How do you shift an in-office team to remote work? That’s a question Walter Tucker, our director of support, had to quickly answer when the impact of COVID-19 hit. The questions didn’t end there. Once his team settled into life working from home, he had to figure out how to increase communication and sustain engagement on a team that traditionally thrived from in-person collaboration. Most importantly, he also had to figure out how to build trust.
People managers all over the world have had to make similar shifts, and many will continue to manage employees remotely following the pandemic. Though the long-term impact of COVID-19 isn’t certain, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta predicts the number of days worked from home will triple among full-time employees. Here’s a look into how Walter successfully transitioned his team to remote work—and his tips for building trust on remote and hybrid teams.
Before COVID-19, a typical day on our recipient support team was lively and active. There was a high level of in-person collaboration and information sharing to troubleshoot and solve customer issues. “When our office closed, I wanted to come up with a transition plan that would preserve our team culture,” explains Walter. “One of the first things I did was check in with everyone on my team and make sure they felt supported and had the tools they needed to work from home.”
In addition to providing basic equipment—like laptops and computer monitors—our leadership team gifted employees a $500 home-office grant that could be used to purchase things like standing desks and ergonomic chairs. “I was impressed by how quickly my team adapted to remote work. I think having the tools they needed early on helped them settle in.”
The largest challenge Walter faced was keeping a pulse on everyone’s emotional state, while trying to take care of himself too. “There were a lot of things that happened last year, in addition to COVID-19. There was the George Floyd situation, Black Lives Matter protests, civil unrest, and political divides. Those things, paired with the forced shift to remote work was a lot to endure. During this time, my team also learned an entirely new ticketing management tool and managed triple the ticket volume with the same number of team members we had the prior year. I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated and hardworking team during such a difficult time.” In addition to open communication, Walter relied on a morale budget to preserve team culture and help cope with stress.
Before the pandemic, Walter had a general budget that could be used for team events and activities. When the pandemic hit, this budget increased and was clearly earmarked for keeping up morale. “Having a budget for team morale was great,” explains Walter. “It allowed us to do things like issue food delivery gift cards so that we could do virtual lunches together. We celebrated National Customer Service Week by sending out gifts and prizes. We also tried a virtual trivia event as a team, which was extremely fun. I believe it helped keep spirits up.”
During times when the workload on his team increased, Walter used gift cards to incentivize productivity and help people feel appreciated. “With so much change going on, asking everyone to work extra hours outside of everything else was a really tough ask. We used gift cards as an extra incentive to drive momentum and productivity during those times when we needed it most.”
Walter recommends three things when it comes to building trust on a remote or hybrid team:
1. Be transparent—Any time a significant change occurs on a team, you can anticipate a level of apprehension. Share as many details as you can so your team has time to process.
2. Seek out and listen to feedback—Listen to your team to get a better understanding of their pain points.
3. Be an advocate—Figure out which pain points you can address the quickest and follow through.
Walter used this approach to create a solid foundation of trust on his team. In addition, he offered a final piece of advice: Support your team with a high level of energy.
“The main advice I have for people managers—especially those who manage recipient support teams—is to support your team with the same amount of energy you expect them to have with your recipients. If you support your team and advocate for their needs, they’ll remain engaged and feel confident in whatever path you’re leading them down.”
We offer a variety of information and resources to help you learn how to build an employee reward program—or improve an existing program—with digital gift cards. You can also reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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