Specialist insight

Five ways to inspire your remote team at the start of the year

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How will your team mark the start of 2021? With networking lunches and in-person award ceremonies mostly off the table due to the pandemic, leaders need to find alternative ways to start this year on a high note, says global talent leader Lars Schmidt

Last year wasn’t easy for anyone. Around the world, companies, leaders and employees all grappled with change and uncertainty unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. And without the holiday parties, awards ceremonies and celebrations of our collective achievements that would usually have marked the end of a working year, many teams may be entering into 2021 feeling a little flat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are still things you can do to inspire and recognise your employees as 2021 begins.

Redeploy your events budget
Many companies had a holiday party budget in their fiscal plan that wasn’t used for live events. If it’s financially possible, consider reallocating those funds to recognise and reward employees for the work they’ve put in during 2020. You might also consider tapping into your unused travel and entertainment budgets to ensure you can cover all your employees.

Celebrate through recognition
The shift to remote work was a new experience for many organisations – with things such as casual praise and water cooler recognition hard to replicate in a remote environment. However, recognition is a vital ingredient for a healthy and high-performing culture. Designate a week of January as ‘recognition week’ and celebrate your employees. Encourage public recognition across your communications channels (such as email, Slack and Teams) and make sure your executives are leading the way and modelling the behaviour.

Help them get comfortable
As companies shifted to remote working, seemingly overnight, many employees were not equipped with an optimal setup for this. Some companies provided stipends to help their employees purchase furniture, hardware, software and tools to help them get the most from their new home workspaces. If you haven’t done so yet, the end of the year is a great time to support your employees in building a space that will best support their productivity.

Don’t be too rigid in how it’s used. For some employees, it might not actually be traditional home office costs that will support their productivity. Perhaps it’s a tutor, or a virtual trainer – or even meditation and mindfulness resources. Many of your employees have been working remotely for more than six months. Trust that at this stage they’ll know what they need.

Make it personal
Consider handwritten thank-you letters from your CEO or executive team thanking your employees for supporting the business through these challenging times. Recognise the unique burdens and hardships they’ve faced, and share your gratitude that you’ve overcome 2020 together.

Make it personal with direct anecdotes and examples of their work and contributions over the past 12 months. If possible, share any plans for 2021 that will provide clarity on the direction of the business and how it will impact their role and team. Recognition, clarity, and vision can be a motivating springboard heading into the new year.

Lars Schmidt is a global talent leader and the author of Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance, published by Kogan Page.

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