Contented employees make vigilant teams; vigilant teams help make secure networks
Nearly a full fifth of the workforce is now telecommuting full time, and it’s likely your business is supporting at least some level of remote work. From a business IT perspective, we spend a lot of time talking about the implications this has for cybersecurity and digital productivity, but what about employee morale?
As a Managed IT Service Provider, we are always emphasizing how your employee end-users are perhaps the most critical component in your network security structure. It is ultimately their vigilance or negligence that works for or against your layers of IT safeguards. And since study after study shows that happy, engaged team members are on-task, diligent team members, making a point of nurturing your team’s morale isn’t just good leadership – it’s a smart IT security move too.
It can take some deliberate thought and planning to keep your team happy when they’re working from home, but it will have far-reaching implications that make it worth any business leader’s attention. Here are 5 things to think about.
1. Maintain Open Dialogue Despite the Changed WFH Dynamic
Typically, business owners and managers build their employer/employee relationship and team dynamic while working alongside them in the same building each day. But now that the bulk of your interactions are virtual, leaders need to make a pointed effort to compensate for the loss of face-to-face and casual conversations.
As we are all cognizant of the balancing act of working amid everything else that is going on, some people are concerned about bothering colleagues “unnecessarily” or wasting their time. With so many added pressures outside of work, people are generally thinking twice before asking to set up meetings or calls unless there is a sufficiently good reason for them to do so. This presents a significant disruption from the open flow of communication that happens inside the office workday.
Try to find ways to keep the line open for casual communication among the team. If you don’t already have one, consider using a team chat app tool, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and encouraging team members to leave the chat box up and open through the day. As the leader, set the tone for the back and forth. Here in our Boca Raton office, we’ve established an easy banter – which could include a bit of “watercooler”-type discussion or even funny GIFs. For remote teams, it relieves some of the pressure, offers the opportunity to continue the team bond and rapport, creates a synthetic “just over at the next desk” feeling, and makes employees less hesitant to reach out to their colleagues (and supervisors) in the remote environment.
2. Offer learning opportunities
Again, as an IT services and IT security provider, we are never going to gloss over an opportunity to remind you of the importance of employee education and starting your employees with a good network security awareness training (learn more about our cybersecurity awareness training and get tips here). But also just in general, one of the best ways to boost the morale of your staff is to offer them opportunities to further their role development and learn new skills.
The benefits of providing educational opportunities and job development training are so numerous and robust that they deserve their own post, but for now let’s focus on the fact that giving your team these options not only improves job performance, it breeds new enthusiasm for their work and supports employee contentedness.
Fortunately, employee education and training doesn’t have to be as significant an investment as many team leaders think. While not all companies will be able to afford to provide graduate courses for their employees, almost every employer can adopt and extend some degree of programming, whether it’s a formal “continuing education” curriculum through a college or simply in-house employee training courses. Another option may be to give the team a chance to learn outside of work by organizing, sponsoring or enabling their (online, for now) attendance at relevant conferences and seminars. Whichever avenue you choose, getting the certificates rolling in is a proven boon to employee morale — and retention.
3. Encourage breaks
Much has been discussed among employers about fears of lost productivity while the team is working from home. But on the flip side, the reality is that employees often end up giving too much of themselves to remote work. This is because, in the home workspace, it’s very easy to forget when the work is meant to stop. The dividing line between work life and home life is normally represented by the commute home or the crossing of the threshold in or out of one’s own doorway, but with these elements gone, “turning off” from work can be difficult to do. For many employees, this translates to putting in longer days than normal, responding to emails late into the evening, and effectively losing the value of their off-hours.
So while most employers have routinely given thought to whether they are getting the same volume of productivity, not enough of them are looking at it from the other side. Don’t let your staff lose themselves amid the WFH hustle. Allowing employees to burn themselves out isn’t good for business, and emphasizing a healthy work/life balance should be a stance you create from the top.
4. Set aside time for socializing
Take a moment to imagine the spectrum of different households and living situations your employees are in. While one may reside with multiple family members or have an active social life, another may live alone or be mostly isolated from during Covid. Many employees are parents who are now dealing with their children having to attend online school, and many of these parents previously relied on the office dynamic for most of their social interactions.
Start during work hours by using a light vibe to power all the hard work. Start a tradition of funny Zoom backgrounds or make pun competitions an ongoing team joke.
After work hours, arrange team calls that everybody can attend and participate in. Get creative. This could be virtual drinks after work, a staff book club, or a weekly trivia night. Use your imagination. The point is to keep your team upbeat and interacting with each other as they work remotely.
5. Look out for each other
It’s extremely easy these days to become overwhelmed with the drastic change to our lives, daily routines, and what is going on in the world. Keep an eye on your team. Check in with them regularly; if you notice a change in behavior in somebody who reports to you, don’t just ignore it — make sure they’re okay. Have a conversation.
If something is indeed going on with them, maybe there’s something you can do. Sometimes pointing people in the right direction for qualified help with whatever issue they’re facing is all it takes. If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program, this can be an excellent (and often forgotten) resource.
It’s important to remember that — more than ever — people experiencing difficulties in the “Work From Home” era may not know where to turn for help. It’s no longer as simple as popping their head into their manager’s office for advice or stopping by HR. Being a flexible and compassionate boss or team leader is critical as everyone learns a new lifestyle and new way of working. But it isn’t just necessary for being a decent human during a bizarre and challenging time in history it’ll also pay dividends in employee loyalty and productivity, which — we promise — ultimately creates a butterfly effect that extends to all components of your business security.