Coronavirus is top of mind for company leaders, managers, and employees. Many employees are working remotely as a safety precaution. Now, HR teams are asking us: how do we drive employee performance during this time of uncertainty?
Not only is the barrage of bad news unsettling to employees, but working remotely can feel isolated and lonely, particularly for those extroverts. HBR found that two-thirds of remote workers are not engaged and only 5% see themselves working at their company long-term. While these numbers reflect full-time remote employees, they give us insights into the importance of creating the positive working environment you typically have in the office while employees are remote.
Based on Reflektive best practices and insights from HR experts, we’ve crafted recommendations to boost employee success and help them thrive in the midst of uncertainty. Whether you’re part of an HR team, a manager, or an employee, these tips and tricks aim to build a solid foundation to align on key priorities, stay connected, and build healthy behaviors during this time.
For HR Teams
Take a pulse on employee sentiment. Now is an ideal time to send a quick engagement survey to all employees. We recommend questions on current employee sentiment, and how employees feel about the changes that your company made during the coronavirus pandemic. Some questions you may want to ask:
- I feel that employee needs were addressed by my company during this time
- I have the resources I need to do my job well during this time
- I know who to talk to if I have questions and concerns during this time
- I feel confident in my company’s ability to handle the impact of the coronavirus going forward
- I receive a good cadence of updates about what my company is doing to address the situation
Remember to include a comments section for every question — this enables you to gather more nuanced information from employees. For more best practices on using surveys to boost engagement, check out some great Reflektive resources.
Have the right tools in place to boost remote collaboration. Ensure that all employees have access to email, a messaging platform such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, and a video tool to communicate effectively while working remotely. Ideally, employees can provide recognition and plan for 1:1s on these platforms too. Team syncs, 1:1s, and all-hands meetings should ideally take place over video to foster connection and enable employees to read body language.
Establish norms for working remotely. By setting guidelines early on, employees are more likely to stay connected and productive during this time. We recommend the following remote work best practices for all employees:
- Adhere to expected daily working hours to drive consistency
- Use project planning tools such as Wrike or Asana to clearly define and communicate roles, responsibilities, and timelines
- Ask peers how they like to communicate, such as their preferred channels, level of detail, and level of informality
- Instill your workplace culture by celebrating work anniversaries, business milestones, and other accomplishments
Be a resource for your managers. Regularly check in with managers to see how they are doing, and if they need additional support or resources to manage their teams remotely. We recommend biweekly manager meetings to share best practices on driving employee accountability, engagement and performance while they’re remote.
To the HR team, we recommend that you share recommendations with managers – ideally in a recurring manager meeting – for further discussion and reinforcement! Here’s a start:
Proactively check on employee stress. Fear and anxiety are common reactions to this global pandemic. Office and school closures can impact employees’ daily work environment. News and conversation create more cause for concern among some of your employees. By addressing employee stress early on, you can help to alleviate it and accelerate the return to normalcy. Some tips include:
- Sharing helpful resources to manage stress, such as this NPR article and these CDC recommendations
- Asking what accommodations you can make to alleviate stress
- Reminding employees that they can use sick leave when they need it
- Encouraging employees to leverage the wellness programs that your company offers
- Recommending walks and other activities that are good for the mind and body
Keep Your Team Connected. Fostering inclusivity, visibility and engagement is very important for your remote employees. Here are some ways you can maintain team connectivity:
- Add 2-3 team virtual standups each week to provide support, alignment and visibility for your team. Use video, chat or the phone to help people check-in on what they accomplished and what’s new they’re working on.
- Create a virtual “watercooler” space: Ask employees to increase their engagement on Slack or MS Teams. Have employees hold peer 1:1s or virtual coffee breaks to maintain socialization and human interaction. Suggest some of these ice-breaker questions to get them started:
- What did you have for breakfast this morning?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is your work from home morning routine?
- What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon?
- Set expectations for conference calls: Establish communication norms, such as:
- Always having your camera on
- Staying muted when you’re not talking
- Rotating meeting facilitators to keep everyone involved and visible
- Celebrate & recognize! Birthdays and workversaries should continue to be celebrated, and hard work and wins should be recognized, now more than ever! Use Slack / MS Teams or other chat channels, email and your Reflektive Recognition Wall to make those exciting moments visible to everyone.
