Within the last few weeks, companies from around the globe have been rolling out remote working policies to their associates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s uncertain how long these home office arrangements will last, it’s realistic to assume that this will be the new normal for many of us in the coming weeks, if not months, ahead.
While some employees thrive with work from home arrangements, others may be new to it, or find it frustrating if there’s not a clear roadmap for what their days should look like outside of the office. To help, we’ve put together 7 tips to help you keep your employees feeling productive and supported while working from home.
1. Set clear expectations
You may have not had enough time to put together a quick work from home policy for your team before the office was packed up and everyone was sent home. However, now’s the time to put a plan in place. By setting aside time from the very beginning of this arrangement to start aligning your team around the day-to-day and longer-term expectations around work, you can minimize the rub and frustration they may begin to feel over time working in these new ways.
2. Gather the troops (virtually and regularly)
Keeping some sense of coherence among your team means that you might like to have daily or weekly meetings and check-ins. This means that you will need to avail yourself of one of the services such as Skype or Zoom so that you can all meet online. If this is the case, it helps to have an agenda and stick to it, so that everyone isn’t talking over each other and has chance to talk about problems and celebrate successes.
3. Get creative
If your team isn’t used to working remotely or as a result of the arrangement, can’t do some of the job functions they could in the office, then get creative. Odds are, there are several projects you can involve your team in to keep the ball rolling, so tap into those projects and see what works. By being open to exploring, testing, and refining the ways you work together will help to ensure that frustrations are kept to a minimum.
4. Encourage your team to keep regular hours
If your company used to work from nine to five, then those are the hours you and your team should work, too. If the work day is more flexible, there’s no harm in skewing your day to suit your temperament but beware of what people in uniform call ‘mission creep’ and working much longer hours than usual.
5. Offer advice on how to minimize distractions
Working from home presents its fair share of distractions that make it hard to focus at times, whether it’s tending to children, a significant other, or pets, or fighting the urge to watch that newly released show on Netflix. To minimize distractions, encourage your employees to find a quiet place to work they can call their own. Having a dedicated space that ‘s just used for work will help eliminate some of the distractions and send a clear signal that when you’re in that space, interruptions should be kept to a minimum.
6. Promote breaks and activity
One of the biggest problems from working at home is inactivity. Our main reaction to a busy workload is to sit for as long as possible until the task is done. And before you know it, hours have gone by and you have not moved from your chair. To combat this, encourage your team to schedule exercise each day, or at the very least, step away from their computers every hour and stretch. While gyms may be closed, the simple act of taking a walk or riding a bike for 30 minutes will help them feel alert and energized throughout the day.
7. Offer guidance and support
These are stressful times. Negative headlines, worrying about sick or elderly loved ones, social distancing, and an abrupt shift to remote work can certainly raise anxiety levels. It’s important for you to acknowledge stress and listen to the concerns of your employees. If a newly remote employee is struggling, but not communicating stress or anxiety, check in with them to see how they’re doing. By simply asking how the situation is working out for them can elicit key information that you might not otherwise hear, and give you the opportunity to help the employee adapt.
Every company will have its own policies for keeping its employees safe, engaged, and productive during this time of shelter in place. Even large corporations that thought they had every contingency catered for have been taken by surprise, so there’s no shame in admitting that you and your associates are working hard to adapt. By far the most important quality is to work with the changing circumstances, to make sure you can spot opportunities for new ways of working – and to support each other.