Making a remote workforce work for you


By Gwyn Humphreys |

Insights

A happy, connected, engaged workforce, is a productive workforce. But how do you actively engage a workforce who aren’t all under the same roof?

Businesses all over the world have shifted their entire way of working, quite literally overnight. People are suddenly finding out that whilst we all like to be together, we don’t actually need to be together to do our jobs. Working from home (WFM) has quickly become the current norm, and it looks like (due to COVID-19) it will be for the foreseeable future.

Nobody can really say how long we’re all going to be housebound for. More and more countries are moving to full lockdown and, stating the obvious, these are uncharted times. But we all understand that ‘the show must go on’, for the sake of employees' livelihoods, businesses' bottom lines, and our country's economy. Tough times are ahead for us all globally, and given many are in the same boat makes it less scary in a way.

For many businesses, the concept of keeping remote-working employees feeling connected and engaged, is unexplored territory. Employers know that a happy, connected, engaged workforce, is a productive workforce. But how do you engage a workforce that isn't actually at ‘work’, per se?

Connecting with employees is critical. You’re have to do it for many reasons, from daily catch-ups on specific projects (at Because we start the day with team ‘huddles’) to informing your team about future business plans (now changing almost by the hour!) or just making staff feel appreciated, part of a greater team and, well, not forgotten in their state of isolation.

WFH, an acronym we’re now all familiar with, is easily manageable for smaller businesses. With video conferencing solutions such as Zoom (have you seen their share prices of late?), Facebook’s Workplace, Teams, BlueJeans, etc. - it’s super easy to gather your small team onto a video call, have regular scheduled ‘huddles’, and stay connected throughout the day.

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However, when it comes to multinational corporates (MNCs) with hundreds, or even thousands of employees, spread across the globe and working within different time zones, brands have to get a lot more creative.

Consider creating some internal content, like a video, that delivers your message in a memorable or entertaining way. This will help bring your company’s culture to life, and remind remote workers where they work and who they work for. And yes, it is still very possible to use creative technology to produce such content, even if not from a production studio, and it’s far cheaper too.

Employee engagement takes many forms these days, from the simple to the more sophisticated. Starting with the simple: there are loads of ways you can reward remote workers for good work, or just to make them feel appreciated to bolster company loyalty and love.

Why not use creative technology like vAtoms to send employees drinks vouchers, and then schedule ‘transnational’ drinks with your team via a video call to catch-up. Everyone at Because has always enjoyed Thirsty Thursday’s, a time when the agency gathers at the bar to enjoy a drink together. We’ll still be doing this…just virtually from now on.

Also, a virtual party is a fun way to keep teams feeling like a team. Birthdays, Formal Fridays and special occasions will still be happening, so folk can get dressed up, nominate a DJ, use vAtoms for vouchers (note at the drop of a pin you can change a vAtom to be anything you want it to be), link up on Zoom…and party for an hour. Perhaps even start a Facebook site to share photos and videos? Or what about just partnering with a delivery service to drop off energy-booster packs to promote productivity in a fun way?

Moving to something a little more sophisticated, last year Manulife asked Because to do an employee-engagement campaign across multiple countries globally. We needed to introduce the company’s new brand values, and emphasise the role each employee had to play in moving the company forward.

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Naturally we wanted to do something which helped their brand connect with their team in an extraordinary way. So, we created an interactive quiz which helped employees understand Manulife’s new values, and allowed them to select a value that resonated with them most. At the end, they were able to take a fun photo to capture the moment.

These images were then used to create a mosaic, which was broadcast live globally for all offices to see. This reminded employees that they were part of one large global business family, and allowed them to put faces to the names of colleagues from different markets - people they might only have ever known via email.

Making the communication engaging and fun allowed the business to portray important information in a way staff found entertaining and would remember.

Because also created an employee-engagement campaign for the Westpac Group that helped turn their contractors, staff, and their family members into brand advocates. For more inspiration, take a look here when you next have a breather

But employee engagement is not just about connection and communication, it’s also about caring for your workforce’s wellbeing as you would (and should) if they were in the office. It’s been proven that taking breaks in the working day increases productivity and creativity, so why not give your staff a subscription to daily online yoga classes or meditation sessions? A half hour class over lunch time could be just the thing to make them feel calm, collected and rearing to go for the rest of the day.

Our operational set-up at Because has meant that our agency has been able to seamlessly shift to everyone working from home. But not everyone is as fortunate, and having a remote workforce is no doubt causing a lot of anxiety for business owners, especially MNCs, in the now. However, there is no choice, COVID-19 has forced almost entire nations into a WFM situation, and way before many businesses were ready to transition, especially overnight.

But where there is chaos, there is opportunity. And creative agencies thrive on new challenges. So, although the current situation is a necessity, it’s for the right reason, and this is an incredible opportunity to road test remote working. Not great news for landlords, as many businesses, even MNCs, may perhaps reconsider renewing their office lease in time to come.

Just remember that engagement is the key to a loyal, productive workforce. And creative agencies can quickly help you find smart new innovative ways to connect with your remote team. If you make it work for your people, they'll have no problem making it work for you. And the allure of having Netflix on in the background will wane in time…