October 27, 2020

Working From Home: Communicate, Motivate & Embrace the Change

After more than six months of life in lockdown, there’s clear evidence our new way of working may be extended for at least another six months. This year’s shift to working from home is beginning to look much more permanent.

As a result, the focus of employers has now shifted from the basics of setting employees up remotely, to supporting this longer term transition from office to home. As we well know, motivation and communication are key to employees feeling part of a team. So, let’s remind ourselves of some important motivational theories and communication best practice.

Theories on Motivation

When the UK went into lockdown, many employers had to react fast, transitioning their workforces to working from home. Where homeworking wasn’t possible, they needed additional measures to make workplaces safe.

These changes were forced upon all UK workers and it all took place without any consultation with management or with unions. Of course, many responded positively, glad to continue to work in this new world environment.

Whilst remote working is now more ‘normal’ it’s easy for employees to lose focus and motivation. Plus, working alone can result in feelings of isolation.

Employers may use Abraham Maslow’s theory of hierarchy to underpin motivational influences. But Fredrick Herzberg’s two-tier theory of motivation in the workplace is also a good one to remind ourselves of here. His two tiers are defined as:

  1. Motivators: things that makes you happy and work better; and
  2. Hygiene factors: the things that, if absent, can lead to dissatisfaction and health deterioration

Getting this balance right is the responsibility of all managers and organisations when considering their remote workers.

Remember though, we are also motivated by teamwork. George Mayo explains that we all feel better “as by natural system posits that being part of a group is necessary”.  Working remotely and alone can cause some of us to lose the stability and security, that can be found naturally when working as part of a group.

And how do we increase successful team working? With great communication of course!

The Importance of Communication

“Communication let me down…” sang Spandau Ballet, but does it have to? With email, text messaging, Teams, Zoom (and many others!) is it possible for communication to let you down? Probably not. More technical solutions are being created to bridge the gap between the colleagues and teams who don’t work at the same location. And it all helps us to be more engaged and better involved.

I think we’ve all experienced one of these tools of communication in one way or another recently; even those who don’t normally use these types of systems. It’s all fine for verbal and written forms of communication, but how about non-verbal communication? Take for instance body language. The introduction of video messaging cannot really replace actual face-to-face communication, however for now it serves as an adequate replacement.

Embracing Change

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus was quoted by Plato as noting that “everything changes and nothing stands still.” He was right; change is nothing new. And Heraclitus encourages us to embrace it.

In recent months, change has been forced upon all of us all due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, including to our working routines. Some of these changes are difficult to adapt to. However, if we choose to accept change and work on making the best out of our current situation, we can make our lives a better place to work and a better life to live.

With a good understanding of how we can keep our remote workforce motivated, using the right communication tools and embracing change, we can continue to make home working as productive and positive an experience as possible.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.

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