COVID-19 has upended the way we work. As a marketing consulting services provider, this pandemic has also changed the way our employees work – our employees have gone remote.
Remote work is set to be the New Normal and it is time that organizations start to get comfortable with it. In fact, numerous organizations have already decided to make ‘remote working’ a permanent feature for some employees. But there are plenty of challenges associated with remote working.
One of these is a danger that employees will feel disconnected from the larger organization and will lack a sense of belonging. This is where organizations must step up and make sure they are not only engaging with their employees but remaining connected with them, at all times. ‘Connected’ shouldn’t be confused with ‘communication’. It refers to continuous interaction that needs to take place between organizations and their employees to ensure they are aware of what their employees are thinking and whether they are in a positive frame of mind while taking care of their responsibilities.
The whole idea behind establishing seamless channels of connection and engagement is to ensure that employees continue to feel wanted and are able to discharge their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.
We at TransFunnel, a marketing automation consulting company headquartered out of Bangalore, proactively decided that it would be better that our employees worked from home in the times of coronavirus. At the back of our minds, we were well aware of the challenges this posed and that getting comfortable with such a work arrangement will require a bit of time because TransFunnel was always open to remote work and hired skilled people from across the country.
But it’s been a few months now that the whole team has been working remotely and we seem to have handled it pretty well.
Right from day one, we were aware of the need to ensure that our employees don’t feel disbanded and know it is business as usual, albeit, remotely.
Our teammate also wrote a blog post about all those joining the bandwagon of remote workers, especially for the first-timers.
So, the question in your minds will be, how have we gone about doing things? Take a look:
The first thing we did was to help our staff get the tech set upright. They already had laptops, but we made sure that connectivity was not an issue and asked them to sign up with an ISP that promised stable and fast internet connectivity. The internet is the single most important means of staying connected and we did not want employees to say their internet was giving them problems.
We were already using collaboration software to manage projects, meetings, virtual birthday celebrations, and ensure employees are up to speed with team projects and can remain connected with each other at all times through the software.
The use of this software was enhanced and taken up a notch when employees started working from home. Also, as a marketing automation firm, using diverse marketing tools is second nature for our staff. But we are making sure that they are continuously updating their skill sets, so that they are able to optimize the use of these tools, without outside help.
This is super important if you want the team to feel connected. We are doing this and it’s worked for us.
You need to get on team calls irrespective of whether you actually have something to discuss or not. If you don’t have an agenda, a quick call will do.
If the call is scheduled at the start of the workday, make sure team managers have something positive to say and set the stage for the day ahead.
If it’s an end-of-the-day call, managers take stock of what happened through the day and appreciate objectives achieved and discuss what could have gone better.
In these challenging times, when the anxiety levels of employees have gone up manifold, it is imperative that team calls focus a few aspects other than work. E.g. the health of the family, any help needed outside of work, and focus on messaging that spreads positivity.
We encourage employees to take short coffee breaks (tea is ok too!) and while doing so, chat with a colleague that they get along with, for some time.
The idea here is to make sure they remain connected with colleagues who are also their friends. This ensures they do not feel lonely when they are working from home. Loneliness is a key disadvantage associated with remote working, and we try to ensure that employees stay connected beyond work.
Extracurricular activities are par for the course to keep employees engaged. Quizzes, dumb charades, story sessions, discussions (non-work), debates, and more are the way to go. But, make them fun, and don’t take the serious route. Get innovative and devise ways wherein, even the most introverted employees get a chance to have some fun, and set aside their worries. Our cultural methodology makes it clear that even managers must actively participate in such activities.
Such fun days help the employees get to know one another better and also bond from a team perspective; all this happens while having a whole lot of fun.
We have a dedicated day for fun activities - Friday, when we either discuss trending topics, indulge in group activities, or just catch up with one another. This has been a longstanding practice at TransFunnel even before we all started work from home due to COVID-19.
We started a rewards system for employees who are actively contributing towards coming up with innovative ideas for business growth. Irrespective of whether we go ahead and implement these ideas, we reward the very fact that an employee chose to proactively contribute towards exploring new opportunities for business growth.
We reward employees based on different parameters. So, there might be a reward for the most hard-working employee and also one for someone who has achieved all objectives from the inbound marketing perspective; there can also be one for the most ‘helpful’ employee and so on and so forth. This rewards system motivates our remote employees to keep making meaningful contributions to the business cause.
We also have a points-system, where employees are encouraged to give points to each other. This peer-reward system is not confined to anything specific. Say, for instance, it can be a good review posted online, a helping hand at the time of need, appreciation for hard work, and so on.
However, it must be noted that not all employees are motivated by rewards. Some might be motivated if their manager personally appreciates their effort in front of their teammates. Others will get motivated if they are able to participate actively in learning and development activities. For e.g. we encourage our staff members to sign up for HubSpot inbound marketing and other value-addition courses. We applaud the efforts of team members during our daily meetings.
Don’t depend on a one-size-fits-all kind of reward motivation strategy. Use different motivational approaches for different employee groups.
And why should you focus on motivating employees? Because a motivated employee is an engaged employee.
Staying connected with employees and making sure they remain engaged is not easy. However, you have got to start somewhere. So, don’t be shy of trying out different ways and means of connecting with your employees and keeping them engaged.
We did the same.
We continued with the methods that worked and dropped others. We believe that this is a work in progress and you need to innovate constantly. Keep certain metrics at the back of your mind that allow you to judge the efficacy of your method. This will allow you to keep making changes to your remote employee engagement model.
All the best.