The Work From Home (WFH) lifestyle has become the norm since March of last year (2020). Sure, there was already a small percentage of employees who were working from home, either full-time or part-time. Yet, it was a shock to those who are used to going to the office every day, and most of those thought this would be a short term assignment, that it would be just a matter of a few months before we’d all head back to our traditional work environment that included offices, cubicles, and meeting rooms. Yet here we are, a year later, wondering when we will be back to “business as usual.”
Well, this is the new “business as usual.” Maybe it won’t stay exactly as it is today, but it’s definitely not going back to the way it was pre-COVID-19. While some employees who were thrust into WFH have not only adapted, but also thrived, others have been impatiently waiting for their chance to get back to the office where they can collaborate and socialize with their colleagues. The businesses these employees worked for also experienced what employees have gone through. Some businesses have embraced their new WFH culture, while others can’t wait to bring everyone back in.
The traditional work environment is in an office building. Breaking tradition, even partially, requires more than just doing deciding, “Hey everyone, we’re shutting down our offices. You are now all working from home.” You can’t expect everyone to just “get used to it.” As leaders and managers of a WFH workforce, we must create the culture that keeps employees engaged.
I recently connected with Gal Rimon, Founder and CEO at Centrical, a company specializing in employee engagement and performance. We discussed many different ways to get WFH employees, especially those that were thrown into the WFH culture, to feel great about their new situation. Here are five ways to help WFH employees love their jobs and the company they work for:
1. Recognition: Remote employees need to know they are doing a good job. It’s easy to pick up on feelings and emotions when you’re face-to-face, working with people every day in the same building. The manager that smiles at you throughout the day is validating. WFH employees need to know they are doing well and are appreciated for their work. It could be a one-on-one video conversation, a handwritten note (which is very powerful), or a video email thanking the employee for job well done.
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2. Onboarding: For new employees, engage with them before they ever start the job. The right welcome – before their first day – sends a positive message. You can send a welcome box filled with company swag, have two or three peers reach out to welcome them. Remember, they aren’t going to have a typical onboarding where they may be given a tour and introduced to their new colleagues. Working from home takes a little more effort to get new employees properly engaged.
3. Opportunity: Motivation comes in many forms. WFH employees need a sense of security, and one of the ways to do that is to train for future opportunities in the company. They must know there is a path for advancement, or at least an opportunity to learn. What skills are you training them for that will help them grow and be more effective at their current and future roles? Employees love knowing there is an opportunity for them to grow and be more successful within your organization.
4. Social: Humans are social people, and most of us would rather be together than apart. Create opportunities for WFH employees to connect with each other outside of work-related meetings. Virtual happy hours and virtual game nights are ways to get the WFH virtual workforce to bond. One of the favorite ideas we implemented at our company when everyone was virtual was a daily funny YouTube video that was shown at the end of our mid-day meeting. Everyone looked forward to sharing some laughs. We appointed the HR director – as in Humor (not Human) Resource – to help us have our daily laugh.
5. Coach: The best managers are great coaches. Leaders need to properly engage with their WFH employees. Be it in a group setting or one-on-one, a good coaching session can create fulfillment and confidence for the employee. Showing employees that you notice their work can create a sense of pride. Praise wins, big and small, for individual and groups.
In the next year, we can expect to see more and more employees heading back to the traditional office environment. But it won’t get back to levels prior to the pandemic. “Most research indicates that about 20% of employees will continue to work from home on a continuous basis post-pandemic,” Rimon said. “It’s a big part of the future of work and, as such, requires a WFH-form of employee engagement, training, and performance management. Doing that will result in those employees excelling at their jobs, their customers having an amazingly positive experience, and their company enjoying real success.”