Written by Rina Jopkins
In many ways, the global acceptance and adoption of remote work has been enormously positive for businesses. And, contrary to popular belief, remote work practices have contributed to a rise in productivity, which is expected to increase productivity by 5% even after the pandemic. Some would say, at what mental and/or emotional cost, but that's another conversation altogether.
Despite this, the remote working model has some major drawbacks. Due to decreased direct contact with co-workers and management, employees are more likely to feel isolated, anxious, and stressed. Despite this knowledge, many companies are still struggling to find ways to empower their team and nurture them to their full potential while working remotely. As much as it is difficult, it's not impossible. In this article, we'll share with you how to empower your employees better in the remote space and in which ways employee engagement and empowerment can be incorporated into your current practices.
According to Mckinsey & Company, the key to making smarter business decisions is to empower your employees. How do you empower your employees? There are a few ways you can empower and engage your team despite being miles apart from one another. We hear a lot about employee engagement these days, but do we really know what employee empowerment really means?
Remote employee empowerment is much more than a business philosophy, it's really about placing importance on having employees make independent decisions they can act on, and be proud of making. With that said, the more engaged employees are, the more likely they are empowered to think and act independently. And, not only that, engaged employees are more often than not, more productive, are less likely to leave the company, and display higher performance abilities.
Some of the techniques for building employee empowerment include 👇
There are many barriers of employee empowerment that exist in the remote space. For example, when overused - traditional synchronous communication. Often, synchronous forms of connection such as video meetings and phone calls do little to empower in the long term, and in fact, tend to create exhaustion, anxiety, and more among employees.
Instead of holding regular synchronous team meetings to increase interaction between members, take a remote-first approach towards effective communication. We all know that packing our schedule with video call meetings is not only an unproductive way to spend our time, but it can also easily result in Zoom burnout and disengagement over time.
As an alternative, run an asynchronous discussion instead! Best of all, these types of remote meetings, allow employees to check in and report back in their own time. Running regular async check-ins, allows the team to connect and align on the company's long-term strategies and goals. An aligned team understands their strengths and weaknesses and uses this knowledge to work better together to reach the company's vision.
Finally, to empower your employees to communicate effectively, it's vital to stress that your team is always welcome to talk with you. With that said, practice what you preach by being open to suggestions on how to improve the remote working experience. By doing so, your team members will truly believe that they can talk to you whenever they have personal or work-related concerns.
One of the simplest yet most effective employee engagement strategies is tuning into your employees. Since you're no longer interacting face-to-face, you have to pay closer attention to detail and pick up on those non verbal cues.
On video calls, this can include taking note of a person's appearance. For example, do they look downcast or less polished than usual? Even on voice-only calls, you can try paying attention to someone's tone of voice or the words that they use.
More specifically, you might take notice that there’s less active communication online, members working overtime or during odd hours, or even a decline in the quality of work being produced. If this happens, be the first to check in on them, and suggest that they take some time off if need be. This way, you prevent your team from experiencing fatigue or burnout.
Remember: Working from home isn't easy for everyone. Consider the living situation of each team member. Do they have kids? Do they have space for a dedicated home office? Were they previously reliant on their work computer? It's a worthy investment to set your remote team up with the proper remote work infrastructure.
On the whole, members are more likely to feel valued as a part of your team when you provide them with the tools to work better. These can include simplified project management tools like Proofhub, goal-tracking software like Weekdone, team collaboration platforms like Chanty, or even physical equipment like company laptops.
You might also want to consider upskilling your employees to better prepare them for the remote work setup. Educational platform Udemy, for instance, offers relevant course material on remote work success and even remote employee health, promising high ROI. Meanwhile, other platforms, like Coursera and edX, offer university courses that will allow your team to learn business skills that employers have begun to look for during the pandemic, such as crisis management, data literacy, and digital engagement.
In fact, there's no shortage of places for your team to draw wisdom from, as more schools continue to offer top-notch online programs and courses. As a testament to their effectiveness, online business administration graduates are equipped with the knowledge to tackle a wide range of business topics, such as finance, economics, and marketing among others. Many of them eventually specialize in certain business tracks as well, like accounting. The extra knowledge has allowed them — and, eventually, your employees too — to thrive despite the ever-tumultuous changes that happen in the industry they work in.
Regardless of whether it is physical tools or educational resources that you choose to provide your team with, you're sure to be setting them up for success.
Encourage your team to take on new hobbies and learn other skills outside of work. Even simple things like Sudoku, baking, or Lego-building can help with brain function and overall mental health. Supporting your employee with flexible work solutions, is one way to encourage continuous learning outside of work.
Hard skills are great to build, but learning doesn't have to be limited to them. In fact, soft skills are key to maintaining effective communication, especially in the remote working world. It's easy to get started, too: There are online courses for problem-solving and decision-making and even some on leadership and networking.
Finally, by commending quality work and celebrating milestones, you reassure your team that they're on the right track. Plus, if done through public work channels like Slack, you help make them more visible to the rest of the company, lessening those feelings of isolation, and encouraging them to continue excelling in the future.
Beyond this, though, by appreciating your team, you allow them to form a connection with you and the rest of the company's leadership. Mutual recognition builds trust — and trust is undeniably one of the drivers of a happy and productive workplace. Plus, as an added bonus: happy, appreciated, and appreciative employees are more likely to work with you for longer.
On the whole, employee engagement and empowerment has a lot to do with proper communication, infrastructure, and encouragement, all of which your team needs to become stronger, independent, and more motivated to constantly improve — even though you're far apart.
Measuring employee empowerment isn't always so straight-forward, but the more we open our eyes to the main factors of employee empowerment, the more consciously we have a shot at improving it in the remote working environment.