Many employees have embraced the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic — but not all of them. Some workers have experienced feelings of disconnection and isolation. So if your not-for-profit plans to make remote working a longer-term proposition, you should look for ways to make everyone feel connected to the job and their colleagues.
Make regular contact
Perhaps the most important step is to maintain regular contact through both formal meetings and informal check-ins. Managers should tailor these check-ins to the staffers’ particular needs. Some employees are more comfortable working independently, while others require more coaching and encouragement.
Of course, not all office interaction is business-related. “Watercooler talk” can help cultivate cohesion and teamwork. To provide such opportunities, plan virtual coffee breaks, birthday celebrations or trivia contests. Another idea is to schedule group wellness activities, such as yoga or guided meditation.
Also remember that recognition and rewards can help build a loyal and enthusiastic staff. Some of these programs may have fallen by the wayside when your organization moved to remote work. If so, return to acknowledging and rewarding employee efforts publicly.
Managers and employees need to respect one another’s schedules. For example, meeting times should consider whether attendees are in different time zones. Remember, too, that employees working from home often must juggle family responsibilities such as child or elder care. Don’t expect people to drop everything to make themselves available for impromptu meetings.
To avoid burnout, discourage employees from becoming 24/7 workers. Cloud computing and mobile devices make that all too easy. Tell employees that they aren’t expected to work outside regular hours or respond to off-hours emails.
Be a leader
As always, you and your managers must remember that the staff takes cues from those in leadership positions. Their behavior and attitudes reinforce and propel your organizational culture. So set an inspiring example: Demonstrate compassion and empathy in your interactions, communicate clearly, and show flexibility and an openness to ongoing change.
To ensure you know how staffers are feeling and whether they believe their needs are being met while working remotely, conduct occasional surveys. Also communicate often that your (virtual) door is always open should a staffer want to discuss any issues or recommend ideas.