Today’s work environment is fundamentally different than it was a year ago. Across the world, people have traded the break rooms for living rooms, cubicles for closets, and co-workers for kids.
With so many people working from home, leaders are left struggling to figure out how to engage with team members who aren’t physically present. Moving forward, it’s unclear how long this shift will last. For leaders, now is the time to commit to a mindset change.
Why? Because remote working presents unique opportunities to actually improve engagement.
Understanding the Challenges of Remote Work
“Nobody cares what you know as a leader until they know you care.” — Tim Yeomans, Executive Vice President at FiredUp!
Remote working presents challenges for everyone, but few populations have been harder hit than employees with young children.
Balancing the role of employee, parent, and teacher is emotionally and physically exhausting.
As a leader, you can have two mindsets about the situation. You can demand that team members maintain the same schedule and level of responsiveness they had at the office. Or, you can work with those parents to create a schedule that allows them the space and time to be great parents and great co-workers.
Practical Tips for Re-Engaging Remote Workers
“Great leaders show up and meet people where they are with empathy, with kindness, and with creativity so this can be successful.” — Chris Ihrig, CEO at FiredUp!
When working remotely, it’s easy to become disengaged. Our homes are full of distractions, especially when kids are home.
“It’s really easy to set it up so it won’t work. If you’ve got kids running around at home and I expect you to be on a Zoom Meeting at 8:30 in the morning, guess what’s not going to work? There’s going to be nothing but pajamas, chaos, Honey Nut Cheerios stuck to the screen,” says Tim Yeomans.
Leaders who fight these distractions only add to the stress of people working remotely.
Instead, you must find ways to accept and work around those distractions. Because, in all reality, there are lots of benefits to working from home, including reduced commutes for employees and lower operating costs for businesses.
So, how can leaders re-engage with remote workers? It’s all about demonstrating that you care.
- Have empathy. The shift to remote work is hard on everyone. Respect those challenges and look for opportunities to meet people where they’re at.
- Set people up for success. Don’t grind them into place. If parents need two hours of free time in the morning to get their kids set up for school, find a way to give them that space.
- Offer proactive support. Go to your team members and actively help them find ways to make remote work meet their needs. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
- Be flexible. Allow team members to create schedules that reflect the times when they’re most available and productive.
The truth of the matter is, we can’t watch everybody every minute, all the time. Grinding them into place or demanding they be present from 9 to 5 translates to a measure of obedience, not productivity.
It’s unclear how long mandatory remote work will last, but leaders who demonstrate kindness, empathy, and patience create opportunities to expose its benefits, for organizations and team members.
Remote work reduces commute times, lowers operating costs, and can contribute to a better work-life balance for team members.
With the right mindset, organizations can take the lessons learned during the pandemic and create a hybrid work environment in the years to come.
Flexible, empathic, remote work is just one way leaders can create a better culture and improve engagement. But it’s just the beginning. Find out how to truly revolutionize your culture by downloading our free workbook.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.