Every business, corporation and employee has felt at least some effect of COVID-19 and the impact surrounding it. Despite the disruptions and changes, some companies are attempting to navigate these untested waters and function as normally as possible. Due to social distancing practices and other government guidelines, most staff members are working on a remote basis. A Society of Human Resource Managers survey found that 67 percent of employers were taking steps to have employees working from home that did not work remotely before.

Most owners and managers fear working remotely may turn into a semi-vacation for employees. Employers can be hesitant to trust. Assuming remote workers still have all the tools and materials needed to perform, the core issue is engagement. The situation is not necessarily a death sentence to productivity, as long as steps are taken to keep workers engaged.

Based on Gallup q12 survey data and our experience, we have selected four components for employers to include as they manage remote employees:

 1. Clear Expectations

  • Unclear expectations makes workers pause in confusion and feel unsure what to do, especially if the manager has already given what they think is clear direction. Furthermore, workers who get held accountable for not producing from unclear expectations makes workers resentful and leads to active, intentional disengagement. Don’t tell them to run laps. Tell them to run two miles, one mile at a time, eight minutes each. Be sure the conversation of expectations includes the worker repeating expectations back to the manager.

2. Equipment

  • For engaged workers, not having the necessary tools and materials is a significant source of job stress. Workers, not managers, should review their office processes and account for all materials and equipment needed. Managers, in turn, should clarify expectations and budget for the purchase (or not) of things like printers and laptops. Planning to have remote workers working without the equipment and materials needed is a plan for non-productivity.

 3. The Thrill of Performing

  • Doing good work feels good. And that good feeling leads directly to engagement. Reinforce with remote workers that one of the advantages of working remotely is the removal of a lot of distractions. Communicate an excitement and a “have fun” attitude so that workers have the freedom to perform and enjoy the work.  

4. Praise

  • Managers should plan on giving direct and specific praise to every remote worker every week. Praise with the specifics included, (not just “good job”) is a powerful force for increasing engagement. Don’t be fake or lie, but do actively look for something done well and let them know. Public praise will be remembered longer, and private praise will be more meaningful and build the relationship between front-line worker and supervisor.