What Is “Mental Comfort Food” and Why It’s Important During the Pandemic?
You have to provide what I refer to as “mental comfort food.” When you think of comfort food literally, it’s about having a hot bowl of soup on a cold day or a refreshing drink when you’re sweltering in the sun. Even for people who enjoy working remotely, perhaps because they like the freedom and flexibility it offers, this time can be very challenging. Their daily routines have been disrupted due to the various shutdowns and changes in their lifestyle and personal responsibilities. So, you have to make an extra effort to help these people stay focused on their work, which can give them a sense of more control over their lives through their accomplishments.
To be specific, offering “mental comfort food” involves making an extra effort to keep people connected so they can feel a part of the team. Here are some ways to make that happen:
- Check-in more frequently. I’m not advocating micromanaging anyone — entrepreneurs don’t have the time or inclination to do that. But it’s important to let your remote teams know that you’re available. Answer their emails, messages, or phone calls in a timely manner. If you’re busy, tell them you’ll get back to them soon.
- Schedule weekly team meetings and one-on-ones. These meetings provide a sense of routine and structure at a time when people are often wondering what the next day will bring. One-on-one meetings are very helpful because they provide an opportunity for brainstorming and team building. It might be the only conversation your remote worker has that’s not an online message. These meetings help to alleviate the stress that many people feel when they’re socially isolated.
- Leverage Zoom, Skype, Slack, and other technologies for online face-to-face meetings. It’s great to see a familiar face. Sure, sometimes there are glitches, sometimes people have issues with their audio or video, and there are times when dogs might bark in the background during a meeting. It’s not a perfect world, but the benefits of these video-based gatherings can help to build a strong sense of teamwork and community. At a minimum, at least your workers will be motivated to get out of their pajamas for these calls.
- Have team members complete and present short weekly or bi-weekly reports at meetings. When people know that they are going to have to share information with their team members, it gives them an incentive to meet deadlines and plan for upcoming activities. It also offers them a big-picture view of how their work fits in and might help to enhance collaboration and innovation.
- Surprise them with old-school communication — pick up the phone and ask how they are doing and how you can help. We’ve gotten to the point where people only call each other during scheduled meetings. That’s understandable and a best practice for improving productivity. Yet sometimes you just have to break the rules. Your workers will appreciate a simple, unexpected “hello” from you. It shows that they matter and you were thinking of them.
In my new book, REMOTE iT!, which is available on Amazon, I discuss a variety of other ways to motivate remote workers and additional topics to help entrepreneurs build a booming business in a virtual world.