To say these are unprecedented times is an understatement. In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, millions of workers are getting an inaugural crash course on full-time remote work. Others are being tasked with the critical hands-on responsibility of caring for patients and others in need. Simultaneously, children are home from school, looking to many of those same workers to help navigate them through successful e-learning—and the angst inherent to this global disruption.
The clash of our personal and professional lives (and the safety of both) may never be more poignant. It’s a lot for anyone to handle. But employers have a responsibility to support their workers as best they can.
In times of uncertainty, many take comfort in keeping busy. Accomplishments of any size lend a sense of control, which can help alleviate anxiety and fear of the unknown. And while it’s always the goal of HR to maximize productivity by optimizing the effectiveness of employees, it’s now more essential than ever.
Switching to an impromptu remote work culture isn’t easy. The following tips run the gamut and can help restore a sense of stability to keep workers on task when away from the office and co-workers.
1. Promote Positivity
To quote our CEO and co-founder Mahe Bayireddi, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Each and every day holds new opportunities. The key is to encourage workers to recognize them and stay open-minded to quickly unfolding change. Positive thinking and resiliency go hand-in-hand, and both are hallmarks of good leadership. Drive home this message in all of your communications while delivering clarity and essential FAQs.
2. Support Learning & Development
Now is an ideal time to help employees identify skills gaps and pursue potential growth opportunities. Create a shared document where employees can share relevant content around leadership, mentoring, coaching, recruiting, interviewing, etc. If your company offers a learning management system or LMS, remind staff of its 24/7 availability. In addition, make sure they’re aware of free online learning sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and even YouTube. Helping employees upskill and earn professional credits and certifications is an invaluable motivator and will foster eager brand ambassadors.
3. Share Time Management Strategies
Employees who have never worked remotely need direction to do it successfully. Communicate practical advice and keep longstanding weekly meetings in place over Zoom, Skype, or another video-conferencing app. To minimize interruptions, it’s a good idea to remind workers to pause social media alerts and keep the TV off. Be a good virtual role model and practice what you preach by carving out designated time to catch up on news and personal matters so they don’t overwhelm your day.
4. Champion Collaboration
Now is not the time to go dark. Managers need to maintain a reassuring and motivational presence in the face of change—and encourage employees to collaborate as much as possible. Reinforce the importance of turning the camera on during video calls whenever possible; a photo isn’t the same as live video. And consider offering tools that facilitate and normalize virtual hangouts to maintain existing relationships and broker new ones. Donut, an app that integrates with Slack, is just one example.
5. Review & Update Processes
Organization and efficiency is critical for remote teams and can showcase your organization’s agility under pressure. Have teams outline, define, evaluate, and amend processes and workflows that don’t make sense anymore. In addition, look at your hiring methodology, career site, and online job application process. What improvements can be made to improve the candidate experience, especially now that more applicants may be visiting your website for opportunities? Can you build out behavior interview questions during this time?
6. Suggest Digital Storage Clean Up
Creating easy access to everything one needs is a best practice in and outside of the office. Now is a great time to nudge employees to consolidate and organize documents, emails, photos—you name it. Why does it matter? It frees up network space. Even more importantly, decluttering one’s digital space creates a sense of self-efficacy for workers.
7. Encourage Community Outreach & Support
It’s not a secret that helping others can have a positive impact on well-being. And if there’s ever a time to be selfless, it’s now. Making a difference in others’ lives gives employees a sense of purpose and connection to your culture and core values. Consider putting together a task force to oversee the best use of charitable initiatives and donations.
8. Foster Mindfulness
Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize mental health and self care. Dedicating regular time to clearing the mind creates space for ideas to develop—and prevents rumination on distracting thoughts. Give employees the gift of starting their days with virtual meditation sessions. Participants will repay you with gratitude, increased focus, and cognitive flexibility.
9. Advocate Exercise
Working out is good for the body, mind, and spirit—and you don’t need a gym to get those endorphins pumping. To rally employees off the couch and moving toward a goal, try promoting a company-wide step challenge. Another idea? Reach out to an employee who’s passionate about yoga, Zumba, or another form of exercise and have them lead a virtual class for interested participants.
10. Recognize and Celebrate Employees
It’s easy to forget the little things when working remotely—but employees need to feel valued and appreciated, especially when daily in-person validation isn’t possible. Thank employees for a job well done, no matter the size of the project. You can also set up a channel in your instant messaging platform devoted to honoring birthdays and work anniversaries, and consider throwing a virtual happy hour to celebrate. Making others feel special is a surefire way to promote positivity and productivity.