By Juliane Sterzl, VP of UK&I at CoachHub
2020 has been an incredibly tough year for businesses. Employees across all sectors have been required to adapt to significant changes both in their professional and personal lives, and all whilst dealing with the stress of a global pandemic.
The biggest change to the way businesses operate has been the shift to remote work, with ONS figures showing 40% of the UK workforce working from home in November 2020, compared with just 5.6% regularly working remotely pre-pandemic. While some staff will have embraced this new reality, enjoying the chance to spend more time with loved ones, without having to commute, others will be struggling with self-motivation, time management, and an increased sense of isolation.
For managers, the challenge lies in accommodating the needs of all their employees simultaneously, despite the different circumstances of each individual, all whilst ensuring the demands of the business are still met.
The cost of disengagement
When we factor in fears over health and income stability, the constant news cycle of depressing stories and the lack of social activities on offer, it’s no surprise that over 80% of respondents to a McKinsey survey reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has materially affected the quality of their work.
Coupled with the lack of face-to-face interaction and or in-person team building, it’s easy to see how quickly people can become disengaged and lose interest whilst working remotely. It’s a manager’s job to identify and support those who may be disengaging; whether that’s a usually chatty co-worker who has gone silent on team Zoom calls, or a drop in output from your best salesperson. The aim is not to call people out and worry them, but rather to inspire and support each member of the team to deliver to the best of their abilities, recognising their There are several means to achieving this.
Creating social moments
Scheduling time for fun and sociable activities during the working day can have a significant effect on employee wellbeing and overall productivity. A 2015 study found that staff who took part in social events were on average 12% more productive than employees who didn’t, along with having an increased sense of belonging within the team.
These social moments could vary from a regular virtual coffee morning to online classes and workshops, and it’s important to offer activities that are accessible to all members of the team regardless of position or income. Scheduled breaks from work that are endorsed by management can provide a safe space for staff to relax and chat, and will help to foster those crucial bonds of cohesion, which are required for successful teamwork.
Utilising a strengths based approach to feedback
Appraisals and performance reviews are a key part of any managerial role, but can be particularly challenging to get right remotely. Anxiety and fear are common responses, especially if the subject has been dealing with difficult personal circumstances or has struggled with adapting to remote work.
To help reports receive the best feedback and plan for improvement, managers should utilise the strengths-based approach. Instead of focusing on areas where performance has lacked, the discussion should centre around the employee’s strengths, and what they feel they could improve on. It’s important to create an open dialogue and to be understanding of the fact that for many this year has brought considerable hardships and loss. By taking this positive approach we can ensure that no one logs off feeling deflated and worried, but rather motivated and inspired to push themselves to succeed.
Investing in people
People are the heart of any organisation, and it’s important not to lose sight of this from behind the computer screen. Feeling valued at work is a vital component of employee happiness and productivity, and one way to show reports that you value them is to invest in training and upskilling.
This could take the form of enrolling your team in an online class or webinar, facilitating individuals to take new qualifications or work experience internally in subjects that interest them, or providing access to coaching and mentorship. One of the benefits to remote work is the opportunity to access global talent from the comfort of home, and employees can benefit from one-to-one coaching and individualised plans without needing to travel or incur expenses. Investing in people is key to reducing staff turnover and increasing happiness, and the pandemic has provided the ideal opportunity to focus on the individuals within each team and get to the core of how they can be supported best.
Regardless of any special measures you choose to implement to cater for remote work, the core foundations of managing any successful team will always be respect, an ability to listen, and a drive to help everyone work to the best of their ability. There are many ways to communicate these values virtually, and by getting to know your team and taking on individual feedback and requirements, managers can help to make 2020 a year of positive change for the way we work.