The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the workforce in more ways than one. Whether a business is thriving or struggling with furloughs and layoffs, the “new norm” is flexible hours and/or the ability to work remotely.

Working remotely can be a significant benefit to employees and their employer but it’s important not to lose productivity or allow a drop in performance. This is especially true for IT teams who are no longer co-located with end-users for direct and hands-on support. Now is not the time to let important metrics slide. Disruptions and times of change are when organizations lean on support teams the most.

So how can a manager keep newly remote IT staff engaged and high performing? Below are five ways that can ease the transition.

Keep Remote IT Teams Engaged

Keep the Communication Channels Open

It’s fairly easy to find yourself immersed in the task at hand when you’re working remotely, and then when you look over at your other monitor you see 15 missed emails and 20 missed instant messages from your support team. As teams are no longer in the same space or building, having different lines of communication open to your team is critical. Email and messaging applications can work well, but it could also mean sharing a phone number where the manager can be reached.

Another important piece of communication with the team is when you are unavailable to jump on a call or join a meeting. While collaboration time is a definite must, managers need to make sure they communicate with their teams when they will, and won’t, be readily available to support them.

Always Keep Performance Metrics Top of Mind

Transitioning to a remote work environment can be a drastic change of pace for a lot of people. The one constant is that support teams are still expected to perform the same job duties that they did in the office. Users still need support. The need is possibly even greater than before as they work in non-office environments and organizations lean more on support teams during changes/disruptions. It’s important to remember that even though your employees are remote, they should still be hard at work and driving business growth.

Work with the team to determine how work might need to change when done remotely. Maybe new tools or workflows are required. There may be a different way to achieve support goals, but the metrics are still the same. Continuing the same level of support when working remotely is commendable. This is the support team’s time to shine!

Host Virtual Meetings and Casual Hangouts

One of the biggest perks of working in a “buzzy” office is the benefit of social engagement. Working remotely can put a significant strain on relationships teams have worked so hard to build. No more lunch meetings over a sandwich in the cafeteria, games of table tennis or pool to wind down, or the heading-home happy hour to cap off a stressful day. Managers and Team Leads must now rely on technology to keep teammates engaged and feeling as though they’re still part of a group.

Virtual hangouts and events can be a great way to keep the team connected. While not the same as in-person events, these can be great chances to unwind and socialize. Virtual work events may even be the only chance some teammates have to socialize during quarantine or lockdown measures.

Encourage Health and Wellness

Working from home foster bad habits and affect teammates’ physical and mental health. There are no more gym stops on the way home or at lunch, no more runs in the morning around the complex.

Stress and burnout are real and can lead to issues outside of work. Stressed or burned-out teammates not only produce less, but miss more work and report low job satisfaction. As work and home lives converge, these effects can be heightened. Health-dedicated employees will find a way, but for some who can’t devote the time or energy, they need to be reminded and encouraged of the importance of health and wellness. Talk with your HR team about available programs or ideas for personal support.

Make Sure Your Teammates Feel Heard and Valued

Not having a personal, face-to-face connection can take a toll on someone’s perception of their value. Knowing their voices are heard and valued helps teammates counteract stress or burnout-related issues. This is because teammates can go to their managers to discuss problems with an understanding that the other person is listening in an effort to understand and help.

While this may seem simple or obvious, letting teammates know you are listening and attentive to them can have profoundly positive effects. In the office, a high five or a pat on the back could make someone’s day. How can you duplicate that remotely? Maybe increase the number of scheduled calls each week to check in and simply ask how someone is doing.

Large work environment changes, like being remote, can disengage teams and derail performance. Taking proactive steps now can save everyone stress and frustration. Disruptions and times of change are when organizations lean on support teams the most. Productive and effective IT teams can remain that way with some extra effort from their leaders.