Guest Column | April 21, 2020

Working Remotely: How To Keep Employees Engaged

By Priya Iyer, Vee24

Retail Executive

Nearly overnight, most organizations have gone from operating in shared physical spaces to an unchartered world in which every employee works from their homes. Gone are the quick, informal interactions that so often lead to productivity successes, in-person meetings with clients, and more generally, the office culture in which most businesses have historically thrived. While being apart from every team member is new and difficult, Vee24 has several proven best practices that we use, and many organizations can implement them immediately to help their employees feel supported, meet their clients’ needs, and keep their goals on track.

The guidelines we share with our customers when implementing their live engagement strategies are the same rules that we use every day with our teams:

  • One size doesn’t fit all
  • Team goals drive higher performance than individual goals
  • Embrace the variety of channels
  • It’s the perfect opportunity to show off your culture

In an ideal scenario, these guidelines would be set up early on for a remote workforce, but it’s never too late to implement a plan that is communicated to help everyone function more effectively. As with any change to an organization, prepare for an adjustment period and some trial and error, and adjust in ways that best suit the collective culture.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The single most important element in a remote work strategy is flexibility. Managers must be empathetic to all the different circumstances their team may be working under: single parenting, sharing a small space and Wi-Fi with multiple roommates, managing a newborn or multiple children, homeschooling, a working partner who is on calls frequently, or caring for a loved one who is ill. Openly acknowledging these and all other possible barriers to working from home and discussing flexible approaches to accommodating them will make people feel more understood and supported, resulting in less stress and greater productivity, when it’s possible. More often than not, your employees will suggest solutions to the problems themselves – they just need to know that you have an open mind and are willing to work with them.

Without such flexibility, employees may become distant and unmotivated, directly affecting their interactions with customers, having the potential to hurt an organization’s brand in the long run.

Team Goals Drive Higher Performance Than Individual Goals
Make it collaborative. This is important when you are together but when you are distributed, it is almost a necessity. One idea to consider is to set up a team scoreboard and allow each member to add their contribution to the team board. Whatever your targets: the number of new leads, number of sales connects, number of bugs fixed, number of customer issues solved, etc. – create a culture of shared goals. Don’t forget to score the “assists” along with the “goals”. The joy of an assist is almost as powerful as the goal itself and certainly drives the team culture more than the latter. The ability to share your workday with others and know what your teammates are up to can make the difference in enjoying the work from home setup and driving team productivity.

Embrace The Variety Of Channels
Abandon the over-reliance on emails. The variety of channels is the beauty of today – embrace it. Remember that communicating consistently throughout the day is key. Slack, Skype, Zoom, SMS, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Chat, other message, and picture boards, along with email, are all helpful for team communication. Encourage your team to turn on their video when they are on a call as this gets them out of their PJs, showered, and presentable. Create a shared directory where everyone can post their contact information. Leaders can check in with teams in the way they’d like them to check in with each other. For example, do a quick Skype message to check in on your team’s availability every morning, consider scheduling a regular 10-minute Zoom stand-up team call, SMS a team member if it is an urgent message, post a picture of a fun fact on Slack, or send an encouraging status email each night - whatever works best for your organization and culture. Find more ways of providing freedom for your team in this environment of lockdown and quarantine.  

It’s The Best Opportunity To Show-Off Your Culture
Make it fun. Working from home can be difficult and can become frustrating and monotonous quickly. Find those fun cultural additions that easily blend into the workday. Some ideas to consider include starting your Monday sales call with a fun weekend fact or picture, hosting a themed dress-up team day is great for fun pictures, create weekly work games to keep teams engaged and competitive, or host a Thursday night Happy Hour on a video call. Employees should continue to engage with each other over instant messaging and video for playful banter, much like they had in the office, which is a great way to further tighten team dynamics. This is especially important for organizations that have seen a severe downturn in customer service interactions or sales engagements and a great opportunity for newer employees to get acclimated and up to speed faster in their new roles. Your marketing and HR teams are going to love these and you can be sure they’ll persist even when you are back in the office.

In the end, under any circumstances, engaged and happy employees are key to any customer engagement team, whether they are working at the office or working at home. Regular, positive, and empathetic engagement with teams is the key to fostering a successful remote work program. Like any new management initiative, the work-from-home strategy will take some finessing to ensure overall success in any organization’s particular environment. With a solid plan implemented, organizations can create a new virtual office culture to provide a positive and fun environment for their remote teams.

About The Author

With over 25 years of diverse international experience in nearly every facet of software, Priya is a proven, high-growth entrepreneurial CEO with a leadership philosophy centered on engaging clients and employees to build industry-leading SaaS software platforms and delivering exceptional stakeholder value to achieve sustainable competitive differentiation.