We are living in unprecedented times, as COVID-19 has radically disrupted our daily lives, workplaces and communities. Businesses are looking for ways to keep their operations going as best as possible. For many, that means working from home rather than an office and this brings a raft of challenges for employers and employees alike. As staff works remote, business leaders need to find ways to help their teams stay connected, engaged and as productive as possible.
Here are some tips to keep your staff engaged during these challenging times.
A new way of working
We are all social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we should be working in isolation. Regular contact and flexibility are key to get us through these challenging times.
- Communicate. It’s key during times of crisis to communicate openly and regularly. Honest and open communications about how the business is doing will make a big difference when it comes to creating trust, particularly in a more virtual business world. That transparency will also help to maintain employees’ engagement with the business as they remain fully aware of what is happening.
- Connect. Just because you’re no longer in the same workspace, doesn’t mean that everyone now works in isolation. Hold weekly phone or video meetings, ask managers to check in daily with team members and encourage virtual coffees to keep some of the office banter going. There are lots of video conferencing tools that will help you keep your physical distance but maintain social contact.
- Be flexible. Understand there will be distractions from kids, pets or partners. That’s ok, don’t try to micro-manage staff during this time; it’s counter-productive and impossible to do at a distance. Trust that your staff will get their work done, while also managing their home-lives.
- Consider training. While our work-pace slows down, now is a perfect time to consider online training opportunities. Encourage staff to sign up for online courses that will hone their skills. There are lots of different options such as LinkedIn Learning, or even Coursera and EdX which offer courses from renowned universities and institutions around the globe.
A good home-office set-up
Working from home sounds like fun for most of us, for a couple of days … but when you’re doing it for weeks on end it can be very challenging if you don’t have the right set-up…
- Support with the right technology. One of the biggest barriers to working from home productively is poor technology or infrastructure. Make sure your staff is fully equipped and set-up to work from home and that they can access the same files and networks as in the office. Have technical support on standby to help solve any issues.
- Ergonomics. Setting up a home office can be challenging. Not everyone has space for a full desk set-up with screen, keyboard and laptop, and many people might be working from their dining room tables or lounges. To help staff, share a checklist on how to set up their home office. In addition, if you’re looking for expert advice, this article from CNN includes some great tips from a certified professional ergonomist.
Health and wellness
During times like these, it’s important to stay healthy physically and mentally. Give your employees the tools they need to get through this difficult time, so they and your business come out stronger on the other side. Empathize. The current situation is extremely stressful for some; employees might feel anxious and overwhelmed. Letting your staff know you understand how they may feel and offering a listening ear is important during times like these.
Support. Working home alone can make people feel isolated, particularly if they don’t have a lot of other contact. Loneliness can lead to depression and other mental health issues, so it’s important to keep a close eye on employees that might seem more vulnerable these days. Check in regularly to understand how teams are feeling and whether they need any additional support. Share information about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), so you can coordinate support for employees that might need it.
Mindful breaks. Encourage employees to take breaks during the day. Working from home means you don’t need to sit behind a desk from 9 to 5. Going for a short walk during the day, stretching, yoga or meditation are great ways to stop for a moment and reset. It will also enhance overall productivity.
Stay active. Worldwide, people are being encouraged to stay home. That doesn’t mean we need to sit still. With so many wellness and fitness apps offering free classes and training programs, you often don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to get fit. Share some of these online resources with your teams. Here are a few examples: Centr (fitness app by Chris Hemsworth), Peloton (not just cycling, also includes yoga and strength training) and Les Mills has a special website with more than 100 free on-demand workouts.
Have some virtual fun
Even though it can be harder to bond with your teams, there are lots of fun virtual activities to consider. Walking meetings. Working from home shouldn’t equal sitting behind a desk all day. If you want to stay active, consider doing a call or meeting while going for a walk. If it’s a one-on-one, make sure the other person goes walking as well. “If we’re talking, we’re walking” is the idea. You might even be able to show each other a bit of your neighborhood or give them a tour of your home.
Get the kids involved. Working from home when your kids are around can be very challenging. For your next video call, consider getting everyone’s children on for the first 5-10 minutes so they can talk about their day and connect with your colleagues and their kids. It will remove some of that FOMO (fear of missing out) our kids might have as they see us busy on our laptops all day.
Organize a scavenger hunt. Connect with your teams through a bit of an adventure. Create lists of identical tasks and get teams to divide amongst each other. Activities could be as simple as, wear a hat in the kitchen or do a yoga pose outside your front door. Have participants take pictures and share in your next team meeting to see who won the hunt. You can create the scavenger hunt yourself, or you can use an app like GooseChase to facilitate it.
Online team building bingo. The corporate lingo is changing and we’re already seeing lots of new phrases pop up such as: “Sorry, I was on mute” and “Can everyone see my screen”? Included is an example for a team building bingo sheet you can use during your next team meeting. It’s bound to give everyone a few laughs. Download and print Remote Work Bingo here.
All around the world, people are adjusting to a new normal where we’re all spending much more time at home. Everyone’s situation is different so as a business leader it’s important to be mindful of what your employees might be going through.
So, even though it may be virtual for now, we have to make sure we stay connected and take care of each other. We’re all in this together.