I am CSO of the Bridge Group, responsible for sales and customer success.
While there are a lot of good and positive things about remote working (especially avoiding lengthy commutes and traffic), there are also downsides that we’ve never had to deal with before. At first, working at home was kind of a nice change. Many sales reps who used to travel three out of every four weeks of the month could now spend more time with their families or have more time to themselves. However, as the work-from-home situation continues, many of them are starting to feel even more isolated because they are not used to being at home this much. They miss being on the road, spending time with their team and visiting with clients face to face. It’s been a real adjustment.
Here are some tips to help your sales team feel connected and avoid burnout while working from home:
Bring new hires together.
I have talked to a lot of people, even vice presidents, who have started new jobs at new companies during the pandemic. They tell me, “I’m in Zoom meetings all day long and nonstop with all these people, but I don’t feel like I know them.” Many people miss those little conversations around the water cooler. It’s harder to get a sense of the company that they are working for.
One company I know opted to increase the use of tools and technology, resulting in new hires interacting with a PowerPoint or a video and taking a test afterward. However, this felt extremely impersonal. In order to overcome the disconnection and isolation which new hires may feel, consider creating instead a new hire training or bootcamp over Zoom where new employees can connect with each other and have a sense of community. Do new-hire group lunches with your company sending lunch to everyone at their home. For executives, schedule one-on-one lunches or happy hour virtually with other executive team members.
Plan fun virtual events to break it up.
Before the pandemic, sales team bonding moments in the office were probably taken for granted. We used to go out to lunch together or grab drinks after work. Team members would take little coffee breaks or play ping pong in the office. The individual and team bonding happened during those casual conversations, and you felt like you really got to know people that way. Those moments are harder to do on online team communication platforms like Slack.
Virtual events can help break up the monotony, whether it’s a virtual lunch, happy hour, poker night, wine tasting or a Zoom karaoke night. You can even virtually host an afternoon or evening event that includes employees’ kids. Other fun ideas include “lunch and learns” with a meal delivered from the company, call blitzes or other sales contests with bagels sent to the team and $100 gift card prizes, energetic remote training sessions or book club discussions over Zoom.
There are a lot of activities to help people engage. Some may be more work-related and some are totally for fun. The important thing is going beyond the day-to-day and having a good time as a group.
Encourage your employees to take time off and disconnect.
I was recently supposed to go to a wedding, but I didn’t feel comfortable being in a large group. At first, I wanted to cancel my vacation and just work. And then I thought, “No, I’ve taken three days vacation all year. I need to do this for myself.” I just needed to be able to unplug and do nothing or do projects around the house.
Taking time off is important, even though you may not necessarily be going anywhere. As managers and leaders, we need to start helping to remind people to take time off and engage in healthy activities. Leaders can help facilitate this by encouraging their team members to get outside for a half hour at the same time each day to walk around the block, ride their bikes or take their kids for a stroll.
It’s important that as a manager or leader, you also take time off as well for both vacation and breaks. You’re dealing with the same issues that your team is going through, and you need to be healthy to properly motivate your team.
Be proactive in your one-on-ones and hold roundtable discussions.
Virtual one-on-ones are still pretty essential for managers and leaders. If you’re noticing somebody is particularly down during a Zoom one-on-one, asking them what’s going on is really critical. Then, help them find ways to do something about it. Overcommunication is the key. Don’t sit back, saying to yourself, “They will come to me if they are having an issue or a problem.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way. It’s up to the manager or leader to be proactive.
Get human resources involved.
It’s a great idea for managers to go to their HR departments to discuss the company’s health benefits and find out what resources are available for their employees. They can inquire about things like bringing in a virtual yoga instructor for a team stretching session or coordinating counseling sessions. In turn, HR managers can proactively go to their executive teams and educate them on what to look out for. They can also tell the managers when is an appropriate time for HR to get involved and what types of assistance are available if someone is showing signs of extreme stress or depression.
If you need help, seek it out.
Be proactive if you’re feeling really stressed out and unhappy. You don’t have to go through it alone. Go to your manager or your HR department and say, “Look, here’s my situation. What’s available to me and what are my options? Who can I talk to?” We all have to be really aware during these challenging times, whether you are an individual employee or a leader.
Forbes Business Development Council is an invitation-only community for sales and biz dev executives. Do I qualify?