I recall, thinking in March of 2020, working from home would be temporary – a few weeks, a month or two. Now we’re closing in on a year, and if you are in the PNW like I am, we are heading back to a state recommended shut-down.
Not to mention, as winter sets in, where it is harder to get outside, and dark earlier in the evening employees are feeling more isolated than ever before. We must succumb to the notion, this is our new normal - at least for now.
Here are five things to consider to help your employees work better at home.
1. Spark New Communication
Nearly a third of employees say they are communicating less with their managers since moving to remote work. But managers sense things are worse and are feeling their relationships with employees have deteriorated since the lockdown.
Consider this: Very few people want more Zoom meetings. But employees and bosses need to connect. Encourage front-line managers to set aside time every week to call employees and simply check-in. Find time to talk about projects, success, struggles, and personal interests – like you would do after a weekend.
2. Work from Home Technology & Ergonomics 101
Comfort is still a struggle for many employees working from home. Some haven’t found the right space or proper ergonomics. I know I have moved my office desk and space over three times this past year, to find a space I felt most productive in.
Consider this: Almost a third of Gen Z and 20% of Millennials work from their beds because they do not have a separate space or even a desk. In many instances, employees share Internet capacity with other family members who work from home and children schooling from home. Others still might not have the tech capabilities they had onsite.
Try a pulse survey to gauge employee’s tech capabilities and their workspace comfort. If remote work continues, you will want to invest in equipping employees like they are on-site. Do you have a budget to provide equipment stipends such as a sit-stand desk, or a more ergonomic chair? What about high-speed internet capability, or a cell-phone stipend? I have heard from one client, who is repurposing their holiday party budget, to do a one-time bonus for all employees.
3. Seek to Understand
One thing that is difficult for employees working remotely is understanding, managing, and executing expectations. Part of the problem is managers and employees meet significantly less now that they are working remotely.
It needs to be a two-sided solution because goals, priorities, and expectations are ever-changing these days. Employees and their bosses need to regularly clarify goals, priorities, and expectations.
Consider this: Now is the time to start talking about 2021 goals and performance reviews. Allow employees to ask about and set their own short- and long-term goals, and time to check-in with their managers at least every two weeks. Managers can lay out their expectations for deadlines, quality of work, and level of communication. As the work progresses, both sides can be candid about needs – perhaps a speed-up or delay on delivery, blocks of uninterrupted work time, or flexibility.
4. Be Social
Whether they work from a crowded, busy home or a quiet apartment alone, many employees are still missing the social aspect.
I recall from my own experience, beginning remote work in the summer of 2019. Remote work is incredibly lonely and isolating. You miss the small moments that make up an office’s culture like walks to the coffee machine with a colleague, stopping by your boss’ desk with a quick question, as well as the energy created by in-person think-tanks.
Consider this: Encourage managers to reach out individually to their employees and discuss mental health and isolation. Creating opportunities for employees to get involved in organizing social activities which might include socially distanced, masked meetups, or one-on-one video coffee chats. The key is to help employees find something social that works best for them. A client recently shared, he has mastered the art of “Microsoft Teams – Cold Calling”. He simply “cold calls” a team member to ask a quick question as opposed to sending an e-mail. This has replaced the office pop-in.
5. Save time for Self-Care
No one needs to win the “most dedicated remote employee award.” With so little separation between work and life, the better way to work from home is to purposely turn it off, and step away.
Managers and HR leaders can set the self-care example for employees when they all work from home. I urge leaders to put yourself and your mental health first. And when you think about your coping strategy, consider how you could bring it to employees as well. For me, it is finding a space, and time to exercise, and turning off my machine, and stepping away around the same time every day.
Create boundaries. Make sure you “leave the office.” Use as many visual and physical boundaries between your workspace and personal life – even if it’s just powering down, folding your laptop, and putting it away for the evening. You want a signal that it is time to switch from work to personal life.
Turn off email and other work notifications. You might respond to them because it is too easy to jump back into work – when you should be relaxing and enjoying personal interests – when work is in the home.
Make Time. Make a point to get outdoors or play a game with your family – any activity or location where you feel comfortable during the pandemic. I have made a point to take my dog on more adventures – we are finding new places to explore.
Focus purposefully. Try not to get distracted by personal issues when you are on work time. That way, you can focus more on your personal time when the time comes.
For more information or to share how you are successfully working from home, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org