The future of remote work has been a hot-button issue for managers ever since working from home became the new normal. The number of businesses operating remotely has skyrocketed in the last number of months—leaving leaders scrambling to figure out how this transition has impacted their employees. A large chunk of whom may have never worked virtually before. Transparent, honest, and open communication can be tricky on the best of days face to face —let alone remotely.
You’ve heard the saying, “No news is good news”—and while that may be applicable in some situations, remote work is not one of them. Effective communication, whether between managers or colleagues, is of the utmost importance for successful remote work. Feedback is one of the best, and often overlooked, indicators of gauging employee well being. So how can managers streamline communication and use feedback to optimize remote employee experience?
If you start to feel anxious or nervous when you hear the words “performance review”, know you are not alone. When managers only allocate individual meetings with employees once a year, or even quarterly, it can create a lot of stress. Going several months or longer, without discussing feedback on work or progress? Talk about intimidating. Instead, schedule regular check-ins with your employees. These do not have to be formal meetings. Rather, casual conversations to see if employees need any additional help or support. Not only is this a great addition for employee engagement, but anticipated discussions also empower employees to bring forward any concerns which may seem out of place in a traditional performance review. Managers want input and feedback from everyone. However, if an effort isn’t being made to include remote employees in that conversation, it’s easy for virtual team members to feel overlooked.
Empower with collaboration tools
Odds are your team was already using collaboration tools to some extent, but this year has kicked everyone’s reliance on such platforms into overdrive. Introducing tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts is an easy way to keep everyone informed and on the same page. Encouraging employees to stay connected despite distance boosts employee engagement, experience, and overall well being. Collaborative tools encourage all colleagues, not just employees and supervisors, to communicate with each other. In fact, 39% of remote employees cited difficulties in collaborating with team members during quarantine. The reality is that even after stay-at-home orders have ceased, many teams will continue to work virtually. Adopting tools that help streamline collaboration will help keep your team agile and connected.
Recognize and reward employees
While office gatherings and parties may be on hold for now, that doesn’t mean employee recognition needs to go out the window. Celebrating important milestones and achievements is a great way to keep employee morale up during these strange times, while simultaneously boosting motivation and productivity. Regularly socializing and recognizing team members fosters a culture of trust, transparency, and inclusion—which can be hard to achieve when team members are dispersed geographically. In addition to bringing remote employees together, virtual recognition programs enable managers to witness employee engagement in real-time. Employee recognition, or lack thereof, is a good indicator of how interested an employee is with their colleagues and the organization as a whole. By introducing peer recognition, leaders can collect insightful feedback to help spot wins or opportunities for improvement that may otherwise go unnoticed. Peer recognition is a great solution for strengthening internal communications while also keeping the pulse on employee engagement. In addition to strengthening workplace culture and motivation, recognizing and rewarding employees is an easy way to boost employee experience remotely.
What it means for (digital) employee experience
Employee experience was the top trending employee topic of 2020 and it isn’t hard to understand why. After the year we’ve had, and the likelihood of remote work staying around, many are now referring to a “digital” employee experience instead. In fact, 98% of employees would like to continue working from home in some capacity following the pandemic. While we wait for life to return to some form of normalcy, leaders need to use their employee feedback strategically so the employee experience can remain flexible. Strive to build employee experience strategies that consider remote team members so your organization can support virtual teams while staying ahead of the curve.
Employee feedback is the most powerful resource when it comes to understanding employee engagement and employee experience. While things may not necessarily be "business as usual", including your employees in the conversation is paramount. By simply listening to team members and giving them opportunities to articulate themselves, anyone can craft a killer remote employee experience.
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