Lou Elliott-Cysewski, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Seattle, is co-founder and CEO of Coolperx, a net climate-neutral merchandising company. She's on a mission to transform the merchandising industry from a toxic environmental polluter to a conscientious connector of people and values. We asked Lou how to promote employee engagement and productivity in today's remote work environment. Here's what she shared.
The global pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the trend of remote work. Today, despite easy access to the vaccine and an increase in company doors re-opening, 67 percent of white-collar jobs are still performed from home on a full-time or part-time basis. Many employers see the advantages of this more flexible way of working, namely in terms of cost reduction. But, employees do too, saving valuable time otherwise spent in traffic or public transportation among a long list of benefits.
We all know, however, that work from home (WFH) comes with a unique set of challenges. Employee burnout is at an all-time high. Combined with a global talent shortage exacerbated by the Great Resignation, employers must be more intentional than ever to promote engagement and, therefore, productivity.
The core of my company's business is centered around meaningful engagement through conscious gift giving. From its inception, our company also has had a fully remote team. Here is what I've learned to promote engagement and productivity in a remote setting:
Keep things short.
Attention spans in a virtual setting are shorter than in-person, so meetings should be shorter and more concise. My team and I overcome meeting fatigue through preparation: the goals of each meeting are clearly articulated, a clear agenda is set, and everyone knows what and when they need to report their share of data.
Now is not the time to reduce 1:1 meetings. Again, keep these interactions short but make sure to ask team members how they are doing inside and outside of work as the lines between professional and personal lives are more blurred than ever. Then, follow up. When a team member shares difficulties with me, I make a note and follow up to see how they are doing with that situation.
Promote explicit verbal communication.
In remote settings, people struggle to understand each other without the usual host of non-verbal signals that occur naturally when we're in the same room. People must work much harder without this extra information, which can lead to fatigue, headaches, and apathy toward "showing up" online. As a result, be as verbally explicit as possible without relying on body language or other non-verbal cues.
Avoid constant interruptions.
Notifications kill productivity. My team gets around this by minimizing "pinging" each other throughout the day and bringing topics directly to our daily huddle. This way, we are more likely to ask concise questions and receive clear responses.
Celebrate wins, big or small.
As time goes on, the remote environment can take its toll, leading to feelings of isolation. Employers must take extra care to call out the contributions of individual staff members as well as larger group efforts, and encourage a culture of celebration and connection. Here, the key to success is to acknowledge wins both internally and externally. Publicly, share personal and group wins on social media, for example. Internally, leverage existing infrastructure (newsletters, company-wide meetings, etc.) to acknowledge everyone's hard work.
Promote overall wellness.
Encourage your team to take a proactive approach to wellness. We promote wellness and showcase appreciation by meditating during our Monday meetings and providing stipends for employees to use for mental and physical health. Showing your employees that health and wellness are essential is way better than just telling them.
It's one thing to keep your team members engaged through various techniques and yet another to transform engagement into profitability. The secret sauce is called leadership.
It is your responsibility as a leader to make each member feel like they are making a beneficial contribution to the entire group, and the company's overall success. This personal investment leads to a sense of belonging, which is crucial for success. The military is an excellent example of this. The Army has perfected the art of creating united and efficient remote teams.
As the compass for the company, it's up to you to create this sense of belonging. And there's no better way to do that than through purpose. Yes, as a business, you've probably established a problem you can solve for your customers. But, is that goal ambitious enough to bring people together? During my time in the Army, our love for our country and its values united us all. What higher purpose can you identify to bring people together in such a cohesive way?
During times of chaos, great leaders are born. Understanding how to help your team move past survival and into thriving can ensure a healthy workplace now and into the future.