March 11, 2020. It was exactly six months to the day before the 19th anniversary of 9/11 and a day that – like 9/11 – will go down in infamy. This time, however, the culprit was not the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda, who coordinated a series of four terrorist attacks against the United States. This time, the culprit was COVID-19.
A variant of the flu, COVID-19 quickly began its global reign of terror. No one was completely safe. Few were immune. Like 9/11, once again the world was under attack, and the familiar patterns of life and work changed monumentally, perhaps forever. Companies across the world closed their workplaces and told employees to work from home. Social distancing became the new buzz phrase and masks an essential new wardrobe must-have item.
At that time, we thought we’d be fighting the siege for weeks, possibly months. And then reality set in. Little did we know that a massive, long-term social experiment was about to begin. Hundreds of millions of workers stranded at home, disconnected from their co-workers and organizations, working remotely. Flying solo. Managers were separated from their teams, who they could no longer physically see or come in contact with. Suffice it to say, most employers would not have chosen this social experiment; it was forced upon them. We’ve had to innovate, and become more nimble, flexible, resilient, kind, and open-minded.
But open-minded typically isn’t our strength. When I worked in Corporate America (for two decades), I would regularly approach HR about the need for a telecommuting policy. Why? Because employees were clamoring for it. The vast majority of the time, the answer was, “No,” because senior leaders did not trust that employees would be productive at home. Leaders wanted to physically see employees working – in the flesh. When managers and leaders can physically see people working, they think they are being productive. Some even think that because an employee gets out of bed, showers, and shows up in a physical office setting, that they are engaged and want to be there. However, this is a fallacy. Many employees are simply ‘going through the motions.’
Some companies plan to remain 100 percent remote post-pandemic, while others will choose a hybrid model where employees will have choices about where and when they work. Others will demand that everyone come back. Whatever option your organization chooses, this forced experiment will ultimately be proven good for both employers and employees alike, as long as organizations prioritize and ace remote worker engagement.
Employees have a choice every day. They can choose to give you the shirt off their back or they can choose to do what they have to do to barely get by. And you have a choice: do nothing and risk productivity, performance, turnover, and profitability, or embark on a journey to engage your remote workers. By following the game plan in my new book, you will create an environment that virtual workers love because it meets their needs and inspires them to be the best version of themselves every day. The result? People who give you a lot of discretionary effort, which is the secret sauce to extraordinary business results.
When you make remote workers a priority, you will see measurable results, and your key stakeholders will be grateful they have a leader in their midst. And more importantly, you will know you’ve made a difference in the lives of the people who yearn for real leadership. Now that’s what I call success.
Jill, What Can I Do? You just read excerpts from my new book, REMOTE 101: The Secret to Engaging Virtual Workers. Want the complete game plan? Order a copy from Amazon today. To order 10 or more signed books ($200 USD), email me and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free virtual keynote speech (a $5,000 value)! If Amazon sells out of books, please email me and I’ll personally fulfill your order with free shipping. You’ve got this.