After more than a year of living through a pandemic and a sharp increase in the number of people working remotely, everyone knows the drill. However, it’s important that managers find ways to keep the energy of their teams high and make sure everyone is making the most of the day. When your team is largely out of sight, it can be more difficult to ensure that everyone is still engaged and that you spot the signs of burnout early.
Here are a few ideas to help you freshen up the remote work routine for your team and give everyone a real boost.
We all know how important it is to communicate when working remotely, especially when our ability to socialise has been limited. Just saying ‘good morning’ or having a quick catch up can make a real difference first thing in the morning. On the other hand, plenty of us know the feeling of joining yet another video call that we feel isn’t strictly necessary.
To make sure their team members still see and speak to each other regularly but don’t feel like they’re wasting time, managers might want to consider an extremely short call each morning to act as an update and a bit of a social boost, energising everyone for the day ahead. For example, you could stage this as a bit of a quick-fire round, each team member has a certain amount of time to summarise what they’re working on and their progress before moving onto the next person. A brief opportunity for follow-up questions and then you’re done and dusted in no time. Encourage further follow up via instant message or email or even a further call between the relevant team members.
At the same time as implementing something like this, take a look at your calendar and the calendars of your team overall and review the meetings being booked in. Is everything in there essential and are they booked in for a sensible amount of time? For example, is a catch-up that should take about 20 mins booked in for an hour? Or is there a surprising lack of meetings there at all. This is an easy way of spotting issues with communication and using your time and that of your team more efficiently.
If your team has been working very closely with one another but not with other departments, you might want to consider a project that requires collaboration with other people in the business. This doesn’t have to be a major project but throwing some new voices into the mix can really help freshen up ideas and make things a little more interesting. It’s also a way for your team to meet new people and that will help those that miss the social aspect of the office.
The project could be something as simple as writing a blog post for the company website that requires input from multiple teams. This is the sort of exercise that won’t take up huge chunks of time from high priority tasks but can act as a nice break from more full-on tasks and encourage a bit of collaboration. When your team members return to their own tasks they may well find that they have a bit more energy and perhaps a few new ideas to try as well.
Unfortunately, not everyone can be working on exactly what they’d like to be all the time. However, it should be possible to ensure that there are some tasks in the mix that your employees are really passionate about and that are helping them develop professionally.
In your next one-to-one meeting with each member of your team, ask them to pick an aspect of their job that they’d really like to work on or if there are any areas they’d like to upskill in. From this, you should be able to establish what sort of tasks they need to be doing and try to incorporate these into their workload.
You might find that there are a few tasks that could be assigned to different team members who would find them more engaging and could expand their skills in new areas. Or that the more admin-heavy tasks that are important but not particularly interesting could be more evenly spread between the team.
When working remotely, it’s really important that you still give your team the same opportunities to develop and improve as they would if they were in the office. Continue training as planned, you may just have to translate sessions into a more digital-friendly format. If you’re finding this a little tricky, there are now lots of online resources available for training in all sorts of industries. Do some research and see if you can find anything appropriate.
While opportunities to get everyone together and attend a conference might be thin on the ground, you might want to consider getting some of the experts who would be speaking at those conferences to do a session with your team.
Getting a friendly bit of competition going between your team members can really help to give things a boost and inject a bit of energy. Offer up a prize, gift cards can make good incentives, and set your team a challenge. For example, if you work in design, you could set everyone the same brief and then have a vote on the best result. You could see who can come up with the most ideas for the next company podcast or blog post. Or, you could try something not related to work but that will encourage your team to stay healthy, such as a weekly steps competition.
If possible, get everyone working on the same thing at the same time for a few hours each day, or at least a few hours a week. This will encourage communication and will act as a team building exercise as well. It can give a team a boost when they work on something together and make faster progress and come up with better ideas than they would do on their own.
At the start of the pandemic when we were decamping from our offices to our kitchen tables, the worry was that staff wouldn’t be doing enough work out of sight of their managers. The opposite has actually become the problem for many, with workers struggling to find the off switch at the end of the day and feeling guilty when they finally do close their laptops. This could leave your team feeling stressed and tired and at risk of burning out which isn’t good for their mental and physical health or their productivity.
If you start noticing that emails are coming through before or after official hours or it becomes clear that team members aren’t taking their breaks, make sure you take action. Remind them in their next one-to-one meeting with you that time away from work is important. They might well find that their work starts to improve with a bit more downtime for their body and brain to recover properly after the working day.
If you haven’t done so already, now would be a good time to gather some feedback from your team. You could do this in a variety of ways, from an anonymous questionnaire to verbal feedback in your next one-to-one meetings. Choose the method that you feel would be best for the people on your team. The information that you gather could be key in improving remote work for your team. You might discover a trend that most people want communication to be clearer or they need more frequent updates as to progress with a project overall. An individual may be struggling to balance their work life with their home life. Take all of this feedback and act on it. After all, remote work is set to play a much bigger role in the future of our working lives.
Whether you’re working remotely or in an office, there’s a danger that things can become a bit stale or monotonous for your team if you don’t switch things up occasionally. When working remotely, it’s especially important that you look out for the danger signs as they may not be as obvious when you’re not seeing your team face-to-face regularly. Make sure you act quickly and appropriately in order to keep energy levels high and motivation strong. Even better, try some of these tips before motivation levels start dropping and the team’s productivity slips along with it.