With the following tips from our own experience, you can boost your employees’ mood without much effort. Reduce remote work frustration and increase fun, morale and productivity. Your employees will remember how you mastered the crisis. If you act with a sense of humanity now, you will gain long-term loyalty and higher productivity.
Even if remote working has become routine after several months, some people are still overwhelmed by the uncertainty that there is no sure end in sight. First companies have already announced that they will maintain remote work until the end of 2020. To prioritize employee safety in this way is commendable. But just now, when remote work is permanent, the desire for more variety is growing.
Digitalized companies were easily able to meet the technical challenge of the sudden move to remote work. One variable that few people have thought about before, however, is the emotional strain that arises from working in isolation for long periods of time.
Increased satisfaction with a hidden tipping point
Working from home increases satisfaction. This is not a new discovery, but the situation in the spring of 2020 makes it even more apparent to us. People who work remotely for the first time are particularly enthusiastic. Many even wish to be allowed to work from home more often after the crisis.
Nevertheless, the current situation is not comparable with remote work of the past or the future. Currently, remote work is not a complementary but a permanent solution. Therefore, extreme conditions apply: Social isolation, spatial monotony, strict routine – all of these factors put pressure on our minds when we are exposed to them for too long at a time. On top of that, such an affected mood quickly becomes a trigger and amplifier of other common remote work problems like inertia – or at the other end of the spectrum – overexertion. So it’s important to create social moments that break up the monotony.
1. Involve everyone, forget no one
For the effective coordination of all activities it is first of all necessary to create a fixed point of contact for all information. An internal news portal ensures that all employees have the same level of information at all times. Nobody feels excluded because a newsletter was inadvertently not received. Even more flexible is a mobile news feed via app, which sends updates to the work phones via push notification. Regular news about the company send a signal: The daily work routine continues as usual. Not every day is the same, even if it sometimes feels that way.
Transparency also provides a feeling of security. Those who trust their company can concentrate better on their work. In addition, this helps you prevent false rumours that can arise more often in difficult times.
So before you get down to the details, you need to create trust across the board. Communicate all the latest news – both on the crisis situation and on ordinary business issues – reliably and openly. New projects and products, but also problems should be part of the news program. In other words: Everything that would otherwise be regulated by the office grapewine.
Since a familiar face in front of the camera inspires more trust than a written text ever could, you should additionally establish a regular livestream for more extensive information. In this stream, your communication team or your management can personally deliver the news in front of the camera.
In general, regular contact between management and employees is important. Who is doing well working remotely, who has problems with it? Encourage your employees to give you feedback. The easiest way to do this is to use a dedicated tool. With an Experience Management app, for example, you can easily send questions to your employees and get a quick overview of the situation in the company.
2. How to turn the virtual coffee break into a highlight
Talking regularly with colleagues in video chat creates a sense of normalcy, which leads to a more balanced attitude. Unfortunately, insights into the lives of fellow human beings quickly become lost when project discussions by e-mail dominate communication. So your next goal is to get even more people in front of the camera and to unite the teams despite physical distance. The easiest and at the same time most effective way is to proactively promote virtual tea and coffee breaks.
During their breaks or after work, your employees may understandably prefer activities away from their work equipment. It is therefore important to communicate that these short breaks are not only tolerated but even desired during working hours. In everyday office life, the short conversation in the corridor or at the coffee machine fills the social gap. When working remotely, the important interpersonal exchange must be actively promoted by the company, as a call for private issues would otherwise feel like skipping work.
By allowing coffee breaks during working hours, you ensure active participation that is not influenced by free time plans. The best solution is to schedule such virtual meetings firmly in the teams’ calendars. Every week at the same times – so there is an exact time frame that everyone can take into account.
3. A peek into the new remote offices
Anyone who sits in a shared office every day knows exactly what the desks of their colleagues look like. When working remotely, this aspect of team spirit is missing. Therefore, to ensure that everyone knows where the others are currently working, you should create even more opportunities for personal insights in addition to coffee breaks. And “where” does not mean the address of the remote offices. For example, use your news feed for a company-wide call for voluntary submission of remote working impressions. These can be simple pictures of desks, photos of lunch from the kitchen at home, funny snapshots of pets or children – the photo album that results will give your employees the feeling of knowing each other better, even beyond departmental boundaries.
4. Permanently encourage praise and recognition
In remote work, where chat and e-mail dominate, we often forget to praise our colleagues for help or cooperation. Very few people write dedicated thank you messages that go beyond short phrases. Yet recognition is one of the most important factors that drive us – and every boost to motivation is worth its weight in gold when working remotely. Those who are praised in their everyday work feel appreciated and make more of an effort to help colleagues. One’s own work appears more meaningful when the direct effect on the working environment can be felt.
One way to promote praise and recognition is to establish a social platform that exclusively serves this purpose. Most popular Reward and Recognition Tools can further promote mutual praise through a points, reward or gift system. The introduction of such a platform does not happen overnight, but it does increase the motivation of your employees in the long term for comparatively little effort.
5. Common interests – the secret weapon for social moments
Basically, every opportunity to interact with other people counts – especially if these interactions are not based on tasks and pure productivity. In order for your employees to make new contacts while working remotely – for example with people from other departments or other locations – you need to be creative. Find intersections of interests, lower inhibition thresholds and start dynamic interaction despite social distancing.
An easy way to target potential intersections of interest is to share a music playlist across the company; after all, everyone has an opinion on music. Once shared on the intranet, employees can share their favorite remote work hits under the appropriate link to the streaming platform and thus make everyday life sweeter for others. Such a mixtape creates an exciting cross-section of music tastes in the company and will certainly lead to exciting, passionate discussions – either in a private conversation or in a dedicated playlist chat that you can create for this project. As is well known, music connects and thus creates new contacts in no time at all.
More productivity through less pressure to be productive
All these suggestions for social productivity breaks enhance the subsequent concentration and motivation of all involved. The bottom line is that spring 2020 is the best proof that reliable work can be done remotely and without spatial verification. The emergency situation has inevitably dispelled the most widespread concerns about the remote workplace. But your communication must create the right conditions to achieve and maintain such success. After all, permanent remote work is not only a logistical challenge, but first and foremost a social one. Digital processes may provide the basis for working from a distance, but the right software alone is not enough in the long term.
We look forward to a future in which remote work will experience more tolerance and will be increasingly promoted. Easier childcare, more time with the family, less travel stress, lunch on the balcony or in the garden, food from the kitchen at home… All this makes for a happier life. And happy employees work more productively, more carefully and appreciate their company more. Now it is up to your communication to iron out the social stumbling blocks of remote work. Only with your help can your colleagues enjoy the benefits of remote work to the fullest now.