The coronavirus is altering life as we know it. From limiting social interactions and gatherings to toilet paper shortages, people are learning to adapt to the new normal.
Work (business) is arguably the area most affected by COVID-19. Businesses around the world are looking for ways to mitigate the damage and weather the storm, but many companies are reducing salaries, furloughing staff, or conducting layoffs for immediate relief.
For businesses and employees still working, most have had to do so remotely. Employees and companies around the US are learning to work from home and deal with its challenges.
Working remotely certainly has its advantages—more sleep, no commute, comfort, flexibility, and family time. It also has its disadvantages—distractions, limited socializing, miscommunication, and less accountability.
Working from home can be difficult for anyone, but it’s especially hard for first-timers and businesses that were ill-prepared for managing a remote team. Consider the ideas below for keeping employees happy and focused while working from home.
Set Work Schedules and Response Times
Managing employees in the office or remotely requires structure and accountability. Setting a daily schedule of the hours your staff should be working is the first step in building a routine and laying out expectations.
Don’t be afraid to deviate from your traditional hours. You may even want to create work windows throughout the day for “mandatory” times that your staff need to be working or available. Consider implementing response times within your schedule where employees must field any internal questions or communication inside that window (i.e., 1-hour response time from 9am–5pm).
People are happier and more comfortable when they have a routine, so this step will improve productivity and employee satisfaction while working from home.
Provide Necessary Equipment and Resources
Most employees have perfected their office workspaces, but now they’re trying to replicate that comfort in their home. It’s recommended that employees create a dedicated space in their home for “work” that isn’t distracting or too comfortable (the couch).
However, businesses cannot control where employees work while in their homes—but they can provide the necessary resources needed to do their jobs. Make sure your staff has all the equipment and resources they need to execute their tasks.
This provision could mean purchasing and issuing laptops, monitors, phones, or other equipment. It could involve purchasing remote software to allow your staff to access their desktops from a personal computer. If your company deals with customer information or sensitive data, take extra precautions to keep that data secure.
If your team has what they need to do their jobs, you eliminate distractions and build continuity between the office and their home.
Communication may be the most important focus area for any business looking to keep its staff productive and happy. Working remotely—and self-quarantine—is isolating. Employees who once were able to socialize with friends or colleagues are now limited to digital communication. This isolation can be worse if your employees don’t have family or roommates.
In this time of physical distancing, businesses should overcompensate by increasing communication. Schedule more team meetings and discussions using video conferencing software or phone calls. Conduct frequent check-ins with your employees and have your team managers do the same.
If you don’t already have an internal communication tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams, consider adding one to streamline communication, file sharing, and project management. By taking a proactive approach with communication, you will make the work-from-home experience more enjoyable and personal for your employees who may be yearning for more community right now.
Develop Better Reporting
While communication is important for morale and productivity, reporting is important for accountability and focus. Working remotely gives employees autonomy and freedom that may be unfamiliar. This freedom could distract your team members, causing additional revenue loss.
By developing and improving your reporting, you can:
- Track and measure activities and progress
- Mitigate production or communication gaps
- Keep vital projects moving forward
- Hold your employees more accountable
Improved reporting techniques and policies can drastically improve the success of your remote office. Not only will it give you granular views of what your staff is doing, but it can provide the business insights needed to make strategic decisions during this tough time.
Empower Employees by Delegating Responsibilities
While your focus right now is probably on increasing revenue and productivity, it’s surprisingly a good time to empower your team by delegating responsibilities. We’re in uncharted waters right now, and you likely have too many items on your to-do list as is—so consider finding ways to delegate tasks to your staff.
Delegating tasks will not just make your life easier, but your employees will feel more valued. By delegating to your staff, you’re showing that you trust their competencies and are subtlety increasing their commitment to your company. This activity will increase their satisfaction and engagement while allowing you to accomplish more.
Great leaders know how to delegate, and now is the time for you to fine-tune this skill.
Collect Feedback and Adapt If Needed
If dealing with a global pandemic wasn’t enough, many US businesses are now forced to adjust to working remotely. This change happened so quickly that many owners had no policy or strategy in place for working from home.
As a result, you may still be figuring out the best way to get operations up and running smoothly from home.
The tips above can help you build the foundation for keeping your employees productive and happy while working remotely, but you’ll ultimately need to collect feedback from your team and adapt based on your unique circumstances.