Remote work – or working from home – started out as a perk or benefit in a bid to attract the top talent.
Then along came COVID, making remote working the norm rather than the rarity.
Whether you’re used to your team working remotely or you’ve been reluctantly plunged into the world of remote working, one thing remains constant – a great team is simply a great team, whether they’re sitting together in an office or working remotely from their own homes.
Remote workers have different values to their office-based counterparts though – they’re not interested in parking spaces, season ticket loans, or on-site gyms.
So how do you keep your remote workers happy, engaged and loyal?
It’s not about perks
You can throw as many perks at remote workers as you like. And while these perks will undoubtedly be gratefully received, all the perks in the world won’t keep them loyal if their heart’s not in it.
Rewards and incentives only work for the short-term, and for real loyalty, dedication and commitment, people need to work for a company they care about and a company that shows they care about their workforce in return.
Below are a few ways to keep your team members feeling valued.
Monitor the atmosphere
Don’t be scared by the word ‘monitor’ – I don’t mean you should get all Big Brother on your team and install surveillance cameras to spy on them 24/7, just be aware of what’s going on.
When everyone is together in the office, you can sense if there’s a bad atmosphere by seeing the unhappy faces, picking up on office gossip and overhearing angry words.
When your team is remote, it’s not so easy to sense a bad atmosphere but, just because your team aren’t sitting next to each other, that doesn’t mean tensions don’t arise.
You want harmony and cohesion between your remote team just the same as an office-based one. With the absence of tone of voice, body language or facial expressions, misunderstandings are easily made.
No matter how many smiley face emoticons accompany a message, it’s easy to come across the wrong way. If you do sense there’s conflict in the team, you need to step in and sort it out quickly before things escalate.
Don’t relax in the knowledge that ‘no news is good news’ though. The shy and introverted on your team may be suffering in silence, not wanting to make a fuss. If you feel this is the case, have a chat and ask if everything’s okay and if there’s anything you can do.
Everything out in the open
It’s not just feelings that need to be out in the open – there’s nothing more frustrating than being held up in your work because you can’t find that file or document you need to progress on to the next stage.
Don’t let one person hold the important stuff that everyone needs access to. Use software such as Basecamp where everything’s in one place – files, documents, to-do lists and also calendars so they can see who’s around and who isn’t.
And while I’m on the subject of technology – don’t let your team’s home equipment be a source of frustration either. Get them computers or laptops that are up to the job along with signal boosters or decent routers so they get fast, consistent internet.
Meet their needs
Keep in touch regularly to make sure they’ve got everything they need – is their equipment working properly? Do they need additional training in anything? Do their hours suit?
Remember, remote working should mean people can have flexible hours, especially if the work they do is results-based, rather than time-at-desk based. Also take into consideration their emotional wellbeing and acknowledge that working from home throws up its own obstacles.
Ask how they’re adapting to remote-working life and, if they have commitments at home such as child-care, are they managing to structure their time around this? If someone is struggling to juggle work with other commitments, maybe they’d appreciate some time-management training? Or perhaps they’re feeling overwhelmed and just need some time off to relax and recharge.
Speaking of time off, many businesses allow their staff to take a sabbatical after x number of years. A sabbatical can be anything from a few weeks to a year but however long it’s for, it’s a decent chunk of time that allows them to completely switch off from work and focus on time to themselves, their interests or their family.
Pay for the job, not the location
Remote work levels the playing field for opportunities and now so many companies are remote-based and will remain so once the pandemic has passed, people looking for a job no longer have the geographic boundaries they once had.
Just because someone lives in the suburbs and not the city, that doesn’t mean you should pay them a suburban salary. You should pay the same wherever they’re from – equal pay for equal work. They’re doing the same job and, if they feel they’re being treated like a second-class worker based on their location, they’ll look elsewhere.
‘Pay peanuts, get monkeys’.
As I said at the beginning – a great team is simply a great team. Look after them and you’ll be rewarded with a team that’s happy, productive and loyal.