexible around the hours people work. Some employees, including those with children, can get the job done but may need to work outside the traditional workday.
- Prioritize your touchpoints. Create a regular schedule of meetings, both one on one and with the entire team to ensure they feel connected, whether it’s through chats, email, video meetings or phone calls.
- Ensure your team members know you are available to help them prioritize work or talk through issues. Without the opportunity for “drive by” encounters, they may feel they lack accountability or visibility.
- Video meetings are important. Some employees may not be familiar with the technology, but it provides a critical connection point and helps reinforce familiar bonds. Let them know that video communication skills they learn now will pay off for them well into the future.
- Set up group “get-togethers” such as trivia games and virtual coffees. Not only will this provide interaction, it will also ease the learning curve for newcomers to video communication.
- Employees may feel isolated or uninformed. Make sure you keep them in the loop on company news and operational updates. Sending health and safety tips can also be a good reminder that working offsite helps the company support their wellness.
- If you’re onboarding new employees, determine how best to introduce them to your company culture. Set up virtual meetings with members of other teams and check in on them frequently to ensure they are getting up to speed not just on the work, but on the atmosphere of your organization.
- If you can, offer additional paid time off once everyone is back onsite and operating more regularly. Allow them to carry it over into next year as a thank you.
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Focus on Managing Performance
To maintain productivity and meet your company objectives, you may need to modify your practices to best suit the remote environment.
- Outline performance expectations, the applicable evaluation period and feedback opportunities in advance.
- Ensure you have processes in place to remotely supervise the work:
- Establish a consistent plan to monitor performance and provide virtual coaching.
- Document performance feedback and any performance opportunities.
- Modify your practices where needed to include enhanced validation and communication. You may need more frequent conversations given the unique nature of the situation.
- Determine if your schedule for performance evaluations needs to be adjusted — rather than quarterly or half-year. Adapt your expectations to fit the new reality and possibility of a learning curve for new tasks.
- Send laminated dashboards for employees to post at their work area and update with their performance — a good reminder to try to meet metrics.
- Share expectations on when and how employees should take the initiative to communicate with their teams.
It’s not too late to establish or improve your remote work strategies. By making employee morale and productivity a focus of their Covid-19 strategies, employers can ensure business continuity despite the external challenges.