Encouraging Remote Employees: Why Shouting Down the Hall Won’t Work

So you’ve heard how remote work can promote job satisfaction, productivity, and save you real money. Your company has decided to offer remote working positions and you can’t wait to get started. But have you prepared for the challenges of having a remote workforce? Have you thought about how you’re going to show employee recognition when you can no longer walk down the hall and tell them facetoface or throw them an office party?  

Here are three great ways to make your remote employees feel valued and recognized. 

Stay Connected 

If you’ve got a remote workforce, chances are you have an online chat system to keep them easily connected. (If you don’t, you’re missing out on a vital resource). Online chat forums are a great place to recognize individuals and teams both in group conversations and oneononeThis is a great space to offer more informal and consistent encouragement and recognition for smaller, more frequent accomplishments. 

Going beyond “good job” 

Close the distance between you and your employees by being specific when you thank them for their work. What did they explicitly do to deserve positive recognition? Highlighting key moments and challenges they overcame shows them you are paying attention to their work.  Feeling seen for specific accomplishments promotes a sense of closeness and connection that is easily lost when you don’t have a shared office space.  

Support their space (and their backs) 

Make sure they’re comfortable. A great way to show you value your remote workers is to offer them a budget for upgrading their inhome workspaces. Help them build a comfortable, functional workspace by providing a budget for key office supplies such as a good chair, wrist supports for their mouse pad and keyboard and supporting tech that optimizes their space.  

There are many, many ways to encourage an atmosphere of recognition and community in your remote workforce. Make sure you do your research and put time into figuring out what works best for your team’s particular needs and location. If they are based close enough to each other, you could encourage employee outings, or monthly meetings where you can have the chance to thank and encourage your team face to face.  

Whatever ways you chose to thank them, make sure you have a way of gauging what works best and be open to improving the systems you put in place. Remember, employees who feel valued, value their position. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by rawpixel 

Have You Trained a Manager Today? Here’s Why You Should.

Of course you train your new hires on how to do their jobs. That’s a given. But what about your newly minted supervisors? Are you teaching them how to be good at managing people and processes? If not, you should be.

Being a good manager or supervisor requires a combination of hard skills, soft skills, and most importantly, people skills. If you’re expecting every new manager to come in hardwired with these things, you’ll be in for some serious disappointment. Even when you’re dealing with highly experienced supervisors, they may be bringing management techniques with them that aren’t aligned with your company culture, values, or style. 

Don’t assume your managers know what to do

It’s common to promote your most capable employees and assume they will be capable leaders, but just because someone is good at their work doesn’t mean they will be good at managing people.

Effective supervisors require some very specific skills that they may not have needed or learned in the past. Critical managerial skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Performance management
  • Conflict management
  • Process management
  • Time management

It’s likely your supervisors will come into the job strong in a few areas but leaving them to figure out the rest on their own isn’t a good strategy for long term success. The longer you let them flounder, the more likely they are to make mistakes. And when you’re talking about managing people, these kinds of mistakes can have huge consequences.

Finding the balance

Managing people is part art, part science.

The art:

  • There’s the art of developing people in a structured, helpful, and positive way to bring out their best.
  • There’s the art of educating and incentivizing people to both buy into and work to achieve company goals.
  • There’s the art of managing conflict in a healthy and constructive manner.
  • And perhaps most importantly, there’s the art of communicating your various messages in an effective way. This means being responsive and receptive to what employees have to say. When it’s good news, this may seem easy. When it’s a difficult conversation or challenging feedback, not so much. Good managers need to approach tough topics in a way that still feels professional and respectful.

The science:

  • Knowing the ins and outs of your employee handbook so you can enforce rules and reinforce behaviors.
  • Understanding all relevant policies, laws, and regulations to make sure all processes and managers are in compliance.
  • Creating appropriate performance metrics based on individual and company goals, results, and outcomes, and following performance management procedures accurately.

Not training your managers on these kinds of things can lead to some very uncomfortable (and expensive!) situations.

Management training tips

The art:

  • Make sure you have supervisory role models and mentors on your team.
  • Talk about management styles and philosophy.
  • Provide classes on conflict management, dispute resolution, effective communication, and sensitivity.
  • Create a culture that values open communication and collaborative efforts.
  • Support ongoing leadership development.

The science:

  • Train your team on your employee manual and all other corporate policies.
  • Clarify organizational expectations and priorities.
  • Make sure all managerial procedures are well defined.
  • Create a library of tools and resources to help new managers develop their skills and confidence.

At the end of the day, it’s important to hold your managers and supervisors accountable not just for the hard skills they bring, but for their soft skills as well.

Not sure where to start? Consider using a skills assessment for managers and supervisors to help determine key strengths and weaknesses. You may also want to bring in an outside leadership expert and/or training company to help get your team up to speed.

Whether your managers are just starting out or have been doing it for years, chances are all of them have somewhere they can improve.

