The Do’s and Don’ts of Engaging Remote Employeesby MindSpring Michael on September 2, 2020 in MindSpring Michael
Michael here. It’s been a little while since I last checked in. How have you been? Work has been keeping me pretty busy lately. I’m still contracting with the local tech startup MindSpring connected me with and things have been going really well. I get along great with my boss and I’m learning a ton. That relationship plus the opportunity to build up my skills and gain some really cool experience has made the switch to contract work completely worth it.
The only real challenge has been that the whole company is still working from home due to the pandemic. In fact, I’ve never met any of my colleagues in person. Of course, I see them on Zoom meetings all the time, but I wish there were opportunities to get to know everyone better. I was actually talking to my boss about this just the other day.
Turns out he felt the same way, so he reached out to the whole team for ideas on how to increase engagement. That’s when I thought of MindSpring and all the cool ways they stay engaged with their team and consultants. So, I reached out for their advice. Here are the do’s and don’ts of engaging remote employees that I’m taking back to share with my team.
Don’t micromanage. Do check-in regularly with your team.
This may seem like an obvious one, but no one likes to be micromanaged or have their work constantly second guessed. And in a remote workplace micromanaging can be even more harmful. Engaging remote employees starts with a high-trust culture, and micromanaging is the opposite. It makes your colleagues feel like you don’t trust them or their work, and that kind of negativity can hurt the whole team.
Instead, encourage transparent communication through regular check-ins while allowing team members to work autonomously. Check-ins can be done one-on-one (like the weekly call I have with my boss) or in a team setting, allowing time for each person to share their thoughts. Part of this process is also figuring out what communication platform will work best.
Like most companies, we’ve been using Zoom a lot these days, but my friends at MindSpring told me that platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams are also popular and allow for more engagement and conversations between coworkers and among project teams. I think it’s something my current team will want to check out.
MindSpring also told me that they kick-off every day with an all team Zoom meeting to provide updates and progress and align goals and priorities. This quick check-in keeps the team connected when they can’t be in the office together.
In addition to regular check-ins, MindSpring uses quarterly engagement surveys to gather feedback from the whole team and respond to any issues that arise. Surveys like this are a good way to check-in over a longer period of time and allow for anonymous and honest input.
Don’t set strict rules and expectations. Do encourage work/life balance.
Pre-pandemic when we all went to an office every day, things like work hours and workplace rules and expectations made sense. But now that everyone is working from home, work and life have become blurred. My 20-minute commute on the Chicago ‘L’ used to signal both the start and end of my day. Now that I work from home, the only thing that really ends my day is shutting down my computer. I feel like I have to be available all the time, even outside of the hours I would normally work in an office.
I talked to my friends at MindSpring about this to see if they had suggestions for how to create better work/life balance. They told me that, while some expectations and work rules are helpful, flexibility is especially crucial right now.
Some MindSpringers have family members or kids at home with them, others have to juggle multiple responsibilities, like helping with homeschooling at the same time they’re working. Given all that’s going on, people need the option to be flexible about when they work.
Breaks and fun, non-work-related activities can also help. For MindSpring, that means hosting a virtual trivia game twice a week on Zoom. Daily “Trivvy” breaks were always a favorite tradition at the office, so their team decided to keep it up even when work went virtual. It’s turned out to be the perfect break and a way for their team to reset when things get hectic. As a huge trivia fan myself, I told them I might have to start joining their weekly sessions.
Don’t cancel all events. Do create opportunities to socialize and engage virtually.
Workplace events and group activities have always been a great way to engage employees and build up company culture. As my friends at MindSpring made clear, just because events can’t happen in person anymore doesn’t mean they can’t happen at all.
Instead of canceling the weekly coffee breaks, team lunch and learns, and Friday happy hours, try moving them online. I get it, we’re all tired of staring at screens, and Zoom video chats aren’t the ideal way to socialize. But even virtual socializing can help mitigate feelings of isolation, depression, and stress.
I’d heard my former coworker Mindy talk about some of the different events MindSpring offered, but I didn’t realize just how many things they’re doing to engage and enrich their team until I talked to them.
First off, they have an Inclusivity Team that selects a piece of work each month for the entire MindSpring team to read, watch, or listen to. It might be a podcast, documentary, book, or article. Toward the end of the month, the team will come together for an open discussion and conversation on that month’s piece. Isn’t that a cool way to engage with important and relevant issues that extend beyond the workplace?
In addition to their diversity and inclusion efforts, MindSpring holds weekly Sip n’ Learns, where MindSpringers have the opportunity to present on topics ranging from recruiter best practices to new technology and processes. It’s a great way for employees to share information and learn from each other.
There are also events that celebrate employee and team successes, like First Fridays, where the group comes together to share a drink and cheers colleagues for meeting goals and performance targets. It’s an awesome way to wrap-up the previous month and look ahead at what’s to come.
Ready to work for a company that keeps remote employees engaged and connected? Get started with MindSpring today!