Remember back in March when the pandemic hit the U.S., and you left your desk, packed up your things, and started working from home? If you’re anything like me, you thought that you would be back at work in a few weeks or maybe, at the most, in a few months.
Well, it looks like working from home might be in effect a bit longer—until the end of 2021, especially for companies like Google, Indeed, and Facebook. For others, such as Dropbox, Square, and Twitter, working from home is here to stay.
The reality is that working from home is not an easy path to take. Although the tedious morning commute is replaced with a short walk across the hall to a home office, home life can be hectic. Daily interruptions from preschool children and older kids doing virtual learning can be constant. This stream of intrusions can make the day draining and curb your work effort. And those who do live alone can feel the isolation as a barrier to their output and creativity. 75% of the U.S. workforce feels less connected to their job, team, and company
You might think that the younger tech-savvy employees are the group that enjoys working from home the most, but that is not the case. Recent research shows that 95% of Gen Z workers and 92% of Millennials admit they feel challenged with the Work From Home movement despite their ease with technology.
A new workplace survey by Engine Insights found that than before the pandemic. The report says that 60% of American workers feel out of the loop about what is going on within their company since they started working from home. Young workers feel it the most, with 74% of Generation Z and 66% of Millennials reporting this, versus 53% of Generation X and 50% of Boomers.
Communication Challenges Working from Home
Communication has always been a challenge in the workplace, and now communication within the team can be an even more significant challenge when your workforce is remote. Employees and especially Gen Z and younger Millennials who are building professional relationships may feel cut off from the resources, information, or relationships they need to do their jobs well and grow their careers.
Even with the explosion of Zoom and other video conferencing, almost 50% of the Gen Zers and 46% of Millennials report that communicating virtually with coworkers is difficult compared to 35% of Gen Xers and 26% of Boomers.
No one needs to settle for this less than optimal situation, as communication between remote workers and teams can be improved. Here are some ideas to help grow virtual connections.
Get the Right Technology
The right technology tools matter. Invest in the right tools to keep your team connected. Things like instant messaging, sharing documents, managing workflows, video conferencing are necessary if you want your team to stay connected and productive.
Once you test the tools and decide on the tools and software your team is to use, make sure that every employee is available on those platforms throughout the day. Then keep communications to one or two platforms when possible. Continually switching between multiple platforms (email, messenger, Hangouts, Slack, etc.) adds to distractions and nonproductive activity.
Remember to Individualize
You may have heard the phrase that we are all in the same storm but in different boats. When managing a virtual team, individualization is key.
The best managers have always individualized their work with each employee. Giving individuals your time at a distance requires greater focus and intention. Managers must have one-on-one conversations with each employee to describe the conditions under which they perform best, to reveal their concerns about their workflow, and to disclose their emotional response to the situation.
Set Expectations Early and Clearly
Setting expectations and communicating with each team member’s responsibilities is the key to employee engagement and productivity. That goes especially for the new members of your team.
It would help if you decided where to set expectations. Think about where the gaps exist on your team. Is the work output less than ideal? Do you communicate effectively? What are the expectations imposed by the organizational culture?
Figure out where you are falling short, and then define exactly what needs to change. Next plan a call either individually or as a group, given the circumstances, to discuss your expectations.
Offer Ways to Grow Resilience and a Sense of Well-being
Today, it’s also essential to focus on your employee’s well-being to help build resilience to overcome and thrive during these challenging times. Many companies offer ways to learn, grow, and connect with others through virtual yoga, meditation, dance, workouts, cooking lessons, game day, and happy hours to name a few.
Salesforce has created a link on its website called B-Well Together, where they host speakers and well-being experts to provide tips, resources, and insights into all aspects of mental, physical, and social well-being.
Working remotely is about more than digital connections. Working remotely is a new way of navigating this new world of work. In order to grow our teams and work culture, leaders must be open to trying new things while finding the time to connect one on one with their team members.
Karen McCullough is a nationally known keynote speaker and expert on change, generational opportunities and workforce trends.
Karen helps organizations cut through the generational biases and get back to reality by leveraging their team’s strengths, enriching the work environment, and driving better results. Each of her presentations brings a realistic perspective on workplace trends, employee engagement, while offering actionable content.
For the past 15 years Karen has shared her insights to top organizations such as VMware, Procter & Gamble, US Department of Justice, JPMorgan Chase, Symantec, McGraw-Hill, National Homebuilders, Shell Oil, Mercedes Benz, The World Bank, American National Insurance, Humana, United Way, American Heart Association and MD Anderson Cancer Center.