Remote working for many is set to continue well into 2021. The rise in Covid cases has meant that the UK Government has applied the handbrake when it comes to people returning to offices and the prospect of more local lockdowns loom.
This U-turn and the daily reshaping of the landscape only heightens the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world that we find ourselves living in right now. As well as grappling with how businesses will weather the economical Covid storm, there’s also the challenge of how to build a solid virtual culture, one that fosters a sense of belonging and team spirit for remote workers.
Zoom happy hours, meme sharing, quizzes and endless WhatsApp’s are all great, however building a virtual culture where people feel connected, where they feel comfortable, safe, valued and respected, and where there’s a sense of belonging will need more of a focus, particularly as its set to become the ‘new norm’ for many.
Given the continued emphasis on hands face and space (space being the operative word with remote working) then these three strategies will help managers to create a thriving engaging and inclusive culture.
Repetitive communication is vital. With so much news and noise circulating around, many individuals may miss key messages. The prospects of hope and positivity can be drowned out by the noise of news. Marketing professionals advocate the rule of seven; they suggest that individuals need to hear messages at least seven times before considering taking action. The same applies to organisations as they communicate with their workforce. This includes successes, challenges and the future.
Remember there’s no such thing as over communicating, but under-communication can breed doubt and uncertainty. It can lead to unclear task allocation, missed deadlines, and poor customers experiences.
Remember that whatever route you use to communicate then keep it inclusive and accessible. Explore a range of media to ensure that you get your message across.
It’s important, as a manager, that you take time to understand and recognise the fundamentals of what motivates and inspires each team member. It will be different for each one and typically environment dictates performance. Some people are likely to thrive in a remote environment with less travelling and more time with family or on personal things can give more ability to be productive, whereas others will miss the ability to bounce ideas around with their colleagues and nourish their inspiration. So, revisit and connect with employees to understand what motivates and inspires them and to understand where their stresses are, and how to spot, those stress signs.
Praise and recognition are also going to be vital at this current time. It’s important to give this in the moment as it happens, as opposed to keep and hold this for the annual appraisal. Zoom meetings, one to ones, emails and Town Hall events can all reinforce positive performance.
A judgement free environment
Employees will have shared far more in the past six months of themselves than perhaps they ever will have done in their previous working lives together. These unprecedented times have opened up people’s homes, their environments and their surroundings. They will have learned more about each other outside of their job roles. They may discuss hobbies, sports, movies, passions games that they play together. All of these things are important for connection. But it’s important that we do so without judgement. It’s important that we learn to recognise the difference that we will have valuing the contribution that people are able to make.
A sense of belong is vital for the healthy performance of any organisation, and remote working is no different. These past few months have enabled some organisations to break with traditions, to challenge bias or remove filters that may have be have previously impaired their ability to consider and engage with the concept of a productive virtual workforce. But given that it’s here to stay a while longer, it would be prudent to strengthen the foundations as the benefits far outweigh the challenges. When employees feel a sense of belonging, they are more productive, motivated and are more likely to contribute to their fullest potential.
About the author
Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and founder of Inclusion 247. She is a TEDx speaker, a Non-Executive Director and author of Amazon bestseller Closing the Gap, designed to support business professionals at every stage of their inclusivity journey that was highly commended as an Exceptional Book that Promotes Diversity at the Business Book Awards 2020. Teresa is a UK Female Entrepreneur Ambassador, member of the Women and Enterprise and the Women and Work APPGs and a regular contributor to the media and public policy. Learn more at https://www.inclusion247.com/
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