Author: Kaire Viil, development partner of Eesti Energia, coach, mentor, trainer
Remote work is considered to be a more flexible and convenient way of working for many, but it can also increase isolation, silos and feelings of loneliness. A sense of belonging is a basic need in Maslow’s pyramid of needs and is important in maintaining motivation amongst your team.
If employee participation is low, then the person
– quickly becomes alienated from the team,
– are working below their capabilities,
– is at a higher risk of burnout.
Engaging a lonely employee is much more difficult than creating a sense of belonging in a new employee during the onboarding period. The feeling of isolation is accompanied by stress, and the reintegration of that employee requires consistent action by the manager.
A high sense of belonging increases up to 30% of employees:
– productivity and
– feeling of well-being.
A feeeling of being part of the team and sharing the organisation’s values can reduce absenteeism and leave given for illness by up to 30%.
You can engage every employee by showing them you value their input with asking what they think and listen to their thoughts without interruption. This increases the employee’s self-esteem. At regular meetings, about 30% of the participants speak, and you don’t know the position of 70% of the people. Don’t assume you know what they actually think.
Many (remote) workers feel constant anxiety. As a leader or manager you can reduce this with the following:
– You articulate expectations clearly and simply. Let the employee reflect on how he interprets the next steps and the desired end result.
– Employees are often haunted by the thought of whether their work is enough. Give the employee constant feedback on how they are doing.
– Ask feedback for yourself. Practice this skill and the courage to do it constantly.
– If possible, acknowledge the employee and keep in mind that it’s always possible.
– Ask advice from an employee. This is how you increase their self-confidence and value their competence.
In virtual meetings, monitor the employee body language. It is often more eloquent than the words spoken. In remote work, alienation and a feeling of isolation arise faster and start to snowball if the team doesn’t notice it. You can create an organisational culture based on company values in a virtual office.
Simple ways to create virtual traditions:
– celebrate progress and highlights of the month;
– celebrate each employee’s birthday in a slightly different way, so they won’t become routine for the manager either;
– surprise the team with a handwritten thank you card and a small memento;
– order and deliver a refreshing meal to a sick employee and flowers upon returning to work.
Meet with your employees every week – both as a team and individually. Use different channels, as each employee has their own preferences – video or phone calls, messages, emails. It is worth meeting a new employee every day during the first weeks. Also encourage team cooperation and mentoring. In any case, always keep your virtual door open for employees. Your employees’ courage is their greatest wisdom in staying engaged.