The pandemic has fundamentally changed the future of work. Remote work, which used to be offered primarily as an employee perk at select organizations, is now the new normal. Despite initial uncertainties from business leaders, working from home is working - so much so that now, less than one in five executives want to return to the office post-pandemic.
For all the benefits working from home has to offer, it’s not perfect. Remote work has its challenges, particularly around how managers engage their employees. Without in-person communication and collaboration, managing people can feel confusing. Luckily, with the help of data and innovation, it doesn’t have to be.
It’s no surprise that 16 percent of employers are using tech more frequently to engage employees than they did before COVID-19. Software and technology make it easy to engage workers from anywhere, and managers should take note.
Looking to inspire and motivate your employees in the digital workspace? Below are three ways tech can help you connect with your people, no matter where they’re working.
1. Create a Sense Community
One of the biggest struggles companies have had to solve this past year is maintaining a strong company culture without a physical office space. Working from home has its benefits, but it doesn’t allow for the rich sense of community that a traditional workspace fosters - so much so that 51 percent of remote workers feel less connected to their companies and colleagues than ever before.
Thanks to technology, connecting with your people and ensuring they feel like they’re part of a team is easier than ever.
Virtual conferencing is one simple way to encourage socialization. But rather than scheduling another meeting on your employee’s calendars, innovate and get creative with how you virtually gather your people. For example, our friends at Sapling host “Monday Gratitudes” - a company-wide initiative where, every Monday, employees are randomly paired in Zoom breakout rooms and asked to share what they’re thankful for that week.
“It sets the tone for the week ahead, allows us to get to know our team members in this virtual environment, and build that connection,” explains Kevin O’Connell, Sapling’s Head of Marketing.
Another way to foster community is through a virtual employee recognition program. With corporate outings, holiday parties and team-building getaways on-hold, recognizing individual and team wins can go a long way, especially in a remote setting.
ChartHop also now offers a Shoutout Bundle that integrates directly with Slack, so every time someone is acknowledged, it’s shared with the company, so everyone can celebrate. Together, peer recognition and scheduled virtual get-togethers can help make your people feel appreciated and like they’re part of a team.
2. Engage Openly and Often
Even in the remote world, managers are still the intermediary between executives and individual contributors. But without an office space, they don’t have the luxury of meeting their people in person, let alone stopping by someone’s desk or making small talk at the water-cooler. This can be a hindrance to effective communication and collaboration.
Thankfully, software and technology make it easy to engage openly and often. Especially when it comes to communicating company goals and business roadmaps, org chart software like ChartHop allows everyone to visualize how teams are structured and better understand how their roles fit into the bigger picture.
ChartHop's org chart enables org-wide transparency by showing employees how they fit into the bigger picture.
ChartHop also stores a business’s entire trove of people data into a single source of truth that goes far beyond the traditional company directory. So, even from a virtual setting, employees can “meet” their colleagues across the organization and see names and titles, as well as respective time zones, name pronunciations, pronouns, interests, hobbies and more.
When it comes to meeting your people one-on-one, now is the time to prioritize consistency and frequency. Eighty-nine percent of leaders agree that regular check-ins are key for ensuring success.
Maria Barerra, who leads our marketing department, suggests collecting this data across the organization to identify any patterns or problem areas that might persist from remote work. For example, maybe parents are struggling with work-life balance. Or perhaps West coast employees feel like time-management isn’t as easy as it used to be when they have to work East coast hours.
Once you slice and dice the data to different demographics you might actually find that there are certain groups of employees that need additional support. It may not come up on the individual basis but when you look at the whole group, you may start seeing some trends.
Maria Barrera, Head of Marketing @ ChartHop
Using data to inform your management strategies can help you tackle certain roadblocks that enhance your employee’s overall remote work experience.
3. Have Human Conversations
Regardless of the role - executives, managers, individual contributors, interns - we’re all living and working through unprecedented times. While it’s important to lead, it’s also imperative to remain human and practice empathy.
Sometimes managers feel like they have to put on a facade of, ‘Everything’s great’... when in reality it’s not. Have those conversations with your reports because it conveys to them that you’re human and you can support them not just as an employee, but as a person
Nadia Singer, Director of Talent @ Figma
While technology can’t make you more human, it can humanize your meetings by facilitating face-to-face interactions. Zoom isn’t the only virtual conferencing software out there, so meet people where they’re at, be it on Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime.
You can also perform pulse checks using surveying tools like ChartHop’s 1:1 forms. Using that feedback, have honest conversations about the issues your employees are struggling with. If they’re feeling lonely or under pressure, comfort them - it's okay to empathize over the isolation and redundancy that is working remotely through a global pandemic. Acknowledge that remote work isn’t perfect, nor is it always easy. Then, look for solutions to work on together.
Lead Fearlessly, No Matter Where You Work
Coronavirus has changed the way we work now, and in the foreseeable future. Even though companies are moving towards reopening plans, many are prioritizing a “remote-first” mentality to ensure that remote employees always feel supported and connected.
While working from home poses challenges for communication and collaboration, managers can still find ways to motivate and inspire their employees using technology. Whether it’s fostering a sense of community, communicating company plans, or simply having honest, human conversations, there really is a tech tool for everything that can support you from anywhere.