It’s all too easy for team members to be distracted when working remotely. There’s laundry to do, the kids aren’t focusing on school, the dog is barking, and yet people are still trying to focus on answering emails and getting reports done. Even when people are at their desk, if they’re lucky enough to have a home office, there are lots of ways to lose focus and become disengaged. 

Remote work has a long list of benefits, but if people aren’t engaged, they can’t work effectively. With that in mind, and looking toward a future with lots more remote work, it’s imperative that leaders make engagement a top priority. 

Make Remote Fundamentals Work

As a leader, it’s important to make it clear that remote work is not much different than working in-person. Sure, the place has changed and there are unique challenges, but the end goals and solutions should be the same. 

Communicate with teams that remote work comes with the same expectations. Just like their in-office counterparts or former selves, remote team members should be…

  • Organized
  • Prepared
  • Respectful of other people’s time
  • Focused on strengthening the relationship

“There’s a tendency for folks to treat remote work differently because they might be in their pajamas while they’re doing it or sitting on their couch,” says Tim Yeomans, FiredUp! Executive Vice President. “Make it clear that your work culture, your expectations are exactly the same.” With that in mind, consider ways you can improve the way people connect when they can’t meet in person. 

woman on the phone doing some remote work

Keys to Successful Digital Connections

In our new and expanding remote work environment, one of the most critical pieces to success is ensuring your connection points are not always focused on tasks. There has been a major loss in the past year of our normal methods for connecting as human beings. This fact alone is having a dramatic impact on the workplace. It becomes essential that we find ways to intentionally build in relationship-building opportunities in the remote-driven workplace. 

“We need to connect to do good work,” says Chris Ihrig, Fired-Up! Culture CEO. That process starts with creating the right environment, building positive interactions, and rethinking ways to create and sustain meaningful relationships with those we work with. 

No matter what your workspace looks like, there are a number of ways to foster true connections, including:

  1. Find time to informally connect with people
  2. Make meetings shorter and more focused
  3. Focus on clarity
  4. Lean into outcomes
  5. Create space for flexibility

Here’s what each one of these steps looks like.

1. Find time to informally connect with people

If it has to be by Zoom, that’s OK. But make the time to check in and connect with the person and their story.  How are they doing? What’s going well? What’s not working? It can’t all be about work and tasks. 

2. Make meetings shorter and more focused

It’s a classic prerogative to do more with less, but it’s all too easy to be frivolous with people’s time. Use group time sparingly, be more nimble, and focus on a balance of task and relationship.

3. Focus on clarity

Ensure everyone knows their role, their responsibilities, and what actions need to be taken. Don’t let other agreements fall through the cracks either, like deadlines or resources to be shared.

4. Lean into outcomes

As a leader, be less focused on how or when a person is getting things done. Instead, create space for creativity by shifting your focus to the results of their work.

5. Create space for flexibility

If there are connection points that need to be honored and stuck to (like everyone being online between 9AM and 11AM), be clear about those expectations. Otherwise, let folks manage their worlds the way they need.

The key is to remember that for consistent and sustainable business results, leading with relationships and finding the right disciplines and rhythms—while also communicating and establishing expectations—is essential, even if they are only online. When communication is all you have, nothing is more important. 

Promote Future Engagement by Communicating Now

By the time the pandemic is over, many offices will have been shuttered for well over a year. That’s not a meaningless break, it is a fundamental shift in the way you and your business work. Talking about what that return to work looks like is just as important as the conversations you had when everyone left. 

As opportunities for in-office work begin to return, many organizations will look at the lessons they learned during the pandemic. Smaller offices and more remote workers means a better bottom line, and many people are looking to establish a more flexible work-from-home lifestyle. But not every industry or team is the same. 

What all this means is that leaders need to take the return to normalcy as seriously and delicately as they treated the descent into the unknown when the pandemic began. 

There’s no faster way to disengage remote workers than to force them to come back to an office five days a week when they’re able to work remotely with a host of other companies. 

Find out what’s best for your team, make the conversation open and meaningful, and tackle any remote working challenges with fairness. 

Want more sincere advice about leading when things get rough? Check out our free resource: A Comprehensive Guide to Leading Through Difficult Times.