Five Ways Local Gov HR Managers Can Keep Staff Engaged While Working Remotely

Written by Jessica Matthiesen

Don't let social distancing create detrimental gaps between your administrative leaders and your employees.
Download: 7 Metrics to Tell You if Your Employees are Engaged

White paper for local government human resource managers and department leaders.

Download Now

City halls across the nation have closed their doors, and municipal workers are trying to continue to ensure a high level of citizen service while working from their dining room table. While private sector entities have successfully deployed remote workforces and diversified staffs over the years, public sector workers are swimming in unfamiliar waters. As a local government HR leader, you are working in unprecedented circumstances too.

How can you ensure staff can perform their job duties successfully, that they remain feeling connected and engaged to their teams, and that they aren’t fearful of losing their employment in a possible economic recession?

The keys to keeping citizens calm and focused on their work are to maintain open channels of communication and ensure they are not feeling isolated or disengaged from their department leaders. Follow the guidance below to ensure social distancing doesn’t create detrimental gaps between your administrative leaders and your employees.

  1. Foster Virtual Watercooler Chats

Those brief, unplanned moments of conversation between co-workers are crucial for building bonds among co-workers and office mates. Without such impromptu interactions, individuals can feel isolated during the workday, and teams can feel disjointed. Enable leaders to bring staff members back together for informal catch-ups and chats using video conferencing tools. No agenda and no expectations—just give teams a chance to catch up and strengthen their bonds during a time when we need face-time with those people we trust more than ever.

  1. Ensure Managers Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Hopefully, your department managers have processes in place to meet with individual staff members regularly. Encourage managers to maintain those schedules by holding meetings by phone or video. Managers who are not already holding such sessions should begin to build those regular meeting cadences now. After seeing the value of these interactions, both parties will likely want to continue them when regular in-office hours resume.

  1. Ask Department Leaders What Tools and Technology They Need

When safer at home mandates were initially established, many administrations were scrambling just to provide staff with laptops to ensure they could even get online from their homes. After the initial few weeks of remote work, staff members and their leaders are more aware of what frequently used tools are resources they need and cannot access from home. Be a facilitator of conversations and requests from team leaders to your purchasing or IT departments to help facilitate access to critical software.

If you find that your employees’ effectiveness is hindered because they regularly use software that is installed on their desktops, rather than cloud-based solutions, help facilitate early discussions for transitions to cloud-based tools so that staff will be better prepared in the future for another disruption.

  1. Request Feedback from Staff in All Roles and Departments

Leverage both formal and informal information-gathering tools and mechanisms to ensure you are hearing from your employees and understand what they need and how they feel during these uncertain times. Quantitative surveys and informal, virtual town hall-style discussions can help inform your ongoing employee management and communication strategies and give you a trusted format to address rumors, calm nerves, and demonstrate your leaders’ commitment to invaluable staff workers.

  1. Reinforce the Nation’s Appreciation for Municipal Workers

Employees will remain engaged when they feel valued and valuable. Millions of Americans have learned during this pandemic that our nation is surviving thanks to the hard work and dedication of grocery store workers, janitors, and public works teams. Ensure all your staff members, including those whose roles preclude them from remote work, including sanitation workers, parks crews, and utility teams, know how much your citizens, and your leaders, value the work they are doing to keep our community’s clean, safe, and operational.

After we successfully flatten the curve of COVID-19—and we will—and your teams reunite back in your municipal offices, take time to celebrate your successes. Thank your employees for keeping communities safe during these frightening times and gather final ideas and suggestions for how your administration can continue to work efficiently based on lessons learned from its unexpected and temporary remote work experience.