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Top 4 tips: Using behavioural science to manage remote work during the COVID-19 crisis

Following on from our blog about the top 5 mistakes leaders make in this remote new world, this article shares 4 tips for managing a remote workforce using behavioural science.

1. Over-communicate to the whole organisation and to individuals

In times of crisis, people feel anxious about uncertainty. As natural problem solvers, our brains look for solution to the challenges we face and in the absence of clear information or direction, our minds can spiral out of control.

Communicate regularly. Many organisations have adopted a daily COVID-19 update and some are doing more regular updates as the situation changes. Communication should be written and verbal, and be accessed via the various channels such as email, Slack or Yammer, intranet, verbally in meetings, and so on. This will keep people informed and confident that you as a leader can and will keep them updated as they need to be.

2. Provide a digital water cooler for employees to connect socially

Loneliness is the second biggest challenge for remote workers, based on a study by Buffer. And when a large scale remote work setting is suddenly imposed, this lack of connection can wreak havoc on culture and team cohesion.

Most companies use platforms like Zoom, Skype or Teams to talk about projects. But what is missing for people is the social connection that they would get over the coffee station, in the lunchroom or over the water cooler.

You can facilitate these informal social connections through a digital ‘water cooler’ by having video conference time scheduled just for connecting as a team. This could be a ‘virtual happy hour’ at the end of the week, where everyone can have a beverage and chat. Another way to do this is to have an informal channel on Slack or Teams where employees can connect casually.

Whatever format works best for you – do not overlook the importance of social connection.

3. Manage flexibility by giving autonomy with accountability

Flexibility is hands down the top reason that employee love remote working. However, the perceived lack of control by managers can be a barrier to effective remote working.

As well as catering for individual’s varying needs in relation to autonomy, systems and practices can be put in place to give both autonomy and accountability.

Management should shift towards an output-focussed approach rather than task- or time-based. This works really well when expectations are clearly set up front, these are then defined into goals, the output, the milestones, and points at which to touch in and to escalate if needed.

Online tools for project tracking and completion are a great way to underpin this practice.

4. Implement repeatable and scalable behavioural practices

While communication is critical, it only goes so far (even when it is done well). Behaviour change requires continuous positive feedback to stick, so organisations need a way to not only incentivise the right behaviours but also to do so in a whole-of-organisation way that is repeatable and scalable.

Whether these behaviours are washing hands, setting up home offices with proper OH&S procedures, or managing mental health over extended periods of isolation, the behaviour needs to be reinforced and rewarded.

PentaQuest specialises in employee engagement through digital means and have proven the results of our behavioural science backed approach. If this is of interest to you, get in touch for a 15 minute discovery call or complete this quiz.


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