Bad management can cause good employees to walk out the door— and nobody wants that to happen. Training your managers on how to effectively lead their teams well will help everyone be their best.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Lois McCleary

 

When Remote Work Doesn’t Work

Remote work has become more popular than ever, with both businesses and employees embracing its many benefits: increased flexibility and productivity, reduced commute times and operational costs, and happier workers.

But with remote work becoming more widespread, these same employees and businesses may also be discovering the potential downsides of remote work.

The truth is, remote work isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. If you’re wondering if it’s right for you, here are some things to consider.

Remote work isn’t for every business

Offering remote work isn’t always possible. There are plenty of companies who simply can’t function without having their people onsite. Examples include restaurants, retail outlets, and other service-oriented businesses. From production facilities to shipping companies to construction firms, many organizations need their employees to be physically present. 

Other companies have the capacity to offer remote work in a limited capacity for certain kinds of employees or under particular circumstances. These businesses will need to determine where telecommuting will and won’t work and then strive to make it available where, when, and how it makes sense.

Some organizations place a very high value on the connection that comes with sharing ideas, successes, failures, and yes— space— on a day to day basis. While these companies may be well-suited to providing remote work options, if there is a strong commitment to building a culture of in-person collaboration and teamwork, they may not want to.

Business owners will want to carefully evaluate their situation to determine whether or not remote working is a good fit.

Remote work concerns for employers include:

  • Employee accountability
  • Performance management
  • Creating/enforcing remote work policy
  • Logistics (training, technology, etc.)
  • Data and device security
  • Low engagement
  • High turnover

These are all valid concerns. In order for a remote work program to be successful, each these things will need to be addressed through the following.

1.) A well-thought-out policy 

Dealing with remote work in general terms or on a case by case basis may work for a while, but this will eventually lead to more questions than answers. A policy that has set parameters is much easier to execute, enforce, and promote. If you do decide to offer remote options, make sure you’ve designed a plan that is in line with your company values and doubles as an effective recruiting and retention tool.

2.) Plenty of manager and employee training

Managing a team can be difficult no matter where you are, but supervising remote employees brings additional challenges. Make sure anyone who has direct reports receives training on how to effectively support, mentor and evaluate remote employees. You’ll also want to establish clear guidelines for holding remote staff accountable. Your remote employees will need to have expectations spelled out for them. Are they expected to have set hours? How will they track their time and accomplishments? What metrics will they be measured on? Make sure they get full tutorials on all of the technology required to do their jobs. If they are struggling remotely, it will affect performance and morale. And you may never even know about it.

3.) Enhanced communication and technology strategies

Remote teams aren’t just in different offices or departments. They can also be in different cities, countries, and time zones. This makes communication more complex. Make sure you have a variety of ways for your team to reach out and stay connected. Project management, video conference, and instant messaging platforms can all be very helpful additions to your technology toolbox— as long as people are trained and committed to using them.

4.) Finding ways to create and maintain a sense of team cohesion

Depending on just how remote your team is, this may require a significant amount of imagination, creativity, and investment. If your employees are close enough, consider requiring regular meet-ups either at your office or offsite. If your team is more spread out, try getting them together for annual or semi-annual team meetings, retreats, or planning sessions. You may also want to try:

  • Hosting local team events that encourage nearby employees to meet in person.
  • Sending small groups of employees to relevant industry conferences together
  • Assigning internal mentors to new employees or those who have recently joined a new team, project, or department.
  • Having regular video chats and calls. Video can also be a great tool to introduce new employees, send messages from leadership, announce company news, recognize team members, or just have a little fun.

If your leadership isn’t ready to tackle these four areas, remote work may not be a good fit for your business. At least not right now, anyway.

A telecommuting strategy isn’t something you can throw together in a haphazard way. Doing so is sure to get you haphazard results. If that’s what you’ve done and it’s not working for you, perhaps it’s time to get a bit more serious about your plan.

When it makes sense and is executed well, remote work can be a great option for many employees and businesses. Why not take the time to find out if you’re one of them?

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Photo by belchonock 

Are You Working Remotely or Remotely Working?

Remote work is getting a lot of attention right now. So is oat milk. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody. Every business is different, and so is every employee.

If you mention working remotely to a group of people, you’ll likely get two distinct reactions:

  • A dreamy look crossing the face of those imagining days of peaceful productivity with no commute, no interruptions, and total freedom over their schedules.
  • A visible shudder from those trying to picture getting any work done in a home office with no structure, no coworkers, and an endless swirl of constant distraction.

Some people love the freedom of managing their own time. Others crave routine, structure, and guidance. Some employees thrive in environments full of people and noise and chaos. Others crave chunks of uninterrupted quiet time and working independently.

The remote work trend

It’s no secret that today’s employees and job candidates are looking for flexibility and work-life balance. When employees say they value remote working options, they mean it. But they may not have actually done it. Which means they may not be prepared for the reality of it.

Here are some common things remote employees struggle with:

  • Isolation
  • Anonymity
  • Disengagement
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Lack of leadership/guidance/communication
  • No clear line between work and home
  • Distractions (too many or not enough)

Sometimes these challenges are temporary and disappear once a healthy and effective remote work routine is established.

