Though working remotely is not a new phenomenon, it is absolutely new for millions of employees who are used to commuting to a physical office daily to do their jobs. Most of these employees are familiar with being in a professional work environment and are accustomed to staying focused and productive whenever they are in the office .
Unlike the workplace, home is seen as a place to relax, unwind, play, and spend time with friends and family. But since COVID-19 has compelled many businesses to have their employees work from home, the new challenge now is how to cope with the physical and mental aspect of being productive in a location traditionally known for playing, relaxing, and unwinding. Nonetheless, there are several things you can do as a manager to help your employees stay productive while working outside the office.
How To Help Remote Employees Stay Productive During COVID-19
Here’s a practical breakdown of what managers can do to help remote staff stay productive for as long as the pandemic lasts:
Create A Structured Daily Check-Ins
You can start by creating a daily call routine with all your remote team. This could either be a team call if your team is highly collaborative online or a one-on-one call if each of your team members work independently from each other.
The key is to ensure that the calls are constant and predictable. Also, create a forum where your remote team can easily reach out to you, and never hesitate to respond to their needs accordingly. Let your team know you’re only a few clicks away, whenever they need you.
Provide Multiple Communication Technology Options
Never restrict your teams’ means of communication to just one web platform such as email or just one application like Skype. Rather, ensure that your remote team have access to multiple communication technologies including audio and video conferencing.
For example, with video conferencing, you can share visual cues to reduce the feeling of isolation among team members and it enhances mutual knowledge about colleagues. You can as well use video calls for personal communication or to share very sensitive information. One of the most reliable software solutions for audio and video calls as well as conversations via texts is Microsoft Teams. You can also get Microsoft Teams training to better organize teams while working from remote locations.
However, if your organization is yet to deploy any collaboration software, you can start with the basic versions of these applications as a stop-gap solution. For example, you can start with the free version of Microsoft Teams.
Create Realistic “Rules of Engagement”
You can make your remote team more productive and efficient by setting expectations for the preferred timing, means and frequency of communication and collaboration. For instance, you may decide to use videoconferencing for group meetings and use IM for pressing messages. More so, you should let your team know the best way to reach you at certain times of the day. Most importantly, pay attention to how your team collaborate and communicate to ensure none of them is kept out of the loop while working remotely.
It is absolutely crucial to set up these rules of engagement as soon as you can with your team. Perhaps, you should do so during your first online meeting. Though some guidelines may seem to be more important from one employee to the next, the key is to ensure that all employees share similar set of expectations while working remotely.
Create Opportunities for Virtual Social Interaction
One of the key things you can do to foster collaboration among your team is to create opportunities for your team to interact socially (to discuss topics that aren’t related to work) while working remotely. This is mostly crucial for employees who are newly introduced into working remotely. One of the easiest methods of initiating such interactions is to intentionally leave some time at the beginning of team calls to allow team members have some time for non-work-related discussions.
An example of such is have a virtual pizza party. You can do this by having pizza delivered to all team members simultaneously during videoconferencing. Another option is to have a virtual office party. To make this more fun, you can send care packages in advance to team members and have them opened and enjoyed simultaneously during videoconferencing.
Though these types of events may seem unusual to some employees at first, they’ll appreciate them going forward especially as the pandemic is keeping most people indoors. These virtual events will boost each of your team’s members sense of belonging to a team and reduce feelings of isolation.
Offer Emotional Support and Encouragement
As your team continue to work remotely without any instant end in sight, it is crucial to listen to each of your team members concerning their stress, anxieties, and personal concerns. Most importantly, you’ll have to empathize with them on whatever challenges they are facing. You can start or end each day by asking employees about their welfare and how things are going.
Sometimes, a simple question such as “how do you feel about working remotely?” can elicit an in-depth response that could give you a crystal-clear idea of what the employee is going through. After asking a question, you’ll have to pay attention to whatever the employee has to say, and they briefly summarize the question back to the employee just to be sure that you’re on the same page. Ultimately, make sure the employee’s concerns are the focal point of the discussion and not your own.
Make Your Team’s Health and Safety Your Top Priority
Regardless of where your team is working from, their health and safety must be at the top of your organization’s policy. Educate them about all the symptoms of COVID-19 and the next action to take if they ever experience any of the symptoms or accidentally come in contact with someone showing those symptoms.
You should share informative and educational materials teaching your employees how to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. For example, you can use illustrations and videos to show employees how to conduct sanitation best practices such as handwashing with soap and water, social distancing, and the use of CDC recommended hand sanitizers, etc.
About The Author: Errin O’Connor is EPC Group’s overall Chief Architect and project sponsor, captaining EPC Group’s experienced team of architects and consultants. He will be directly involved in recommending, architecting, and implementing design and development tasks. Errin works closely with our project team to ensure the effort meets all stated objectives.