With many nonprofit employees continuing to work at home, engagement and morale can suffer. But more than a year into the pandemic, some best practices have emerged for combating feelings of isolation and disconnection that undermine productivity. Here are five:
1. Stay in regular contact
Perhaps the most important step you can take is to establish regular contact through both formal meetings and more informal, but meaningful, check-ins. When holding virtual meetings, encourage everyone to turn on the video option, rather than just relying on audio — it makes communication easier when attendees can see their coworkers’ reactions and nurtures relationship building, as well.
As for check-ins, managers should take the time for individual interactions. They can tailor these contacts to the person’s particular needs. Some employees are more comfortable working independently, while others require more “care and feeding.”
2. Foster social interactions
Of course, not all office interaction is business-related. So-called “water cooler talk” can help cultivate cohesion and teamwork. To provide such opportunities, plan virtual coffee breaks, birthday celebrations or trivia contests. Also, slate time at the beginning or ending of virtual meetings for casual chatter or create online chat groups dedicated to non-work conversation.
Many people have found it difficult to maintain their physical or mental health, so wellness activities are a way to kill two birds with one stone. Think about scheduling wellness activities such as yoga or guided meditation. Team fitness competitions — for example, tracking steps walked — are another option.
3. Respect schedules
Managers and employees need to respect one another’s schedules. For example, meeting times should consider whether attendees are in different time zones. Remember, too, that employees working from home often must simultaneously juggle family responsibilities such as child care and parental teaching. Don’t expect people to drop everything to make themselves available for impromptu meetings.
To avoid burnout, you also should discourage employees from becoming 24/7 workers. With smartphones and laptops always within arm’s reach, it’s easy to fall into that trap. Make clear to employees that they aren’t expected to work outside regular hours or respond to off-hours emails immediately.
4. Recognize and reward
Experts agree that recognition and rewards go a long way toward building a loyal and enthusiastic staff. Some of these programs may have fallen by the wayside in the move to remote work, but the consequences for performance can prove significant. Employees have struggled with many challenges during the pandemic, and you should acknowledge and reward their efforts in the face of this adversity.
Make sure you relay recognition and rewards publicly. This makes the appreciation all the more meaningful, while incentivizing others to follow in their peers’ footsteps.
5. Set the tone at the top
As always, your leaders must remember that the rest of the staff takes cues from those in leadership positions. Their behavior and attitudes reinforce and propel your organizational culture. Executives and managers should set the example by demonstrating compassion and empathy in their interactions, communicating clearly, and showing flexibility and an openness to ongoing change.
Professional and personal circumstances will continue to evolve for your employees, and with those developments, their needs may change, too. You may want to conduct occasional surveys to solicit feedback on staff ideas and concerns. Be sure to vet potential solutions to problems with employees before you implement them. Best of luck!