We are nearly at the end of the year; Christmas is looming and unfortunately businesses have had to endure a second lockdown. No one thought the COVID-19 pandemic would last this long but sadly it has. Working from home continues and this time the weather is not hot and sunny, the novelty has worn off and many are feeling unmotivated, they have had enough and want to return back to ‘normal’. The question is can and will we ever return back to the normal of pre-COVID days or will there be a ‘new normal’ where everyone works in a hybrid style between the office and home?
The Show Must Go On
After nearly a year of the pandemic businesses are inevitably struggling with losing sales, making redundancies and trying to operate effectively with reduced resources. It’s tough times and customers are demanding as ever, expecting a superior experience online. However, it is what it is, and we must keep calm and carry on. We have no choice but to remain positive and focused during these harsh times.
Keeping the Buzz Alive
Over the last few months, we have noticed with our own employees and from speaking to partners and customers that some remote workers are feeling demotivated, overwhelmed and to some extent lost as to how to work from home full time. Previously those who worked from home may have chosen to as it suited their personality type or their domestic situation but now everyone has been forced to work from home and, like everything, it doesn’t suit all people.
Initially everyone was engaged when they could be, video conferencing platforms had never been busier with everyone having business video calls, and using the likes of Zoom for home schooling, kids’ clubs, Pilates and even pub quizzes. Now, the novelty has worn off and less people are engaging with work colleagues effectively, people are turning their video cameras off during business calls. How do you replicate the informal conversations around the water cooler that create real relationships and solutions? How do you create shared meaning and culture when the buzz is wearing off and people are becoming less motivated and engaged?
This is a hard one considering these times, but we certainly need to try. We have devised a set of tips to motivate your workforce and to suggest ways of etiquette in this new digital workplace to improve employee performance, motivation, aid team collaboration to help your business adapt to this new remote world.
Turn on your Video Camera in Video Conference Calls
No one particularly likes being on camera especially the generations older than the millennials. However, if we are all working in our homes and separate spaces then we need to make the effort to connect with each other and being void of human to human contact this helps to some extent bridge the gap. It also ensures that we are engaged in the call and not distracted by something else.
Lost in Conference Calls
With many working at home it appears that people are scheduling more conference calls (audio and video) than ever before. Of course, this is to be expected because we are not physically working together but there is also a danger of spending your day leaping from one conference call to the next and having no time to get some work done. So, be mindful of this and if possible, restrict your conference calls in the week to schedule in work time.
Lay off the Emails
Back in July HubSpot stated further to its research of 70,000 global customers that there had been a 20% increase of businesses sending more emails than before lockdown. This is because if people want to ask something then they usually think I will send an email because it’s easier. It isn’t, in fact it is more ineffective for resolutions, what would be easier would be to pick up the phone or send an instant message. Do yourself a favour and don’t clog up your inbox if you don’t have too.
Prioritise your To Do list
We are all manic busy at present and with the increase of email and other digital interactions we may be feeling overwhelmed by our ‘to do list’. The answer is to prioritise your list, so you action the most urgent or important first. This will help structure your day and give you a clear path to accomplishing tasks.
- Working as a Team
Although we are all sitting at home working it is crucial that remember to work as a team with our colleagues and to be connected virtually. Collaboration solutions such as Mitel MiTeam Meetings, Avaya Spaces, MS Teams and 8×8 Work enable you to send instant messages, host video calls, share screens and to work and share documents together rather than email edits backwards and forwards.
Managing the Remote Team
Workforce management solutions such as Calabrio WFM empower remote workers to better manage their work-life balance and Bizvu Rewards enable you assign tasks to team members and monitor progress and performance. Provide your team with clear objectives or key performance indicators so they know what they need to achieve, and you can provide clarity. By setting bonuses and rewards using gamification you’ll incentivise your employees to meet their objectives.
The new remote working environment is about the output employees produce and not the hours they work. The days of being seen to work are long gone and good riddance to them. Empower your employees and give them autonomy to make choices and empower managers to make decisions, you want to create a consistent experience if possible.
Coaching and Mentoring
It is without a doubt difficult to onboard new recruits and coach, train and mentor remotely especially with the younger generation who are straight out of university. Be mindful that this will be a new and bewildering experience for them and schedule time to construct a digital training programme with them to support them through the new experiences they encounter. Ensure that they meet members of their team via video conference and create a space for them to start connecting socially with their colleagues especially as the festive season is coming up.
Whether it is virtual beers, a curry on a Friday, bake off, virtual Christmas party or just a chat. The softer things are important for connecting employees because after all we get our energy from people.
Mental health is continuing to be a major issue in lockdown. The mental health charity Mind discovered that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. And the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that almost one in five adults have been experiencing.
It is important to listen to employees and ask about their well-being, everyone has different personal circumstances, and these are tough times. In order to preserve your colleague’s mental health, suggest they take regular breaks when working at home, whether that’s walking the dog to get some fresh air and exercise or reading a book, or putting the washing on. It is important to recognise when working remotely by yourself that you do need to take some time out to re-energise and focus.
It is also crucial at the end of the day or when you have finished your daily work to switch off from work so you can separate your work and home life. Working remotely is not necessarily about how many hours you do and when you do it; it is about the outputs you deliver.
Creating a New Culture
It is important to create a new vision and culture that is transparent and looks to demolish the silos that are creeping up in the digital workplace where people are working in isolation and less likely to share what they are working on.
You need to encourage people to share their work, work in a team and to foster a culture that is creative. One where employees are not afraid to suggest or try out new strategies, processes or ideas, and also it is key that they are not afraid to fail. Without failure there is no success.
Take your Holiday
Lots of employees will be racking up their annual leave after holidays have been cancelled throughout the year due to COVID. Encourage your employees to take time off and rest over Christmas and do hobbies they enjoy. Everyone needs to stop and rest in order to reset.
These unprecedented times are and will continue to be tough, but it is crucial that as managers and employees we remain positive and focus. We need to motivate our teams and each other, we are all discovering that we require new skills to manage and work remotely and the emphasis is on output and not the hours we put in.
It is time to see the workplace with different lenses to enable us all to have a fresh perspective on how we manage teams and self-manage, how we communicate and work as a team, and solve problems. Sometimes we will get it right and other times we fail, but if we don’t fail then we will never learn, and we are all learning to learn at present.
It is within the bad times that we grow, evolve and learn, and usually good things come from bad times. Maybe we will discover how to be more efficient with new processes or use automated technology for menial tasks that improve the customer experience and productivity, provide more empathy for employees and more importantly how to keep the buzz alive and work as a team.