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As people take refuge from the coronavirus, many find themselves suddenly working from home, perhaps for the first time. Employees are struggling to put in place a home office, establish new work routines, and ensure virtual connectivity with colleagues and team leads. Layered onto this are increasing personal demands - how to care for children while working, grocery shop or ensure the safety of aging loved ones. Stress and anxiety are on the rise.
HR teams can feel helpless here. After all, remote work means it is harder to connect with your workforce and to know how they are managing emotionally. Take a deep breath. This is a period of tremendous change, but new learnings are available.
Here are three key things you can do to help your organization make the transition to remote work. Yes, it’s a significant change in behaviour for many, but working from home may save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19. And while we may be socially distant, we can remain virtually connected.
1. Maintain Regular Contact
With a remote workforce, it’s essential to ensure that you’re encouraging regular contact. If you’re used to working from an office, it can be isolating and lonely to start working from home.
With this in mind, we recommend encouraging managers to have a daily check-in with their team. This check-in could be by phone, over email, or on a platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams. These services make maintaining regular contact a relatively straightforward process.
It’s also essential to maintain and encourage business and social interactions to let your employees know you care about their wellbeing. These larger team events could be in the form of a company-wide happy hour conducted over a platform like Zoom or Google’s Team Hangouts. The key takeaway here is that regular (virtual) contact with leadership teams, managers, and peers, provides a sense of community.
2. Look for Changes
Ensuring that your employees stay focused, committed, and happy is the goal of any manager. That doesn’t change whether a company is remote or not. Still, with remote, there are new challenges to consider.
For one, people lose out on the unplanned watercooler of coffee run conversations. These are big and important parts of the workday that impact your team’s performance. The absence of these exchanges can also affect your team’s physical, emotional, and behavioural state. To help staff here, it’s important first to take note of any changes.
Have your employees’ energy levels changed? Are they expressing panic or a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed? Are they having difficulty carrying out tasks? When you see these signs we recommend that you increase contact and encourage others too, as well. Understand where they are and then get them what they need.
3. Provide Resources
We know that to make the shift to remote work it’s important to help people understand how to work virtually and to give them the confidence that it can be successful. Similarly, your employees need resources to support their physical and emotional wellbeing, particularly in times of social isolation.
These resources can range from company policies to tips for self-care, including exercise, nutrition, stress-release and information on EAP benefits. Continued messaging about the services available to employees, how to access them and encourage to do so needs to be done on a continued basis.
The coronavirus is putting remote work to a gigantic test and at an unprecedented scale. What’s more, the future of work may continue to look different for the foreseeable future. This is our time to empower and support employees, and build a strong, healthy and connected virtual workforce.