Few people are in favor of more meetings. But as we continue to adjust to the world of work where we don’t get to see our managers or co-workers in person, be sure you are meeting frequently enough. Meetings, even virtual ones, must generate the rapport and engagement that used to take place in person.
As the pandemic has extended the remote work situation for many employees, engagement has fallen. When engagement falls, so does productivity. This is a particularly difficult time to experience an engagement drop. Many businesses are feeling the pressure of falling revenues and an uncertain outlook.
Meeting Frequently Enough
One of the best ways to build engagement and productivity is to check in regularly with your team members. This doesn’t mean you have to spend one hour every week with each direct report. But you do need to keep track of what’s happening with them professionally and personally. In the pre-COVID-19 world, you may have been able to catch up with a team member while walking into the building from the street or at the coffee machine. Those interactions helped you connect on a casual level. They also assured your team members that you knew about their work output and what they cared about personally.
In a virtual workplace, team members will hesitate to reach out because they’ll be afraid to bother you or interrupt your important work. The responsibility falls on you, the manager, to maintain meeting consistency. Schedule the meetings for a short time period. Recall that many of the informal conversations you had with team members in the past may have only lasted 15 minutes. Going forward, try to schedule a ‘touch base’ conversation for 20 minutes. You both get as much out of a shorter interaction and you'll be working more efficiently.
Maintain a Personal Connection
If you’re maintaining a file on each employee, refer to it ahead of the meeting and ask about the personal details they may have mentioned last week. Many of us are feeling a bit starved for human interaction outside of the family members we’re living with. Chatting about those topics and what’s going on in the world, without expressing your strong personal political positions, can ease your team member’s worries.
“Act as a coach or mentor, rather than a micromanager,” advises Adam Robinson. One goal of these meetings is also to learn whether your employee feels over- or underworked. Once you have that information, you can adjust their workload. Employees are spending less time commuting, but that doesn’t mean they should devote all of that extra time to work. After all, some of your team members are also doubling as their children’s teachers.
What Do Your Employees Need?
Another huge source of frustration for some employees is equipment. Are they having issues with their printers or extended monitors? These are problems you should be able to solve for them.
At the end of the day, what your team members probably need most is a little pep talk. They hear enough bad news on the media, whining from the kids and barking from their pets. As they settle into their long-term remote work arrangements, let them know you value their contributions and that they matter.