Before I start this post on how to keep a workforce that has suddenly moved to a remote model due to the coronavirus engaged and motivated, I want to begin by acknowledging those workers who can't do their job from home.
Without the hospital staff, grocery store workers, pharmacists, first responders, delivery drivers, utility workers, assisted living employees, and countless others in our communities, this situation would be even worse than it is.
We see you. We thank you.
I also want to acknowledge that continuous improvement might not be high on your list of priorities right now. Just getting processes to perform adequately might seem like a pretty high bar. That's fine, but all of the principles and practices that you've used to drive improvement in the past can be applied to your new remote work reality. In fact, looking for opportunities for positive change may be more important now than ever before. What once was useful for reducing costs, is now essential for performing basic functions.
As always, your employees are your greatest source of information and innovation. Here are some ways to keep them motivated and engaged while practicing social distancing and transitioning to as much remote work as possible.
Implement a Communications Plan
Remote work often causes feelings of isolation, especially for people who aren't used to it and even more so during a national emergency. It is essential that team members have a regular cadence of communication. That they know when they can expect to hear from the organization's leaders and their direct supervisors. Consistency is key. When there is a communication void, people become uncertain about their performance and the state of the company. Email is great, but those who directly manage others should pick up the phone – a lot.
Attend to Infrastructure
Some basic foundations are necessary for effective remote work. Make sure that all employees have a functioning high-speed internet connection. Consider whether everyone who needs it has access to the VPN and any shared file services that you use. If you aren't using a cloud-based phone system that supports remote work, this might be the time to consider one.
Evaluate Remote Working Software
Of course, KaiNexus is the perfect platform for managing your improvement projects because it is online and can be used from any device at any location. There are some other technologies that could be helpful as well. Video conferencing is an excellent way to bring teams together. You might do your huddle meetings using KaiNexus and a video collaboration solution like Zoom or Callbridge. Chat tools like Slack can also help keep conversations going.
Set Clear Expectations and Align Goals
Keeping everyone heading in the same direction is tough during any crisis, much less on that will have such a profound impact on the way people work. That's why it is more important than ever that every employee understands their role in responding to the changing needs of the organization and its customers. There must be a clear path from the short-term and long-term goals of the organization to each person's daily responsibilities.
Remote work requires a significant degree of trust. Not being able to see team members working in person can be uncomfortable for managers. It's often uncomfortable for employees as well. They want everyone to know that they are productive. That's why a clear set of performance measurements should be in place to help both supervisors and team members know that work is getting done.
Ask for Ideas
There is no doubt that the switch to remote work will open up opportunities for improvement. Be sure that employees know that they are welcome and give them some categories of improvements to suggest. You might want to ask for ideas about communication, technology, customer service, and HR support during the transition.
Safeguard the Culture
You've worked hard to build a culture of improvement, innovation, and trust. It isn't easy to maintain that when people don't see each other every day, but it is possible with effort and intention. Brainstorm with your team about ways to help people feel connected. It may be a good idea to have team meetings that focus on how people are coping with the situation beyond work.
The technology company, Zappier, uses a culture and connectedness technique that we love. All of Zappier's workers have been remote since the company was founded. Zapier pairs up employees randomly to get to know each other. The matched employees schedule a 30-minute call to check-in and get to know each other. The purpose of it is not work-related employees are just learning about what each other's roles are or what their hobbies are.
"These interactions are really important in a distributed company because one thing that you have to recognize is that you aren't around people all day, so it's easy for loneliness to set in. And so these are some things that we do to combat that," CEO, Wade Foster told Business Insider.
Nothing about the current situation is easy, but if everyone pulls together, and follows the urgent need for social distancing, we can mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our population and our healthcare system. Remote work, whenever possible, is a critical part of that effort, and we are standing by to help in whatever way we can.