While many firms are now preparing to welcome staff back into the workplace, albeit with increased distancing and hygiene measures, the majority are being advised to carry on working from home if they can.
In the UK, we’re now entering the 12th week of WFH – a situation that doesn’t come naturally for everyone. So, the question for managers is how to keep those working from home motivated and engaged enough to ensure efficiency. In the midst of the global pandemic, uncertainty rules. But if employees are to maintain productivity, enjoy their roles and rise to the challenge, their managers should be showing them the way. Thinking positively, Covid-19 has provided a reason to reinvent the future of work and maximise opportunities for companies to look at things differently. Managers’ ability to proactively equip their teams with not just physical resources, but skills, mindsets, behaviours and values, will be critical in ensuring that we emerge stronger on the other side.
Here are a few tips on how to make it work:
1. Communication is vital, so keep your people in the loop by sharing objectives for the week and information about company plans. Think about how different pieces of information will affect different employees, and how to communicate it to them. Group ‘to do’ lists and current project news can be shared effectively on Zoom meetings, whereas 121 chats over the phone or via video call can be used to handle more personal and sensitive information such as individual employee’s mental health or employment status. Try to set long-term goals with employees to show they have a future role with the company.
2. Be mindful that everyone has a different home situation, whether it’s caring for young children or home-schooling while WFH, shopping for elderly relatives or fighting for space – and Wi-Fi – with other professional housemates. Not everyone is going to be able to concentrate for large swathes of time, or their available time may be different to their usual office hours. However, many people do work well within a routine. Take time to discuss this individually with team members so that there are perhaps shared ‘core’ working hours when meetings take place, and times that can be flexed according to employee’s own schedules.
3. Without the corridor catch-ups and informal coffee breaks that keep people connected to their colleagues, it’s easy for loneliness and disenchantment to creep in. So, to keep employees feeling part of the team, why not set up a group WhatsApp or private Facebook group? Or set a time each week for a ‘virtual pub’ or coffee house meet up, where employees can set quizzes, or simply chat.
4. Try beginning each day with a check-in to make sure the team have everything they need to start their working hours productively. This is a good time to go through their ‘to do’ list and their plans for the day. Take the opportunity to remind them that you’re there to support them and are available for any questions or issues they might have, including stresses or worries. Remember to praise and recognize hard work, just as you would in a physical working environment. Now is the time for corporate culture to focus on empathy.
5. This is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and make things better than they were before. Think about new mindsets, behaviours and values that will help employees adapt to the changing world of work. Are there new skills that employees can learn? Could some team members benefit from upskilling in order to futureproof their position within the organisation?
6. Remember to check in with furloughed team members. While there’s no need to bother them with constant updates about work, they’re still part of the team and need to be included as such. So, pick up the phone, share good news stories and invite them to your ‘virtual pub’.
7. Finally, remember this isn’t just a Friday working from home to focus on finishing up that slide deck or report you’ve been preparing. This is your twelfth week of WFH during a worldwide pandemic; a totally unknown situation that everyone is trying to navigate their way through. It’s OK not to be OK – all you can expect of yourself, and others, is to do their best under the circumstances.
Further help and support for managers during Covid-19 can be found at: