The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the way many businesses must operate. Policies at the local, state, and federal level have asserted that physical distancing is vital to contain the spread of the virus, so many businesses have pivoted to mandatory work-from-home programs for their employees in the near-term.
While remote work can have benefits for employees – including a lack of commute, cost-savings on gas, and a more casual wardrobe – there are also real challenges that may develop when employees must work from home for an extended period of time. Employees may feel isolated from their colleagues and the company culture. They may have a hard time setting boundaries between work life and home life, and they may find it challenging to follow a set routine. To help ensure that employees can thrive, be productive, and feel engaged with their teams in this environment, it is important that businesses maintain a connected company culture and provide their employees with the tools they need to stay healthy, engaged and productive.
Read More: Hiring During The Time Of A Pandemic
Maintain a Culture of Connection
Employee engagement is critical to a remote workforce’s success, especially when employees aren’t physically together. Keeping employees engaged builds trust, loyalty, and team spirit, so it’s crucial to find ways to keep teams connected both with management and with one another. “Out of sight” doesn’t have to mean “out of mind.” Businesses can find new and creative ways to replicate the social benefits and connection of an office environment.
- Organize virtual happy hours or morning coffees together. Virtual social gatherings will allow employees to relax, connect with one another, and celebrate company or personal milestones. These should be casual, positive, “no-stress zones,” allowing employees to unwind and have fun (while never disrespecting one another nor violating HR policies, of course).
- Schedule one-on-one check-ins. On a regular basis, managers can schedule short meetings to review projects or to see if the employee needs help with work-related challenges. These conversations will give the remote employee confidence that his/her manager cares about them and their success.
- Hold company-wide meetings. Corporate all-hands meetings will give remote employees a sense of normalcy, reinforce company-wide goals, help them stay connected to the company at-large, and keep them in the loop for important company announcements, news, or events.
- Provide both live and recorded access to corporate meetings. Make information as accessible as possible for remote employees. Understanding that unexpected connectivity issues can arise, information should be made available for viewing after important corporate updates have been shared.
Provide the Right Tools
All employees need the right tools to thrive in a remote working environment. Ensure that every employee has the tools they need to be productive and engaged while working from home. In terms of equipment, a home office should reflect the basic resources provided to employees in a regular office. Important tools to consider for every remote employee include:
- Laptop computer with all necessary software
- Accessories such as a small video camera and headset for virtual meetings
- Home printer (or reimbursement of printing-related costs)
Stay Connected with Technology
In addition to the right hardware and software, remote employees also need resources to communicate quickly and easily, as well as make sure information is secure. Businesses should consider:
- Access to company-wide communication channels, and tutorials on how to best use them
- Reliable home internet connections, keeping in mind that some employees will have to share bandwidth with family members or roommates
- Network security or VPN to keep sensitive company data and information safe and secure
- Use your company Intranet as a central hub for employees to access corporate updates and messages, and internally promote it as a go-to resource for information – a key driver of employee engagement.
Focus on Health
While working remotely, employees may feel isolated and alone, which can have a negative impact on their physical and mental health. To keep up morale, engagement, and productivity, it’s vital to encourage remote employees to take care of themselves physically and mentally, as well as providing tools to do so. Employers can help keep employees minds and bodies healthy by:
- Allowing flexibility so remote employees don’t feel pressure to be available around the clock
- Providing access to company-provided mental health resources
- Encouraging breaks for fresh air and physical activity, like a walk or bike ride outdoors
- Providing quality ergonomic chairs and/or standing desks
As remote working becomes the new normal – and has the potential to remain in place past the COVID-19 pandemic – companies need to embrace the necessary practices to support the ongoing success of their business and to help ensure their workforce remains focused and productive.