How can you adapt to a virtual environment?
One year ago, if you had said that most of your work engagements would be completed over Zoom while working from home – quasi permanently – you would have been laughed out of town! ‘The office’ has long been a place for employees to come together and do what they do best, but 2020 changed the breadth and scope of what business owners can expect from current employees and new hires. With this has come a challenging situation that nobody could have predicted and as an entrepreneur, you’ve likely had to adapt to changes in work culture. Recently, I spoke with Christine Lalonde of Sixth Sense Resources HR Consulting and she outlined three exceptional ways to help business owners support their employees.
COMMUNICATION: The global pandemic has thrown a wrench in how we work and communicate and many are feeling isolated while working from home. Abrupt changes in routine can take a toll on mental & physical health since the outlets that you normally have are replaced with something else. As her first tip, Christine suggests that you check in with your employees frequently and keep lines of communication open. “If your team or organization is not used to virtual teams or having a workforce that isn’t in the office day-to-day, your check in process becomes different automatically,” she says. “It’s important to set expectations but also to remember that everyone’s situation is different.” Some employees may have young families and others may have no dedicated workspace so it’s important to maintain a check in schedule so the small (and large) things don’t go unnoticed. Personal connection can go a long way in a time of crisis and nobody wants to feel like they’re failing.
Christine also suggests that you check in as much as you can without being overbearing. “You don’t want to be video ready all the time” she explains, “and sometimes a quick call is all it takes to drive a personal connection.” How often is too often? You’ll need to be the judge but make sure to keep everyone’s specific role, personality and situation in mind when reaching out.
Personal situations aside, workplaces offer an opportunity for camaraderie and team building and it’s easy to let that slip if you’re only communicating with individuals. Christine also suggests scheduling a weekly group check in to help maintain team dynamic. “Sometimes, sitting around and having a virtual cup of coffee and talking about how their day is not changing is all it takes to remember what it was like to hang out together,” she says. Words of wisdom!
RECOGNITION: When you complete a project or meet a tough deadline, it can feel like a weight has been lifted. When physically working with others, it’s easy to pass on congratulations but virtually, it takes real effort. As a business owner, recognition and appreciation can go a long way in maintaining employee motivation. “People don’t understand how much value these two things hold from an employer to employee relationship standpoint,” says Christine. “Money and benefits are nice, but what makes the job so much more fulfilling is feeling recognized for the work that they do.” Since you no longer see your team everyday, it’s important to build time into your schedule to show support for their efforts. Sometimes, you might forget that the two-second ‘thank you’ that gets expressed in the workplace has a profound impact on an employee and when they’re working virtually, they won’t hear or see that recognition in a casual sense. When you connect with staff, express how much you value their efforts!
RECONNECT AS A TEAM: We can’t be around each other in large groups – this is the new normal. How can you ‘let off steam’ as a team…virtually? Try a group happy hour or tea time to get the ball rolling. “There are many team building applications out there,” Christine suggests, “and there are online games that you can play that can really encourage your team members to engage with each other.” One thing I know for sure is that many people recognize the workplace as the venue where they made their friends, developed some of their closest relationships and socialize the most. Losing your workplace isn’t trivial for some – it’s their community outlet as well. Having your employees connect in a forum that’s completely unrelated to work will likely improve their morale and invigorate the connections that they’ve made before. Looking for ideas? Ask your team what they’re interested in!
2020 has forced us all to become more tech-savvy and to improve our skills when reading the social cues of others. Remember, you’ve got a great team and the tips outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg when exploring group management in the virtual workspace. If you’d like to find out more and become a virtual maestro, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
FILL OUT A 2-MIN QUESTIONNAIRE TO QUALIFY FOR A FREE CONSULT: