A little less than a month ago, many of you were managing teams in the physical confines of the office, and almost overnight with little to no time to prepare, you and your teams had to become fully remote. Our loyal customers often ask what we do to ensure success for our employees when they need to work from home. As the head of our Center of Excellence, the first thing I stress is that managers need to be empathetic under the circumstances when their team is working remotely. Some employees may have children at home who are homeschooled or have family members to take care of others may be living with roommates who are working from home and vying for precious desk space or internet bandwidth. What we all share is the uncertainty of the times, cabin fever and lack of preparation for all to prepare for their teams to work remotely. Without empathy, many employees may become distant and that will directly affect their interactions with customers and it could hurt the company’s brand in the long run. The guidelines that I share with our customers are the same rules that I use every day with my team:
- Set clear expectations and goals
- Communicate constantly throughout the day
- Set a daily and weekly rewards program
- Set virtual face-to-face meetings via video
- Monitoring employees to keep them engaged
These are guidelines that need to be set early on to have success with a remote workforce. As with any change to an organization, you need to prepare for an adjustment period and some trial and error with some of these guidelines to see how they work within your collective culture. Over the next few weeks, I will be diving into each of these guidelines to offer actionable tips that you can implement with your teams, but I want to start with the one that is sometimes difficult to execute given your “in office” cultural norms.
We are going to start with “Set clear expectations and goals”. The question that every manager is asking themselves at the moment is – “How do I keep my employees fully engaged?” There is a belief that since people are being paid while working from home, they should “do their job.” However, it is essential that you as the manager, outline directly what your employees’ responsibilities are and your expectations of them in the new work routine As with any change in the working environment, there may be some challenges early on, particularly if your employees were used to working side-by-side with peers and management and need that in-person interaction. This is why empathy is so important. You need to ensure you create an engaged and motivated team and this is a key to making the entire work from home experience successful.
There are many tactics we do at Vee24 to keep remote workers engaged. This includes regular 10-minute meetings, or stand-ups, throughout the day to ensure the employees are engaged and ready to support our customers. Another key one is to make sure there is constant instant messaging (Slack, Skype, and etc.) activity that is active throughout the day. . A third tactic is to make it fun. I create weekly work games because I know my team’s culture and demographics and these games keep my team involved and more importantly, competitive.
Some of the games we play to keep the employees engaged include: online quizzes, online bingo, host ‘bad shirt day’ or planning a scavenger hunt. We always keep a scoreboard for each of the games. Keeping score is an incredibly useful tool to reduce alienation from isolation, boredom and adds some good fun into the day.
By supporting the team in these ways, we have also seen many of the employees engaging with each other over instant messaging and video for playful banter (much like they had in the office) – which is a great way to further tighten team dynamics. This is especially important for organizations that have seen a severe downturn in customer service interactions or sales engagements. It is also a good approach with newer employees to get acclimated and up to speed faster in their new role.
At the end of the day, engaged and happy employees are key to any customer engagement team – either working at the office or working at home. In our experience, regular engagement with your team is a key guideline to ensure you have a successful work from home program for your team.
The key guidelines that I outlined above will help you ensure that there are appropriate technologies for employees to support your customers, cultivate empathy, achieve goals, and keep employees fully engaged. Like any new management initiatives, the work from home strategy will need some tweaks to ensure overall success in your particular environment. With a good remote work strategy, you will go back to delighting your customers and measuring your metrics just like in the office.