By Anirban Banerjee, President & Head - HR, IIFL Wealth
The last one and half year has been a steep learning curve for both organisations and employees as it revealed the many facets of remote working. While many companies were infrastructurally and technologically prepared to make this overnight shift, and harness the many benefits of remote working, one thing that became glaringly obvious was that no one was mentally prepared.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inarguably had an unprecedented impact on the way we live, work, and interact with our ecosystems. With the risk of infection and the mandated social distancing norms, organisations were compelled to make an overnight shift to a remote working model. The last one and half year has been a steep learning curve for both organisations and employees as it revealed the many facets of remote working. While many companies were infrastructurally and technologically prepared to make this overnight shift, and harness the many benefits of remote working, one thing that became glaringly obvious was that no one was mentally prepared for it.
The imperatives of the new work environment
Inarguably, remote working has several benefits ranging from saving travel time to affording employees flexibility in their work schedules. However, humans are inherently social beings and working in silos has also had a significant emotional impact on employees. In the backdrop of such an environment, it became increasingly important for employers to proactively adopt policies focused on mental well-being and can help employees strike a good work-life balance. This meant envisaging new forms of engagement, changing productivity measurement metrics, enabling enhanced learning and development in a remote environment, and ensuring effective communication.
Ways to keep remote employees engaged
Encourage health and wellness: The mental and physiological health of your employees should be your top priority. It is well-known that a healthy workforce is more productive and can perform at the highest level. More importantly, your employees need to feel empowered and trust that you have got their back. You can launch wellness programs for your team like a 30-day yoga challenge or a 30-minute daily walk challenge. Further, you can also hold meditation workshops and keep the doors open for conversations on fatigue, emotional upheaval, and mental health.
Host virtual meetings and casual hangouts: When working from home, the separation from co-workers and management can make employees feel isolated. Thus, it is important to host scheduled virtual meetings and interactions to ensure that employees continue to feel connected. However, it is important to bifurcate interactions between work and casual hangout. Work related communication should be done over professional platforms like Microsoft Teams or video conferencing. On the other hand, virtual get-togethers and non-work-related chats can be done over Zoom or Google Hangouts. Further, to encourage group collaboration, available tools can be used. Gamification techniques can also be employed to create deeper engagement levels. For example, team-based games and competitions can be introduced to enable collaboration and interaction amongst employees.
Change in measurement metrics: Another factor, which needs to be addressed is evaluation of an engagement activity and learning interventions. Traditional metrics used may no longer effectively capture participation or feedback. Instead, new measurement metrics need to be envisaged. These could range from participation rate and diversity access to mouse clicks and completion rate. Companies could also adopt game-based performance management systems that can help standardize performance metrics and evaluation criteria.
Learning and development: In a traditional office environment, a lot of learning happens through osmosis as employees engage and interact with their peers and seniors. However, a remote environment does not really facilitate this kind of learning and development. Thus, it is important for organisations to introduce learning management systems (LMS) that can enable employees to upskill and grow. Further, catch ups could be scheduled to specifically discuss learning needs and subsequently, provide the right tools to meet those needs.
Enhance communication: In a remote environment, it is effective communication that weaves the entire organisation together. Further, due to an absence of face-to-face communication, there are greater chances of people misinterpreting each other or misunderstanding instructions. Thus, it becomes important to have clear and auditable communication. Ensure that all communication is done through email or HRMS. Stay connected, schedule regular check-ins, and insist on a routine. Communication lines with the reporting manager or HR should always remain open so that the employee knows that s/he will be heard.
And most importantly, insist on a work-life balance. As we gear up for an environment where remote working becomes more of a norm, it is important to have policies that empower employees to perform their best. After all, an organisation is really the sum of its people.