“You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis trying to work.”

Covid-19 has abruptly thrust organizations into a new way to work – remotely. For most, there wasn’t the luxury of preparation or orderly transition. What’s more, this shift is about more than remote work. It is also about crisis management in a fast-changing environment

Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, a company that has been fully remote for almost 10 years puts it best: “Our worlds feel turned upside down as a result of the pandemic, too. This is not normal remote working!

It is “not normal” because now your employees have to deal with kids at home, spouses working from home simultaneously, constant bombardment of news, and the stress of not knowing what happens next.

During these fast-changing times, it is crucial for leaders to focus on listening to and acting on the concerns and ideas of their employees – do it frequently, do it with purpose.

So what should you be gathering employee feedback on? At Perked!, we analyzed data on engagement and factors impacting engagement from teams and organizations that operate remotely. We identified specific drivers of employee engagement that are more important to enabling effective remote work.

Here we’ll discuss the top five drivers of engagement for remote teams and include questions you can use to gain insights on them. We also believe it is important during these unusual times to adapt your feedback strategy to gaining insights on how your employees are navigating the Covid-19 crisis. Some of the questions below are specific to this.

5 Key Factors to Shape your Remote Workplace Strategy

1.  Communication

Many new remote workers are often surprised by the added effort and time needed to get answers to simple questions. Think about all of the ways you communicate in an office-based environment, from in-person meetings and brainstorming on the whiteboard, to more informal chats like catching up over coffee breaks. All of these communication touch points are important because they offer opportunities for both verbal and non-verbal communication. So it’s important to understand how your employees are faring as they jump into remote work.

Communication Questions
  • Open + Honest: There is open and honest two-way communication at CompanyX.
  • Accessibility:  The information I need to do my job effectively is readily available.
  • Covid-19: I am receiving regular and helpful communications from CompanyX regarding Covid-19.

2.  Social Support

Loneliness or “social isolation” is consistently one of the biggest struggles of remote work. In fact, a recent Buffer study of 2,500 remote workers around the world found that 19% identified “loneliness” as their biggest struggle. During this Covid-19 pandemic where social distancing is a necessity – this problem becomes an even more serious issue.

Social Support Questions
  • Coworker Support: I can count on my co-workers to help out when needed.
  • Manager Support: I can count on my manager for support when needed.
  • Covid-19: I know where to raise concerns or questions I have in relation to Covid-19.

3.  Leadership

Leading a remote team is no easy task. In times of crisis, it’s even harder. How you lead will be the one thing your employees will remember most and define how loyal they are to your company when the crisis is over. Analyzing the data on remote companies, we observe ‘leadership’ as being one of the consistently “high priority” drivers of engagement (defined as having a high positive correlation to engagement score).

Leadership Questions
  • Confidence: I have confidence in the leadership at CompanyX.
  • Covid-19: The leadership at CompanyX is keeping us informed about our company’s response to Covid-19.
  • Covid-19: I believe the leaders at CompanyX are making effective decisions regarding Covid-19.

4.  Stress

Stress and anxiety levels rise when people don’t feel in control of what is happening around them – the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 is doing exactly that. Furthermore, as we mentioned before, this is not “normal remote work”. The sudden shift to remote work has resulted in issues, such as suboptimal workspace design. At the same time, the need for “physical distancing” has lead to multiple sources of distraction at home like unexpected parenting and caregiving responsibilities.

Stress Questions
  • Stress Level: In the past week, how stressed were you?
  • Ability to Handle: In the past week, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle work-related issues?
  • Control: In the past week, how often have you felt that you were able to control the important things at work?
  • Covid-19: I know what I need to do to stay safe and healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic.

5.  Teamwork & Collaboration

Collaboration is also another significant challenge for remote workers, with 17% identifying it as their biggest challenge in the 2019 State of Remote Work report. In times of crisis, it is important to keep building on the trust between team members while continuing to remind everyone of their common goal and mission.

Teamwork & Collaboration Questions
  • Trust: Members of my team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
  • Cohesion: I feel a sense of belonging at CompanyX.
  • Covid-19: We are staying connected as a team during Covid-19.

[For the questions above, we recommend using a 7-point Likert Scale with a comment box that allows them to share with you more details as they see fit.]

So those are the top five key factors you should consider in shaping your remote work strategy and implementation. We hope you can leverage these questions to gain actionable insights from your employees, and most importantly, commit to taking action.

Need more help? Try Perked!’s Free Remote Work Pulse

  • Why? Our mission at Perked! is to help companies build resilient teams and culture. To help, we made Perked!’s Remote Work Pulse free for teams and organizations to use. We hope this helps your teams’ #WorkBetterTogether during this difficult time – so that you can pull through stronger.
  • How does it work? Short, biweekly pulses to help you stay connected to your employees’ needs. We measure key factors to help you understand where to focus your efforts to improve your employee experience. We automate it for you so that you can focus your time and energy on driving actions.
  • What do you get? Dashboard access to your employees’ real-time feedback – see trends and segment results by team. Get suggested actions and curated learning resources to help figure out how best to action on results.
  • Get started? Contact katie@perked.co and she’ll get you set-up and ready to go.