As a professional services organization (PSO), you know that your most important resource is your people.
The evolution of technology coupled with the persisting disruption of COVID-19 has forced many PSOs to continue to embrace remote work. Whereas only 7 percent of employees were able to work from home in the pre-pandemic world, recent studies found that figure jumped to 64 percent as everyone did their part to flatten the curve.
If you’re managing a team of PSO employees who are now working remotely, it’s important to adapt your management style to the new reality. Whereas remote work is attractive to some employees—a recent Gallup study found that 54 percent of workers would leave their job for one that offers flexible work time—other employees feed off human interaction and may struggle to be as productive online as they were in the office.
To ensure your organization is able to continue producing through disruption at a steady clip, you need to become familiar with remote employee engagement and make sure your team is still inspired to reach its full potential even when at home.
When facilitating a positive and engaging environment for your report PSO workforce, it is important to remember the benefits for your business, and for your employees.
Work-Life Balance Is Important
When you work at home, it can be difficult to figure out when the workday begins and when it’s time to relax and unwind. This is perhaps more pronounced when workers don’t have a dedicated office space. If you’re working on your couch, for example—the same place you watch TV—don’t be surprised if you find yourself picking up your computer on a Saturday afternoon while you’re watching a movie.
The last thing you want is for your employees to burn out. As such, it is critical to make sure that every member of your team has a healthy work-life balance. Make sure people are taking time off and consider establishing a policy that discourages people from communicating with one another outside of regular office hours—or at least make it clear that no one has to respond outside of regular hours.
Remote Workers Are Happier and More Productive
If you’re worried that your newly remote team won’t get much done, fret not. One 2019 study found that full-time remote workers are 22 percent more likely to indicate they are happy at work. What’s more, another study found that remote workers are 13 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Just because your team might be working at home for the first time doesn’t mean it can’t get things done. Quite the contrary: Remote workers don’t have to spend an hour of each day commuting to the office, so there’s more time to focus on work stuff.
Employees Can Feel Isolated and Unproductive
As a PSO manager charged with protecting the bottom line, sometimes ROI takes precedent above all else. However, it is critical to do everything you can to support your remote team during these times. Some of your employees will thrive, and you probably know who those people are. Others might struggle a bit more, and you probably suspect who those people might be, too.
The good news is that there are some proven ways to increase employee engagement, which we will explore next.
With that in mind, here are 9 tips to improve your remote employee engagement.
1. Communicate Often
You can’t expect your team members to be engaged if you’re not communicating with them regularly. If someone is just sitting at home and staring at their computer and nobody is checking in to see how they’re doing, what they’re working on, or whether they need help, then that individual could start to feel isolated.
There’s an easy fix here: Use a real-time messaging platform such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to ensure all of your employees are always just a quick chat away. These platforms enable employees to message one another and chat more openly. It’s an easy way to make everyone feel connected—even if they’re on opposite sides of the globe.
2. Schedule Regular Meetings
As your team adjusts to working from home, it is important to develop some kind of routine. For the most part, you should let your employees set their own schedules (assuming that it makes sense for your organization—for some companies, it’s simply out of the question). At the same time, you should definitely make sure that employees are in “the same room” at the same time at least once a week.
Maybe you have a company-wide meeting every Tuesday at 10 a.m. and you meet with a smaller team every Wednesday at noon, for example. It’s an easy way to keep everyone on the same page without micromanaging their entire schedule.
3. Use Video Conferencing Tools
Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean that you can’t “see” one another.
No, you don’t need to have a webcam live streaming your office all day. But some of the meetings we just talked about should definitely take place on platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet (attendees should be encouraged to turn their cameras on for full effect).
Remember: The office was a big part of many of your employees’ social lives. That’s gone now. If you want to increase remote employee engagement, make sure everyone meets “face to face” on a regular basis so that your team gets that extra human touch.
4. Make Time for Socializing
It’s worth mentioning that video conferencing doesn’t always have to be about work. You can schedule some unstructured time for your employees to meet with one another in one-on-one or small group settings just to shoot the breeze and have a normal conversation.
Think of it as a virtual watercooler, where teams can build stronger bonds and remain connected to one another on a human level.
5. Celebrate Your Team’s Hard Work
One recent study found that 58 percent of employees agree that an easy way for employers to increase their engagement is by recognizing their efforts.
As you continue your transition into remote work, remember to make it a point to celebrate your team’s successes. Services delivery projects require a lot of time and energy so, make sure to congratulate everyone on a job well done. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also one of the easier remote employee engagement activities there is!
6. Let Employees Make Their Own Schedules
Some people are early birds. Others are night owls.
As long as your team is getting its work done on time, does it really matter when employees are physically in front of their computers? By letting your employees set their own schedules, you’re proving that you trust them to do the job you hired them to do. At the same time, you’ll benefit from a more productive workforce because it turns out that people work more when they’re given the freedom to make their own hours.
Of course, team meetings, client meetings, and other activities that take place at specific times still need to be on your employees’ schedules. It’s just that everything that isn’t time-sensitive doesn’t need to be.
7. Be Clear About Expectations
If your employees don’t know what’s expected of them, how can they reach their full potential as remote workers?
This is why it’s critical for managers of remote teams to set clear expectations. It’s also important to check in with each of your team members on a one-to-one basis in order to assess their progress and support them however you can.
8. Invest in Collaboration Tools
When you’re collaborating on a sophisticated services project while working remotely, things can get dicey without the right tools in place. We’ve all been involved in never-ending email chains with a zillion versions of the same Excel spreadsheet, after all.
There’s an easy fix here, too: Sign up for collaboration tools such as Trello, Asana, and Teamwork, which help remote teams work together productively. Because employees like using tools designed to make their work easier, employee engagement will increase, too.
9. Offer Training Opportunities
Just because you might not be working in the same office doesn’t mean your responsibilities for supporting your employees’ growth are over. Considering the fact that 87 percent of millennials agree that professional development is very important to their careers—and 76 percent of employees want opportunities to grow—it is critical that your PSO caters to these preferences. This also helps ensure employees acquire new skills that increase the overall proficiency and quality of your PSO.
How can you support professional development in a world where everyone is at home? Encourage your team members to attend virtual conferences, buy them books, and sign them up for appropriate virtual training sessions.
It’s Time to Take Your PSO to the Next Level
Although every PSO is unique, these 9 ideas should help your company create a strong culture that encourages your remote workers to stay engaged and reach their full potential.
If your PSO needs more support during these uncertain times, you can continue learning with our free 5 Questions Every Services Leader Needs to Answer to Stay Agile during disruption resources.