Everyone is adjusting to a new way of life, and some are struggling more than others. As we all work to juggle the transitions and anxieties we’re facing today, how do you hold your employees accountable while being empathetic to their unique situation? In this post, we will cover how you can use technology to motivate your team during COVID-19. However, it’s important to note that technology is only part of the solution to this problem.

While we are all experiencing a shift in our everyday reality, we aren’t all in the same boat. Some of us are quarantining with families and young children, while others are living their lives in complete solitude for the first time. You have to consider how each employee’s personal situation will affect their productivity. You have those who are struggling to keep up as they juggle many responsibilities, while the others in isolation face serious burn-out.

“Now, more than ever, you have to take into account how your team communicates on an individual level. Host more one-on-one video calls with your employees and take time to understand what challenges they’re facing in their daily lives. It’s important to have a clear view of what each employee is going through so you can use technology to positively motivate and hold your team accountable.”

Sheryl Lyons, MBA, CMC
Sheryl Lyons, MBA, CMCFounder and President of Culture Spark

Understanding the vast spectrum of conditons your team is operating within allows you to take an individual approach to driving productivity and accountability. More than likely, you have, or will, experience productivity loss as your team adjusts to new technology, routines, and everyday disruptions.

It’s important to be sensitive to each employee’s situation. But, it’s also important to promote and maintain a culture of accountability, especially when you’re working with your team remotely.

Managers and executives are implementing innovative ways to overcome the challenge of physical distance using technology. While a majority of their solutions involve IT, technology alone is not the solution to their problems.

4 Ways to Use Technology to Motivate Your Team During COVID-19

It takes transparency around everyday operations, communication, collaboration, and personal challenges for a team to be successful. In this post, we will cover how you can use technology to positively reinforce accountability across your team by more clearly communicating with and motivating employees to contribute their best.

1) Use Automation to Free Employees from Manual Tasks

When you’re in the office, it’s easy to run down the hall and leave a note on your team member’s desk or pop your head in their office for a quick progress update on that report. These interactions seem natural to the way we do business. But, like all habits, they are learned and can be restructured with the right combination of understanding and collaboration.

Clear Communication + Technology = Efficiency

Clear processes help maintain accountability and meaningful communication. Process automation enables you to hold your employees accountable without cutting into your own productivity or appearing to be a heavy-handed micromanager.

Microsoft Office 365 applications like Teams and SharePoint can be used to communicate information quickly to one or more people at once. But, you can also use Teams to host one-on-one’s with your employees and gain a better understanding of both the work-related and personal challenges that they’re experiencing during COVID-19.

Other popular chat and video conferencing platforms like GoToMeeting and Zoom are great alternatives for online communication, but they may not always have the security or advanced features integrated within Office 365 applications like Teams.

Help employees be happier and more productive while working from home… 

Share our Essential Guide to Working From Home with your staff, and empower them with the information they need to set up their workstations, communicate with their teammates, manage their files, and more.

Best-Fit Technology Prioritizes Your People

While GoToMeeting and Zoom can be suitable solutions for video conferencing, they do not have the same features and collaboration capabilities as Microsoft Teams. Teams allows you to build automated workflows and that are tailored to fit your unique processes and culture.

SharePoint allows you to set parameters around how files are accessed and used. You can integrate custom workflows using Power Automate to execute on manual tasks so your employees have one less thing to worry about every day.

Custom SharePoint workflows can help eliminate tedious To-Dos like:

  • Saving Excel sheets emailed from a specific contact in a specific SharePoint folder
  • Informing other team members when the document is available with emailed SharePoint links and customized notifications
  • Sending reminder emails to follow up with your team regarding specific tasks and deadlines related to the document

With SharePoint, you can also take some of the grunt work out of managing your own daily check-ins using Power Automate to set up workflows for managing task progress and sending follow-up reminders to your team.

For a deep dive into the features and benefits SharePoint has to offer, check out our webinar recording, SharePoint 201: 5 Features You’re Paying For & Not Using.

2) Help Your Team Stay on Top of Easy-to-Forget Tasks

Some employees may be more apt to ignore menial tasks like cleaning ticket boards or scheduling recurring meetings for the quarter. You can use tools like Microsoft Planner to track who is behind on their tasks, map efficiency and progress trends, and use this information to adjust how you engage with and motivate your team.

