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Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. Even before Covid-19 hit, workers from a variety of industries were advocating for more flexibility in their jobs, including the ability to work remotely. Because the pandemic proved that remote work could be successful on a large scale, however, it’s likely going to continue to expand and become more of a norm. There’s the big possibility within this shift that some of your workers might want to jump ship, and you need to be prepared for that.
When you’re in a physical office, you’re usually interacting face-to-face every day, having meetings or just chatting around the water cooler. And from my experience, you can almost always get a sense from that whether people are unmotivated, burned out, or on the verge of walking out.
With remote work, this kind of monitoring has become harder. You might still have a daily session, but it’s probably going to be an hour at most, and it’s likely going to be a team call. So say you have four people on the team. Then you maybe get to focus on one person for 15 minutes, and some of that time is still going to be you talking. This makes it much more challenging to see if somebody’s unhappy, struggling or wanting to go somewhere else.
Related: These Are the 3 Most Vital Techniques to Retain Employees
You might not be able to force people back into the office and go back to the way things were. But there’s still a lot you can do to make sure that the remote reality of work doesn’t hurt you and your team.
Because people can be more isolated and independent in a remote setup, they might feel like they are not getting positive feedback. Counter that by intentionally reminding everybody how good they are.
In my own company, I do this through monthly “accomplishment reviews.” This makes sense for my situation, because in marketing there’s always a lot of cool projects to talk about over a few weeks of work, but you can always adjust for your own setup. Regardless of the specific schedule you have, the goal isn’t quite the same as a performance review, where you can get nitpicky about weaknesses and try to set new targets for the future. The goal is just to recognize all the progress they’ve made in the past or that they’re still making in the present. Make it clear that you’re noticing their specific talents and contributions and you’re grateful for them.
The stronger a sense of belonging is in your company, the more likely it is that people will feel committed to the group and stay. The remote environment, however, can make it harder to build the relationships you need for a sense of belonging. People might not see others on the team as frequently, and even when they do, time is limited, and they might not get all the cues they would with in-person interaction.
So you have to go out of your way to connect and show you care about everyone as human beings. In my own work, I meet with my team twice a week on Zoom. But we don’t always talk business. I purposely go to Google to find thoughtful questions. I use those to get deeper, more personal conversations going. I’ve asked about their dreams and aspirations in these team settings so that others can connect with those dreams. These kinds of strategies let you learn a lot about who people are.
But why does it matter that you know your employees? Because great leaders don’t set people up to stagnate. They expect and are rooting for those workers to excel, because they understand that their job isn’t just to manage — it’s to build more leaders. The more you know each person on your team, the more you can help them take action and achieve their goals.
The saying goes that people don’t leave jobs — they leave managers. This is true in a lot of cases. But sometimes, the problems that a worker has, regardless of their setting, honestly have nothing to do with you. Keep your cool. Be rational and objective so you don’t make rash choices that increase everybody’s stress. Get to the heart of the issue. Then make sure that your workers know that you’re in it right there with them and will work with them as much as you can to make things better.
Related: 5 Ways To Give Your Employees a Break When They Need It Most
Are there going to be times when it’s actually better for an employee to walk away? Sure. But remote work shouldn’t automatically mean that you see a ton of people take an exit. Keeping your team happy is the biggest way to overcome this risk, so make sure you engage, know your people and emphasize them at their best.