How do I Engage My Team Remotely?

Empty office

Welcome to our initial communication supporting our client organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is an unprecedented time for many of us.

I receive twice-weekly email updates from the retirement residence where my mother lives.  She is not very good at using the phone any more so the updates and soon to come Skype visits are welcome. One part of the most recent email really struck a chord for me… “Several of our residents have commented that it reminds them of war time restrictions without the bombing.”  We are fortunate that we’ve had fairly secure and safe lives until now.

Based on the responses I have and will receive to the Google Form you received, I will be addressing the topics that are requested.  Today’s topic is How to Engage My Team Remotely.

Employee Engagement is a perpetual process and topic that is often explored.  Today’s COVID-19 reality has many of us working from home and is posing a new challenge for many as to how best to keep their teams engaged.

Engaging your teams is not a one-size-fits all activity.  Each of your team members is unique. Each of your team members likely has different needs and, in particular during COVID-19, different stressors.  The stressors may be ones’ health, financial security, parenting children who are now home, senior loved ones who may be in long-term care, not to mention the uncertainty of what the coming weeks and months will bring.  Routines are now topsy turvy yet for many, work goes on and expectations need to be met.

Reflect for a moment on the actions you have taken in the past that engaged your people.  How can you somewhat replicate that virtually? Instead of the casual chats you may have had walking around your office, how about connecting individually with each of your team members by whatever means you have available to you right now.  From my experience, a video call most often creates a better sense of connection than a phone call. When you do connect, it doesn’t have to be for a long time, make it that hallway or “water cooler” type of interaction but make it meaningful.  It’s less impromptu but it will still be an invaluable experience that contributes to engagement.

So what to talk about when I connect with my team individually?  Now is as good a time as any, if not the ideal time and opportunity to begin to connect at a more meaningful level with your team.  Create a spreadsheet, separate Word/Google Docs documents or a journal where you can make notes as to your knowledge or sense of what each team member is really about.

Here are just 3 things to start with that should make a difference in engaging your team:

  1. What are each of your team members’ values?

Values are not very observable but given that you likely have spent a lot of time with your team member, you’ve had opportunities to observe behaviours.  Our behaviours are the “how” of our actions while our values are the “why” of our actions. Think of some behaviours you’ve observed and consider what clues they are giving you about your team member’s values. I believe this is such a critical piece in engaging your team members.

  1. What particular challenges do each of your team member have in working from home?

Not everyone has a separate office in their home.  The kitchen or dining room table may now be the office space as well.  Not everyone has two eating spaces so the table/office space may need to be cleaned up in preparation for each mea.  Children may be being children during conference calls and the dog may be barking. There are many stressors today that may not have existed when working at the office.

How flexible can you be as to when the work gets done?  Does it all have to be during office hours or can some be done after hours?  Perhaps those with young families may appreciate being able to take time our of their day while the children are awake.  They can then better focus on work after their children have gone to bed. Not that I advocate for working late at night.  Personally, I find it contributes to a poor night’s sleep. Currently though, it’s a matter of balance for each individual if they have the opportunity and may be a welcome trade-off in our current circumstances.

Bottom line is, don’t assume what challenges your team members are experiencing right now – ask them!  Show that you truly care by listening. This is a great time to practice your active listening skills. Did you know that it is much more engaging asking people questions, listening, and asking more questions based on what you’ve heard rather than being the one doing the talking?  Don’t forget to record each team members’ unique situation.

  1. What do you know about each of your team members’ personal and career aspirations?

As you explore this question, you will likely recall conversations and clues from previous conversations.  This may be a good time to understand each of your team members aspirations a bit better. Mind you, if you’re going to ask you need to be prepared to remember and support in any way you can otherwise it will appear shallow. 

Quick Links to Resources

Coronavirus May Force Teams to Work Remotely

The above article was published on March 5 by HBR just before many started working from home.  It’s worth a read and may also help you in engaging your team members. 

Talking to Kids About Coronavirus

Feeling Anxiety – A Psychologist Offers Tips to Stay Clear Headed

Exercising to Relax

Canadian Mental Health Association

Don’t forget about your local Health Unit and your EAP provider as great resources in this uncertain time.

How is Coaching Different from Counselling or Therapy?

The International Coach Federation (ICF), of which I am a member and accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC), defines coaching as:  

ICF PCC logo

Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires people to maximize their personal and professional potential.

International Coach Federation

The simplest way to distinguish between counselling and coaching is that counselling is about the past and problem-focused while coaching is about the future and solution focused.

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