Remote workers often cite increased productivity as one of the most valuable benefits of working from home. This is backed up by a 2019 report from the IWG Global Workplace Survey that found that 85% of businesses saw an increase in productivity after giving staff greater location flexibility. Other commonly quoted benefits of remote work include not having to commute and a better work/life balance.
However, when there is an abrupt shift to remote working, some employees can find it to be a culture shock. They may miss the buzz of the office and working up close with their teammates. Even with all the technology available, they may be left feeling a little isolated and finding the change to remote working challenging. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways for employers to keep morale high and ensure all remote colleagues are kept engaged.
Amongst remote workers, 17% say that collaborating/communications is the biggest problem they face. Keeping lines of communication open is therefore crucial to maintaining engagement. As well as leading to better work, it also keeps morale up by stopping people feeling isolated. Managers can keep colleagues engaged by scheduling calls or video chats at the beginning and end of tasks. Even if these meetings are brief, they help to maintain the sense of teamwork that an email or instant message doesn’t always convey.
Some colleagues may benefit from video communication as opposed to voice calls. There are plenty of apps such as Zoom and Skype that facilitate this. Speaking over video isn’t natural to some people at first, but it does come with advantages. It allows people to see nuances such as facial expressions and body language which are important aspects of communication. Read our blog on choosing the right video-conferencing app for your business.
Not all communication needs to be work-related. Social connection between friends and colleagues is important during what may be a big change to working patterns. Keeping comms channels open for casual and light-hearted chat helps to keep the team spirit that made the office an enjoyable place to be. It might initially feel strange to have a virtual drink or lunch, but they can be a fun way to maintain good connections with colleagues.
Read our blog on 3 mental wellbeing tips for remote workers, which includes “staying connected”
When working remotely, it can be easy for people to feel like they’re working on their own as opposed to as part of a wider team. Managers can help by keeping everybody up to date on the bigger picture and showing how remote work is fitting into wider goals. Transparency about how the company is doing and how everyone is pulling in the same direction can keep morale up and maintain a feeling of teamwork.
Recognising and appreciating good work is always a morale boost and it can be even more effective during unusual and trying times. It’s important to celebrate the wins – even the small ones. Letting people know that their work is appreciated will keep spirits up and reassure them that they’re still making valued contributions to the wider team. This is especially true if it comes from the top – a Gallup poll found that 24% of employees say that their "most memorable recognition" came from their CEO.
Remote working does not mean that learning and development opportunities need to dry up. There could be a dip in morale if employees feel like their personal progression needs to take a backseat while they work from home. Personal as well as professional support can help to keep team spirit at good levels. If a sudden adjustment has been made to remote working, there may be more colleagues than usual who are in need of extra support.
Managers can set up remote one-to-ones to show that they are still available to staff for support. They could even advertise the fact that they have drop-in times for more casual chats, similar to an open-door policy they may have had in the office. The chance to learn and develop new remote working processes can work both ways. Managers can ask for feedback on what colleagues find to be working well and what they are struggling with.
Sometimes, an employer needs to take a step back and give staff the tools they need to help keep themselves engaged and productive from home. Employers can assist remote staff by providing the same level of comfort and safety that they experienced in the office. Being allowed to take office equipment such as laptop stands, wireless keyboards, or even office chairs can make remote workers more comfortable and have a positive effect on morale.
Some people find it harder to switch off in a home working environment without the physical boundary of entering and leaving the office. In fact, ‘unplugging’ after work was seen as the biggest issue with remote working by 22% of people in a 2019 Buffer report. Managers can help by encouraging colleagues to take breaks without interruption as they normally would from the office – or take holiday if they feel like they need a longer break. Different routines and setups bring out the best productivity in different people. Employers should encourage staff to find out what works for them.
Read our related blog working from home for SMEs benefits and things to consider
Valda Energy believe in the importance of keeping the human connection, even when communicating digitally. We also believe that employees are at their most productive when happy and in good morale. If you have any concerns about your own or your employees’ mental health while working remotely, the NHS guide and Mental Health Foundation both offer professional online advice.