The global pandemic has made social distancing and working from home the new normal for nearly half of the employed workers in the United States, nearly 34% of whom had previously worked from a traditional office, according to a recent MIT survey.
For employees that previously never worked from home or did so sparingly, there could still be a period of adjustment. Here are some simple tips all companies can use to ease newly remote employees through the transition to working from home, no matter how long that arrangement may be in place.
Set clear expectations for work hours
Communicate clear expectations for when employees are expected to be actively working and available. Just as important, explain that the workday should have a beginning and end so employees do not feel pressured to be connected to work at all times. If you have a distributed workforce that spans many time zones, clearly outline when business hours start and stop for each.
Make self-care part of your company culture
The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reminds companies that even seasoned work from home employees report having more difficulty concentrating amid this time of uncertainty. In fact, 73% of those currently working from home report experiencing feelings of depression, anger, or lack of focus. Encourage employees to incorporate breaks into their workday to disconnect from technology, just like they might in the office when staff collectively take the time to hold co-worker birthday celebrations, holiday potlucks, or happy hours. Encourage them to use the breaks to exercise, get fresh air, and engage with children and family who may also be at home. Inc. reports that a study by the Draugiem Group revealed employees are most productive when they take a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes worked.
Encourage social interaction
Studies also indicate that strong interpersonal workplace relationships positively correlate to job satisfaction and reduce questions about tasks, goals, and performance. These important connections can and should be maintained virtually. Encourage employees to hold regular check-ins during the workday using virtual tools like FaceTime, Zoom, Teams, Skype, or other chat tools your company uses to stay connected.
Celebrate the little wins
Ask employees to write down what they accomplished at the end of each workday so they have a list of wins to review at the end of the week. Encourage managers to hold weekly group calls or chats during which each team member can share the accomplishment they are most proud of for that week. This practice can cultivate a celebratory and nurturing culture where recognizing steps in the right direction and small victories get more prominence than uncertainty or mourning the loss of what is no more.
Promote burst-based collaboration
In a Behavioral Scientist article, professors Christoph Riedl and Anita Wiliams Woolley explain that distributed teams who embrace a “bursty” communication style (ideas are communicated and responded to quickly) are more effective than those who engage in sporadic meetings followed by long periods of non-communication (such as a weekly or bi-weekly team meetings). They explain that shorter bursts of intense idea exchange and collaboration can align remote workers’ priorities and thinking and provide the immediate feedback they need to move past mental or operational blocks.
Consider that remote employees may be more productive
You may not have chosen to have a remote workforce, but your company could see benefits that cause you to reconsider longer-term work policies. One two-year Stanford study indicated that employees who transitioned temporarily from a traditional setting to work from home were 13% more productive than those who stayed in a traditional office. Plus, Employee Benefit News reports that remote work options are the second most desirable employee perk after paid family leave.
Embrace this time of working from home to seek your employee’s opinions on whether they’d appreciate a more permanent remote situation, and, if so, what technology and collaboration tools they’d need to succeed remotely in the longer term.
Reset goals and missions
The world has changed, and so has your company. Employees may no longer be motivated by the things they once were, and your business priorities have likely shifted, too. Managers should use this time to reconnect with employees and gauge the type of work they now view as most important while helping them align those values with the broader company mission in this new environment. Remote employees can be just as engaged as those in a physical office, but they need to know what matters to the company and how they can contribute to bringing that new mission to life.
Companies around the globe are adapting to this time of change, but there is no reason your employees can’t thrive in this new way of working. Support them with the tools and guidance they need to succeed, and you may find that your teams are as fulfilled with their jobs as they’ve ever been, regardless of where they’re working from.
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