With all the changes to workplace situations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that managers are equipped with the mindfulness and soft skills required to stay in touch with their employees. While apps like Zoom and Slack allow you to now virtually congregate with your teams and move business forward even when you aren’t physically together, behind each computer screen is a work arrangement that can vary greatly from employee to employee.
To that end, there are a few key things you can do to personalize your outreach while advancing your message.
Know what tools you’ve got — and use them correctly
Thankfully, technology allows us to stay in touch virtually in our new workplace reality. From an internal communications perspective, it’s key to know which tools to use and what occasions call for which platforms when communicating with employees.
It’s no secret that Zoom burnout is a reality many remote and hybrid workers face. Combatting this can mean doing things in line with the old adage “less is more”. Not every communication needs to be a Zoom meeting! Consider utilizing either email or a messaging platform for lower-stakes communications in which you need immediate employee feedback and save the Zoom calls for when you absolutely need them.
Set up — and respect — boundaries
If you’re a remote or hybrid employee and you feel like you’ve been working longer hours, you’re on to something.
“While remote work affords employees greater flexibility, it also makes disconnecting extremely difficult,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, told SHRM. “Many people feel pressure to keep up with rising workloads and are putting in long hours to support the business and customer needs.”
The study SHRM cited, conducted by Robert Half, found that 70% of respondents who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, while 45% said they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before.
With this concerning information in mind, you are in a prime position to tailor your tactics with regard to employees.
First, conduct a personal audit of your communication preferences to ensure you’re modeling the right behavior and encouraging employees their much-deserved rest during off hours. Respecting business hours can mean using the schedule send feature in our email client to have an email send the next morning. Try to keep all but the most urgent meetings contained within working hours. If you’re respectful of the boundaries between your employees’ work and personal lives, they’re more likely to bring their best, happiest selves to work each day.
Be transparent and adaptable to how your employees work and communicate
It’s always best to be open and transparent when reaching out to your employees, especially in a remote or hybrid work situation. This means leaving no stone unturned and providing as much context as possible around new assignments, projects or initiatives they will be working on, be it written communication, resource guides or hubs. Additionally, giving constructive feedback on a periodic basis is a great way to engender open lines of contact between the managers and their direct report, creating a back-and-forth channel that can be more constructive than simply delegating information.
Additionally, your communications strategy, including cadence and channels, should be flexible and adapt to the different work arrangements and personal situations of your team. No employee is going to take the exact same approach to their work and personalizing your communications will help workers feel seen.
For instance, managers can ensure that periodic check-ins include dedicated time to hear employee concerns and exchange constructive feedback. You can also work with employees to find how to best optimize their working style, whether it means arranging meetings later in the day for someone who might have to drop their kids off at school or catering a schedule around time zone differences. When you’re sensitive to an individual employee’s situation, you’re more likely to have a happy employee.
The more you customize your approach and messaging to the person, the likelier you are to create a positive work environment, whether it’s remote, hybrid, or in-person.