Office life may never go back to how it was pre-pandemic, and that’s okay! What was once considered a “normal” working environment – in the office – may now be looked upon as dated, traditional, and even conservative. Many companies have expanded their policies to allow employees increased flexibility to work-from-home, and studies show that productivity has increased! A two-year study by Great Place to Work® of more than 800,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies found that most people reported stable or even increased productivity levels after employees started working from home.
So how can a business retain productivity levels, establish corporate culture, and prioritize the health of their employees while working remotely? We’ve outlined some important things to keep in mind from both a managerial and personal perspective below, beginning with YOU as their leader.
Business Leaders & Owners
Your team is expanding and events that once took place in the office are now happening remotely. For example, annual employee health screenings still need to happen. After all, promoting employee health and wellness is critical to your employer's brand and business success. Although everyone may be working remotely, you can still:
- Run virtual wellness initiatives that encourage health improvements.
- Host a virtual health and wellness week to engage employees in activities, contests, and wellness webinars.
- Track sick day patterns to identify and get ahead of any issues related to work stress, burnout, or mental health challenges.
- Keep an eye on turnover by role, team, and department.
- Encourage social distancing when employees do come together.
- Encourage and pay for an annual health screening for each employee, whether it be a remote call or with a local center.
The future is unknown. Facts change every day, and we're all doing the best that we can with the information we have, so stress is normal. As leaders, you can promote proper stress management through your leadership style and leading by example.
If you have an office, think about slowly phasing some folks to come in for a social interaction – and make it fun! If you have employees who can't come into the office due to location, find ways to include them in digital activities with their peers. Read more about the importance of hosting employee and team gatherings.
Keeping employees safe, engaged, motivated, and productive will help set you up for long-term success. Above all, you want to establish an environment of trust and transparency, so encourage your employees to advocate for their needs, as every home situation is different and can impact their availability to be in the office. Check in with individual team members often to make sure their contributions feel valued and that they are able to work effectively.
Be an example for your team. If you plan to transition into an office setting, leadership should be present and set the tone. If you plan to stay remote, hold weekly meetings to discuss the status of projects and keep your team members in the loop on company news – this helps them feel connected and up-to-date. Reinforce connections by hosting virtual lunches, happy hours, and in-person events. These activities will boost morale and help your team build important relationships.
Schedule 1-on-1 meetings with your direct reports. Take the opportunity to listen, take notes, and demonstrate you value each employee's contributions. Consider virtual office hours for drop-in chats as well. Remember, remote employees won't run into you in the hallway for a quick impromptu conversation so it’s important to ensure you keep the line of communication open, even if it’s virtual.
Healthy Work-from-Home Habits for Employees
Motivate employees to create a professional, productive, and wellness-promoting workspace by suggesting these items:
- A comfortable chair, desk, and proper lighting
- A quiet room
- A virtual background or backdrop for important video meetings
- Relaxing, but motivating music that promotes productivity
Encourage team members to maintain their usual morning routine as if they were going into the office – i.e., take a shower, get dressed, make coffee, let the dogs out. You know the drill! Taking time for meals and exercise rather than combining them with work will help them maintain a healthier distinction between work time, family time, and me-time.
We can't emphasize this enough. Be visible! Maintaining a connection with your remote employees is critical to success. To accomplish this, turn your video on for calls, if you can. So much of human communication happens through facial expressions and body language. Don't leave them guessing about the intent behind things you say. Let them see that smiling face!
Also, be responsive! Keep your team updated on your availability and status, so they know the best times to reach out. You don't have to be available at all times to be responsive. Simply communicate, which you can still do well even virtually.
As the leader of a remote staff, you should ensure they have the equipment they need in order to do their job. Encourage your team to ask for a headset, webcam, and internet compensation if they need it. If they have technical issues or need training, direct them to the company helpdesk.
And finally, be patient! Distractions are common. Dogs, children, roommates and general noise happen when people work from home. Balance this with patience and some humor because "stuff happens" when your team works remotely. This is par for the course, and it shouldn't be a deal breaker because stuff happens when they’re in the office too. The goal is to create a healthy balance between your business’ and your employees’ needs to make this “new normal” as beneficial as possible. Check out our other Simply Speaking blog articles for more tips to run a successful business and keep your associates feeling happy, productive and valued.