Planner’s visual progress reports allow you to see not only how much is incomplete, but what kind of tasks are being put on the backburner and by whom. Third-party project management applications like Asana and Trello also integrate with Office 365. While the available workflows for third party apps may not be as granular as those available for native Microsoft applications like Planner and Tasks, there are still a number of tasks you can automate for your team.

3) Recognize and Share Experiences with Your Team

Establishing expectations for each person’s role on your team can help reduce the number of unknowns stressing your staff during this time. While employees are feeling vulnerable in terms of physical health, they’re also feeling vulnerable when it comes to their perceived performance and future job security.

We are all in similar situations, but we are facing different everyday realities that can make it difficult to measure our productivity and performance against our peer, and ourselves. Employees are facing technology challenges like:

  • Slow internet connection
  • Transitioning to online versions of their everyday applications
  • Incessant phishing emails related to COVID-19
  • Using their personal laptop instead of their dual-monitor workstation
  • Lack of experience with remote chat and conferencing applications
  • Poor audio quality
  • Limited technology hardware availability

If you’re a manager, it may be tempting to relish the alone time and spend hours uninterrupted knocking out a project that you’ve been putting off for a while. And, sometimes, that’s ok. But in today’s business environment, employees are adjusting to new work schedules, technology, and lifestyles, so it’s important to be clear about your own availability and work habits. The processes and tools you used in the past may no longer be relevant for a team dispersed across their home offices, juggling different everyday experiences.

4) Promote Transparency and Accountability by Setting an Example

Think about how the habits you form in your newly combined work-home lifestyle will impact your team. Your goal should be to set boundaries that promote both self-care and structured productivity, while connecting your people so they collaborate and are more creative as a result. Here are a few ways you can use technology to be transparent about your work life:

  • Time block breaks and workouts in your Outlook calendar:
    1. Color code by type of event (i.e., personal, doctor, focus time)
    2. Note availability (i.e., out of office, busy, free)
  • Update online status and set custom away messages in Teams:
    1. Set the status of your online presence and apply custom display timers to switch from one status to another.
    2. Add custom away messages to display and/or send as automated chat replies (i.e., “Walking the dog. Be back at noon. Text me if it’s an emergency.”)
  • Quit your Teams or business chat application when you are done for the day:
    1. Helps you switch from work to personal mode
    2. Prevents your team from thinking they’re also expected to be online and working late
  • Stick to a standard process for workflows, collaboration, and communication:
    1. Document processes in SharePoint and automate those you can
    2. Create Planner card templates for recurring tasks
    3. Set calendar reminders to follow up on tasks
    4. Use OneNote for personal notes on managing employee communication and work styles
    5. Host more frequent one on ones to identify process bottlenecks and brainstorm solutions

Like all other business problems, technology alone cannot overcome the challenges we’re facing as we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools you implement for your team should best-fit how they work and collaborate daily.

Read our previous blog to hear more from Sherly Lyons and learn what she has to say about maintaining company culture during COVID-19 and how technology can do so: Company Culture During COVID-19: Technology’s Role in Communication & Connection.

Get Started: Planning for the Future

Choosing the right technology solution can be challenging, especially in the current learn-as-we-go climate. It’s difficult to predict the long-term implications of a technology decision when you’re weighing the risks of makeshift solutions and third-party applications. Consult with your CIO or outsourced IT solutions provider so they can help you weigh your options and strategically implement changes. These changes should be outlined in your IT roadmap to help you plan for and mitigate security and functionality risks, while enabling your entire organization to stay connected and productive.

At Aldridge, our CIOs partner with clients to understand their business operations, culture, risks, goals, and problems before we begin recommending technology solutions. IT strategy is the steppingstone for all other pieces of our Framework for Successful IT and is key to effectively preparing for and responding to the unexpected.

We understand being strategic about your IT isn’t an easy task at the moment given the mass amount of people working remotely. You have to balance buy-in, time, cost, security, and productivity, all while being second guessed by the unpredictable nature of today’s affairs. But it’s important to do things right the first time so employees embrace and learn from the challenges that accompany this unexpected shift to remote work. Let us help you understand your options. Schedule a time to talk with an Aldridge representative to start planning your next steps.

Sheryl Lyons, Founder and President of Culture Spark

Sheryl Lyons is a business leader, consultant, and certified master coach with a passion for building vibrant workplace cultures that positively impact company performance.

Culture Spark helps leaders build culture as a competitive advantage by deliberately constructing a culture of purpose, clarification, leadership, and accountability. Culture Spark’s programs bridge the gap between a company’s promise to its customers and its employees’ ability to deliver on that promise.