Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind

Gallup has consistently found that flexi-time and remote opportunities play a major role in whether people leave or take a job. Employers are being pushed to break down long-established practices that affect our work. More people are working from home. In 2016, 43% of the American workforce did.

Considering its demand, how valued and engaged do remote workers feel? The answer isn’t pleasant. Research by VitalSmarts shows that employees working from home report feeling cornered and forgotten.

In a poll of 1500 employees, 52% said they work from home. They report that coworkers make changes to projects without informing them, find it challenging to make their opinions matter, and resolve conflict. When faced with common workplace challenges, 84% said the concern dragged on for a few days or more.

The result: negative impact on productivity, costs, deadlines, morale, stress, and retention.

What’s the way out of this, given that millennials and the Gen Z is probably going to want to work from home more and more? Here are some ideas, from the survey respondents themselves:

  1. Initiate face-to-face communication. One in four respondents said that managers who insisted on some face time with remote employees were more successful in making them feel like part of a team. Encourage remote members to use video conferencing for team meetings, and have weekly video check-ins.

Why? Our facial expressions help us understand and feel key human emotions, like happiness, sadness, and fear. Noticing expressions of others is also a socialization process to gauge humor, concern, empathy, or support. Moreover, mirroring each other’s expressions builds deeper empathy.

  1. Prioritize building relationships. To create a sense of camaraderie amongst remote team members, form personal bonds with them. Use a weekly check-in time to ask about their personal life or hobbies. Create a digital version of the ‘watercooler’ conversation, to build connection.

Why? It’s all about understanding people’s motivations, hopes, and challenges, to create an environment and feedback mechanisms where they can feel valued and seen. A University of New South Wales study found this to have the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity.

  1. Establish clear expectations both ways. It’s a process for setting healthy and acceptable boundaries for performance, engagement, communication, and a thriving work relationship. Managers who are direct with their expectations of employees have happier teams, as no one is in the dark about updates and changes. Lack of the same is considered one of the biggest stressors.

Why? There is a strong link between clear expectations and high achievement. They serve as guidelines for achievement. This is also a way to instill self-confidence and belief in your employees.

In essence, lack of close contact with people inhibits the formation of trust, connection, and mutual purpose. If other measures seem challenging, just make it a point to be available.

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