Six ways to help remote workers thrive

Preserving unity as offices temporarily close down
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
By Rebecca Melnyk

Closures of non-essential businesses in Ontario and Quebec have pushed hundreds of other companies into the remote workforce. Many employees are not accustomed to working from home everyday and might find the lack of traditional office space challenging.

“In order to balance our work-life, we still require social interactions to be happy and productive,” says Christine Weber vice-president of workplace strategy and innovation, central and eastern Canada at Colliers Canada. “Companies need to be cognizant to the fact that not all employees are comfortable working remotely, so the key is frequent connection in various ways.”

Here, Weber and other members of Colliers Canada Workplace Advisory Team, including Robyn Baxter, vice-president of workplace strategy and innovation, western Canada, and Sarah Bramley, associate vice-president of workplace strategy and innovation, western Canada, offer solutions for preserving unity in an office of remote workers.

Leaders stay connected

Each team member will need a differing amount of communication to find the balance of micro-managing vs. ignoring. This is very personal to each individual. The best way to know is to ask them what they need.

Maintain a connection at various levels (all organization down to team)

As an organization, organize structured virtual events, forums and webinars to avoid feeling isolated. Virtual Friday happy hour drinks, virtual lunches and remote coffee breaks keep teams engaged with each other during these times. As a team, connect as regularly as you can. Brainstorm ways to learn and connect on a personal level. A virtual “water cooler.”

Talk to each other

Without the quick hallway conversations, relationships start to lose energy and people can feel isolated. Everyone should be encouraged to connect by phone or through technology and have a chat about nothing in particular. Respect that the person you’re calling may be in the middle of something so open with the offer to chat another time. But connections remain important.

Open a team chat

Using your organization’s preferred instant messaging tool, set up a team chat page. People can ask a quick question or share a thought without interrupting everyone or waiting for the next huddle. It’s as close as you can get to sitting next to each other.

Don’t wait to connect

Don’t wait for something big; check-in with colleagues and employees regularly. Caution: be clear in behaviour, attitudes and conversation that this is an “are you ok, and how can I help?” call, and not a “are you really working?” check. Leaders and managers must create greater rigour around management and engagement during these times.

Recognition and celebration

Remember the importance of a personal thank-you, and when public acknowledgement of accomplishments should take place. This goes for the minor achievements and major milestones. Be cognizant of opportunities to recognize employees and colleagues. Keep it up.

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