In the last two months, working from home has gone from an appreciated perk to a business necessity as businesses, schools, and other organizations around the world shut their doors to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
This unprecedented shift to remote work was jolting as businesses scrambled to operate virtually. Some companies went on an emergency hunt to buy employees laptops and other tools for working at home. Employees needed to have reliable Internet access and the ability to transmit data securely. Companies needed to figure out how to collaborate outside of the office conference room, and employees quickly got up to speed on how to use Slack, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.
But this shift to remote work was more than a change in location. Even employees who were used to being remote had to cope with the "home office" becoming more crowded with partners who needed their workspace or with children who were home from school and needed help doing box math assignments. Employees who weren't used to working from home (WFH) suddenly had to manage being motivated while coping with feeling isolated.
Helping Remote Employees Navigate the Crisis
A few weeks into our "new normal," and while some employees are settling in, others find it’s still difficult to get work done. Through it all is the underlying stress and worry about how to stay safe during the pandemic while wondering when the restrictions will end.
It is a lot to handle, so it’s understandable that some employees may still be unproductive and distracted. But fortunately, there are ways you can help your employees and stay engaged with them through this crisis and beyond.
Acknowledge business as "unusual." While it's tempting to expect you and your team to power on through this crisis, it is essential to remember that it's not "business as usual." Of course, you can expect work to get done, but it's also vital to give support, encouragement, and flexibility whenever possible.
Emphasize communication. When there's a crisis (and even when there isn't), it's essential to keep your team up-to-date on status and strategies. Being transparent goes a long way in establishing trust. This authentic approach is always necessary, but in times of crisis, it is critical. Remember, it's okay to acknowledge that business decisions may change as events evolve.
Even as you address business issues--both related and unrelated to the coronavirus, take time to check in with your team. How is the transition going? Do they have the tools they need? How can you support them as they navigate this strange period? Make sure the communication goes both ways. If you haven't been in contact with a team member in a few days, give them a quick check-in call to make sure they're coping and are on track. There's no such thing as too much communication during this period.
Other ideas include:
- Use communications tools, such as Slack, for work and non-work chat
- Host weekly "All Hands" company-wide meetings to provide updates from leadership and hold a Q&A
- Provide opportunities for virtual socialization, such as a pizza lunch or Happy Hour via Zoom
Continue managing and developing. The stay-at-home restrictions are going to last weeks, if not longer, but your business still needs to move forward. For employees, even with stress and distractions, being productive is healthy. And, as a leader, it is important to continue managing and developing employees. Studies, like one from Harvard Business Review, have found that effective managing of employees is a crucial driver of employee engagement.
A performance management platform, like SyncHR's integrated solution with Bridge, can help you streamline these steps to stay more engaged with your team:
- Weekly 1-on-1 meetings. Checking in with your team regularly is more vital than ever.
- Goal Setting. Rapid changes require the ability to pivot quickly, changing goals as needed. Make sure your employees' goals align with the team's and business' mission.
- Online learning. Employees still want to grow their skills, and by investing in career development opportunities, you also help improve retention, which will be key during and after this crisis.
Keep--and share--a positive outlook. How you as leaders frame this time will heavily influence how employees see it too-- and this perspective has ramifications for the future. Yes, it's an uncertain time, but your team has shown its agility in quickly setting up to work from home. You've collaborated to discuss best practices on making this pivot work, and you've demonstrated flexibility in managing the workload. You and your team may have used more creativity to problem solve, and you may have had to give employees more autonomy than before. Your group may have seen your commitment to their physical and mental well being or your determination in clearing roadblocks that make doing their jobs more difficult. These messages will resound with your team, keeping them engaged, long after this crisis is over.
Our team here at SyncHR is taking these same steps with our remote staff during the pandemic. We're also consulting with our customers about better ways to engage with their employees using our HCM platform and Performance Management & Online training solutions. If we can help you navigate this time more efficiently, please contact us.
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