Five Tips to Keep Associates Engaged While Working Remotely

In Brief:

  • Keeping associates engaged at home is important because it impacts the company’s productivity level
  • Associates should form genuine relationships through virtual, effective communication to establish and build trust within a team
  • Being flexible, patient, honest, and creative is essential during this pandemic because we are working remotely

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McKenzie Beach
Author: McKenzie Beach

McKenzie graduated from Doane University last May with a degree in Strategic Communications and a minor in Leadership. She wrote for the institution’s newspaper and played basketball while being a Tiger. Joining Nelnet Campus Commerce as a content coordinator intern, she looks forward to writing articles that effectively communicate what is needed to our clients and the public. When McKenzie is not writing, she enjoys baking and spending time with her family.

View all posts by McKenzie Beach

Blog Post

Working remotely

Nelnet Campus Commerce associates have been working remotely since mid-March. We are holding social-distancing standards high to do our part in keeping the community safe and healthy. Keeping associates engaged while being at home has been important because we want to ensure high productivity and motivation is kept.

Nelnet’s Corporate Training and Organizational Development (CTOD) team helped us put together a list of five tips to consider when it comes to keeping associates engaged remotely. Those five tips are:

  1. Make time for genuine connections
  2. Be flexible, patient, and open
  3. Establish and build trust
  4. Be creative
  5. Effective communication

CTOD team

The CTOD team has helped our associates adapt to different work arrangements, to ensure they can still go beyond and above when it comes to serving institutions. The team encourages others within the company to learn more about themselves. This shines a light on growth and development opportunities. Our eagerness to constantly improve is driven by a desire to be the best we can be for our partnerships.

Allison Gemelke, senior corporate trainer, said there is something special about getting to help others pursue dreams and goals.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to serve Nelnet Campus Commerce by helping to grow our biggest asset, our people,” Gemelke said.

Tips from the CTOD team are impactful for any company or institution that has associates working in a virtual environment, just as we are.

Genuine connections

When genuine connections are formed within a company, those relationships are transferred over to being able to connect with cliental on a more personal level. Pointing out each associate’s unique contribution will allow for a deeper connection.

Audrey Erker, training specialist, gave an example of how to elevate giving remote kudos into meaningful and impactful comments.

“Being able to go from ‘you’re doing a great job’ to ‘your ability to keep the team connected has really helped in this situation’ can make your employees feel more appreciated and motived,” Erker said.

Stepping up your recognition game strengthens connections throughout the team. An associate that feels valued is also a productive associate.

Make sure to routinely check-in with your teammates. Take conversations further than just what is happening at work. Being aware of what is going on in people’s personal lives keeps a friendly dynamic intact.

All the side conversations that typically take place across the office are still important, Erker said.

Flexible, patient, and open

We are living in unpredictable times. These days need to be met with patience and flexibility so there is never a breaking point. Embracing the chaos and finding humor when you can makes the workday more appealing and productive, Gemelke said.

“Laughter breaks the tension and releases endorphins,” Gemelke said. “It helps us feel better and feel connected to those we work with and care about.”

Gemelke relates being flexible to how some of the strongest bridges are built.

“They’re built to be flexible so that when the wind picks up, they can flex and still stay strong,” Gemelke said. “Without this built-in flexibility, they’d break just when they were needed the most.”

When the normal way of living and working comes to an abrupt stop, patience and flexibility gets us through. When the hardest days are met with composure and an open mind, the outcome is likely to be a successfully one. Being able to bend where is needed while having grace and compassion contributes to your team’s accomplishments.

Nelnet was flexible, open, and supportive when the pandemic first started. Companies alike Nelnet must continue to stick to their core values and be flexible when needed to embrace our civic responsibilities.

Establish and build trust

Whether it be a marriage, friendships, or work relationships, trust is the backbone. Developing trust allows everything else that is needed from the relationship to run more smoothly and efficiently. Trust allows coworkers to know others are getting the job done and that leaders are leading in a productive way.

Building trust remotely looks a little different than how we would normally go about establishing confidence with our team members.

“One of the most important things to remember is that working in a virtual environment is different than being in person,” Erker said. “You can’t force it to be the same.”

Our new way of living encourages us to create modern and advanced ways to establish trust so that our associates feel confident.

Building trust outside of the workplace can also have a positive impact on accomplishing the team’s goals. Setting up meetings to talk about non-work-related things and having group chats to keep that friendly team dynamic intact is important, Erker said.

Be creative

Create a work environment that is fun for your team. Hosting non-work-related virtual events promotes team-bonding. Now, company culture has to find a way to be passed on and carried out through a remote work world.

Brooke Anderson, corporate trainer, said whatever it may look like for you and your team, it’s important we continue to create an awesome atmosphere to work in.

“Share lighthearted memes, videos, or even podcasts and songs,” Anderson said.

Multiple changes and improvements have been made during the few months while working in a remote setting. Being creative allows teams to easily and quickly adapt to these changes.

“We’ve had to embrace a lot of figuring things out as we go along,” Gemelke said. “The opportunity to solve problems and improve outcomes is a huge driver in keeping associates motivated and connected with the work they do.”

Effective communication

The first step to effective communication is providing your team with a proficient platform to use to communicate. Using video chat as often as possible is key because over half of all human communication is nonverbal, Anderson said.

“You can tell way more in a video call than by hearing your associate’s voice on a phone call or trying to decipher an instant message or email,” Anderson said.

The need for more efficient and effective communication came with the remote work environment. Communication and collaboration bring people together. Every conversation via a communication platform influences the outcome of a team’s goals. Setting associates up with accessible platforms allows them to communicate freely and efficiently.

Harvard Business Review provided four tips for effective virtual collaboration. Those tips are using regular meetings, sharing documents, working “side by side,” and messaging frequently. When team collaboration is done right, goals can be accomplished quickly.