A Workplace Diet for Virtual Office Users?

NEW YORK—Is one of your New Year’s resolutions finding greater work-life balance? If so, you are not alone. Whether you are an entrepreneur with a virtual workforce or a telecommuter or somewhere in between, you can resolve to create healthier work environments for employees in 2012.

David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, is suggesting what he calls the Workplace Diet. This works just as well for the virtual office space user as it does for the brick-and-mortar office space user.

“The Workplace Diet is designed to help leaders conquer employee confusion, apathy, lack of motivation, and the increasing cost of ineffective communication,” says Grossman. “There’s no celebrity spokesperson or meals to buy. No magic pills to take. Just some simple yet powerful actions that will help leaders eliminate bad habits, as well as shed unproductive time and wasted resources to lead better in 2012.”

Here are some of the ingredients of the Grossman Group 2012 Workplace Diet. As you read the list, it becomes clear that this might be even more important to a distributed workforce working from virtual offices. That’s why I’ve adapted these tips for the virtual office worker.

Share expectations: People rise to the expectations set for them. Leaders need to create a list of expectations and share them with virtual office staff. Be as specific as possible to enable employee understanding. When expectations are met, reinforce the positive behavior. Otherwise, give feedback and suggest alternative behaviors.

Plan communications: Planned communication strategies are more purposeful and measurably more effective.

Ask for input and feedback: Ask open-ended questions, such as: “Help me understand how you are thinking about this?” or “What ideas do you have to resolve this?”

Listen more: Stop talking so much. Listen to what employees have to say and act on their recommendations. Try to reduce the amount you talk by at least 25 percent.

Take action on employee suggestions:
Act on the input you get. Whether you implement a suggestion or not, close the loop with virtual office employees so they know their input was valued. They’ll be more likely to share their thoughts with you in the future.

Show you care: Find out what’s important to employees on a personal level and remember that information. This makes virtual office work more personal and relationships stronger.

Empathize (more): Learn how to make a reflective statement, which validates someone else’s feelings and shows thoughtfulness.

Share recognition and appreciation: Say “thank you” for a job well done with specific details about the positive performance. Reinforce good behaviors.

Ensure employees can articulate how they fit in: All virtual office employees want to know that they’re contributing to something larger than themselves. Talk with employees to ensure they can articulate how they specifically contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

Measure efforts: Use in-house tools such as a 360-degree or employee engagement surveys to get data on what’s working and what’s not. Alternatively, leaders should ask staff: “What two to three things can I do this year to make me more effective in how I communicate with you?”


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