Other times, these issues are more about the person than the structure.

If you’re the kind of person who hates leaving things unfinished and your office is right down the hall, this can quickly lead to overworking and burnout.

If you’re the kind of person who gets easily distracted and has a hard time reining yourself back in after an interruption, your home office could be a recipe for disaster.

Despite all the shiny promises and benefits of remote work, the truth is it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Remote employees may find themselves craving more quality face time or office time, and some businesses may be wondering if they should continue to offer telecommuting options or try to shove their remote work program back into the magic bottle it came out of.

In either scenario, there are some good lessons to be learned here.

Whether you’re a business owner trying to figure out how to offer remote options or an employee trying to work remotely, sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. Admitting this is the first step to finding a solution that is.

What works for you? 

Having a solid remote work policy can reduce business operation costs and open up a whole new candidate pool for employers. It can also be a big differentiator when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.

Employees say they want to work from home, but what they really want is the flexibility to balance the many demands of work, family, and life. Sometimes this means remote work, but it could also mean something else. A flexible schedule, paid time off, employer sponsored healthcare, or some other workplace benefit.

If remote isn’t working for you or your organization, don’t try to force that square peg into a round hole. Work on finding something that fits.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

How to Keep Your Workplace Safe

We know what you’re thinking: Did this guy fall or is he just breakdancing? When it comes to evaluating risk at work, things may not always be what they appear. Something you may think is perfectly safe could have hidden risks. And something that looks like a disaster could just be a talented employee who is really feeling the beat. 

How to stay on the safe side

When we think of workplace safety, images of heavy equipment and manual labor often jump to mind. But the truth is that on-the-job injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. Safety hazards are ever-present: at job sites, in vehicles, and yes, even in the fanciest of offices.

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment but minimizing workplace risk is an ongoing job. Here are two key ways to make sure you are creating a culture of safe working habits. 

1. Pay attention

Not all risks are blatantly obvious, and not every unsafe practice results in a spectacular accident.

Many workplace injuries happen slowly and over time. Repetitive motions can take even your best and most seasoned employees out of the game. Things like non-ergonomic workstations, heavy lifting, and frequently repeated movements can lead to repetitive stress injuries that leave people unable to do the jobs they’ve done for years.

Call in an ergonomics expert to evaluate how your team is working and stay up to date on best practices for jobs with repetitive motion. Educate yourself and your team about using proper techniques and how to spot warning signs that you aren’t. 

As you start looking for potential safety hazards, think about how well you can see. What’s your lighting situation like? Do you have shady areas, dark corners, and too many lights out? It’s hard to work safely when you’re in the dark. Make sure your work areas are well-lit so your employees have a clear view of their work and each other.

Are your employees coming to you with concerns? If so, take them seriously. Those who are working the same jobs day in and day out are well positioned to see hazards that others might miss. Brushing off concerns as merely complaints isn’t going to make your workplace any safer. It also won’t do anything to build employee trust, confidence, or loyalty.

On the other hand, workers who do the same jobs day in and day out may become immune to certain job hazards that really should be fixed. The carpet roll you have to step over every day. The wobbly storage shelf. The reflective vest that disappeared. That outlet that never does works quite right.

How many things has your team has simply been working around instead of fixing or replacing?

There are plenty of hard-working employees who don’t want to bring attention to these “little things” or to themselves. But all it takes is the right set of circumstances for a little thing to become a big thing. Make sure you’re doing safety walk-throughs and interviews on a regular basis to identify any potential unsafe practices.

2. Reward the right behaviors

Too often, employees are praised or rewarded for unsafe practices, such as:

  • Working at a fast pace
  • Taking on back-to-back shifts
  • Powering through adverse conditions
  • Showing up for work no matter what

This is short sighted thinking that can easily backfire. Employees should work at a safe pace, not a quick pace. They should also be well rested, healthy, and alert. Pushing your staff past their limits may seem like a great idea when you’re battling deadlines and bottom lines, but overworked and overtired employees are a recipe for mistakes and accidents. Not to mention expensive claims, fines, and employee turnover.

Trying to squeeze a little extra ROI out of your employees can cost you big time. Why not reward safe behaviors instead?

  • Catch someone being safe? Call them out as a shining example! (Gift card are also great)
  • Throw a party for X number of safe work days.
  • Reward those who find potential safety hazards or offer solutions for safer processes.
  • Incentivize people to attend safety meetings with prizes, food, or coffee cards.

Rewarding positive behaviors is much more effective and fun than punishing negative behaviors— or suffering the consequences.

Safe business = better business

Safety is about taking care of your people, but it’s also about taking care of your business.

Ask any company that has dealt with a workplace accident or injury claim and they will tell you it’s better to be safe than sorry. An unfortunate incident could cost you huge amounts of time and money. It could also cost you your reputation, your staff, and your livelihood.

Creating a culture of safety requires ongoing effort, investment, and commitment, but these things will all pay off big in the long run. Investing in a safe workplace is a great way to help protect your employees, your business, and your bottom line.

And today is a great day to start.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Gino Santa Maria