- Have fun! Get creative with how to engage your team. For example: ask everyone to pick a Slack emoji that best represents them, or have a song competition for the song title that best summarizes your team (e.g., “Takin’ Care of Business”).
Stick with your regular 1:1s. Communication and transparency don’t come as naturally when we’re working remotely, so they need to be prioritized. 1:1s with your employees are extremely important for creating alignment, setting expectations, and making your employees feel heard and valued. If you have time to meet more than once per week with your employees, even if just for a quick 10 minute sync, we recommend you do so. More best practices on 1:1s are available in Reflektive’s Ultimate Guide to 1:1s.
Over-communicate and recognize the wins! No longer can you simply share “good job” at the end of a meeting as you’re exiting the conference room. Instead, find ways to share praise publicly with your company’s recognition tool. We recommend increasing your feedback during this time, and encouraging the behaviors you want and need. Recognize exemplary remote collaboration, cheer small projects, and appreciate adjustments your team is making in their everyday work schedules. This positive reinforcement delivered early and regularly should help keep your team engaged and motivated. Check out some recognition best practices from Reflektive.
Clarify (or simply reinforce) goals and priorities. Working on one’s own means that each direct report will need to be good at self-management. For this to work, each person will need to know what success looks like for their projects, and accountability should be created via regularly-scheduled check ins. We recommend creating your own template that direct reports can fill in, and aligning on expectations at the beginning and end of every project. In some cases, now may be a good time to step back and see if your employees’ goals still make sense. For instance, if one of your Customer Success Managers set a goal to “Visit 4 customers per quarter”, he may decide to change his goal to: “Improve implementation project plans and share with all customers.” Set new goals with your employee, and comment on the revised goals to track progress. Some other great goals best practices during the coronavirus are available in this HBR article.
Share the below strategies with all employees to help them acclimate and succeed while they’re working remotely.
Ask for feedback, often. Remember that you’re still working on important initiatives for your company, even while you’re remote. In fact, you may be learning new skills and driving new projects during this time of change. Now more than ever, we recommend that you request feedback from your manager, peers, and cross-functional stakeholders. The best times to ask for this feedback are after major project milestones, or when you complete projects. These insights will help you learn and improve your performance on future projects.
Use technology to feel more connected. We recommend using video when you can — it also helps you observe your coworkers’ body language and better read cues! On your first video meetings as a newly remote employee, we recommend that you share your workspace. Introduce your peers to your kids and pets too! Some other best practices include:
- Overcommunicate with Slack/ MSTeams and email. When people are remote, it’s easier for messages to get lost. Helpful tip: at the start of the workday, share what you did yesterday and what you are going to do that day. Another great tip: share in channels rather than direct message individuals so everyone can benefit from the conversation
- Document everything and make it easily shareable – so your peers can easily get caught up on your projects
Revisit your work goals. Take a look at your current goals, and determine if they still make sense given the changes at your company. Perhaps there are other projects that you’ve been postponing, but would add value to your peers, managers, or customers. We also recommend using this time to invest in your career by developing new skills or taking on different projects. Your company is looking for employees to be successful in this time of transition. Proving you can thrive under stress builds your personal brand and leadership’s confidence in your growth.
Dress for success. “If you look the part, you’ll feel the part” says our Chief Sales Officer, David Laszewski. Dress as if you’re going into the office, to stay in a work mindset during working hours.
Get some fresh air! It’s finally springtime — take advantage of it. Make time in your calendar to take a walk and get some exercise. Some other wellness recommendations when working from home are:
- Stay attuned to your mental health. Ask your manager or HR representative about the resources and programs available for employees to stay well during this time.
- Be present. While it is important to see what’s happening in the world, you don’t need to check your phone or turn on the news every few minutes. When you’re engaged in an activity or talking to a family member, stay in the moment — and enjoy it!
- Stick to your regular schedule to help you feel normalcy during this uncertain time. Take a shower in the morning and get ready to start the day just as you would to go into the office.
- Use technology to keep in touch with your family and friends too!
If you’re interested in learning more about how to boost performance for your newly remote workforce, contact us here.