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Engaging and motivating remote workers

Tips for keeping your team productive as social distancing keeps many employees out of the office 

woman working on a computer

The adaptability of many companies is on display across Canada as employees do their part to work from home to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. With many staff now working remotely, the challenge for managers is to keep their teams engaged and motivated to keep business moving forward now and as restrictions begin to ease.

Here are six things managers can do to bring their teams together:

1. Create access to information

Ensure everyone has access to the documents they need to get the job done. This may require asking pointed questions like, “Do you have what you need to get started?” Whether your team is working with Microsoft 365 or another platform as your cloud-based productivity suite, they should have what they need to securely store, share and access important files whenever and from wherever they need.

2. Keep your people in the loop (even if it’s a virtual one)

As a leader in your organization, your people will naturally look to you for advice, updates and reassurance. Although you may not have all the answers, keeping teams informed about company policies and evolving protocols is important.

A communication tool such as Microsoft Teams can unite everyone in one place, creating a central location for team meetings, chat, files sharing and collaboration. This is not only a great way for teams to collaborate, but also future-proofs daily operations by enabling your team to get the job done even when they can’t access the office whatever the reason.   

3. Meet regularly, using video when it makes sense

In uncertain times, a routine can not only be comforting, it can also be a productivity booster.  Keep regularly scheduled meetings in everyone’s calendars to maintain the rhythm of your office. Use regular meeting booking processes and tools if possible,  Outlook Calendar is just as useful remotely, and a bit of familiarity can be helpful when adjusting to an unexpected work environment.

4. Use video to meet “face-to-face”

It is easy to feel isolated when all your connections are emails and Instant Messages. It helps to regularly hear people’s voices and see their faces when there isn’t a watercooler or lunchroom anymore. Embracing video calling with the team is also a great way to keep on top of regular work and on the same page through functions like screen sharing. Microsoft Teams is a tried and true tool for video conferencing and collaboration.

Just remember that your employees may not have purchased their personal internet service with multiple home offices and simultaneous childcare in mind—there may be bandwidth issues if other household members are streaming videos and gaming online with the same WiFi—so expect the occasional staff-member to default to voice-only for groups calls.

5. Set clear expectations and look for some quick wins

Some people take to remote work really well, but others will have some adjustments. Set short-term goals that are (initially) fairly simple to achieve—and be clear about how you will measure progress. Now that you’re having regular voice or video calls, you can revisit how the team is progressing toward goals at regular meeting intervals. During times of transition and upheaval, a clear mandate, team engagement and few quick wins go a long way to boosting morale.

6. Encourage personal care

Just like in the office, encourage and cultivate an environment that prioritizes healthy habits. Encouraging staff to take breaks at home, get some fresh air or a cup of tea will not only boost morale but will keep employees engaged and productive. 

In times of uncertainty managers play a key role in maintaining business as usual. Although that may seem like a tall order when the majority of the Canadian workforce is away from their desks and working remotely, the above considerations, along with the right tools, can help keep your team stay motivated and engaged to come to work (virtually) every day.


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