COVID-19 has turned our personal and work lives upside down. We’ve emptied our workplaces on mass to slow the spread of the virus, while continuing to do our jobs from our homes. It’s been a BIG adjustment for many, especially those who are teleworking for the first time. We’ve compiled this list of best practices that employers can follow to help employees work safely and effectively, as we adapt to the new realities of doing business during a pandemic.
Equip your team with tech and productivity tools
Perhaps the number one way to help teams succeed while working remotely is to invest in tools to help them stay healthy, connected and productive. Email alone is not sufficient in difficult times like these. Remote workers benefit from having “richer” technology that enables connectivity and collaboration with tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, or video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Google.
Establish a check-in routine
Working from home means employees no longer benefit from face time with their managers or chats around the proverbial water cooler. That’s why it’s important to have a check-in routine, ideally daily, to help create a sense of normalcy, set priorities and maintain connections. These check-ins can be done one-on-one or held among small groups via video chat, phone call or instant message using the tools listed above. By making these calls regular and predictable, employees know they have a forum to consult with their managers, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.
Lead by example
Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion shows that employees look to their managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations. If a manager communicates stress and powerlessness, this will have what is known as a “trickle-down” effect on employees. Effective leaders acknowledge the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling under difficult circumstances, while also providing confidence in their teams. In turn, employees are more likely to rise to the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus.
Provide emotional support
When an abrupt shift to remote work occurs, as happened during this pandemic, it is important for managers to listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. In a remote work setup, managers should be more available than usual for check-ins and to answer any questions they may have. This could involve setting virtual office hours and being present on instant messaging throughout the day to help employees. In addition, remind them of the mental health tools and resources available to them through their benefit package. Medavie Blue Cross has a new microsite dedicated to COVID-19 mental health services and support for insured members.
Create opportunities for remote social interaction
Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. Creating time and space for workers to talk about news, hobbies, and other topics — just as they would have done in the office — helps them relieve stress and feel better connected. Leave a few minutes before and after video conferences for people to catch up with their co-workers. Host an online pizza party or a virtual team-building exercise to build bridges between employees. Experienced managers of remote workers (and the workers themselves) report that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging
Educate and communicate
Employers should also educate and inform employees on ways they can work from home as efficiently and comfortably as possible. This includes setting up and adjusting their work stations to protect body posture and prevent muscle strain. We invite you to share some tips on working well from home that includes ergonomics tips and tricks. Click here to download.
Last but certainly not least, leaders should encourage self-care among their employees to protect their physical and mental wellbeing. This includes exercising, eating healthy, getting quality sleep and continuing on with lives as normal as they can during this pandemic – and beyond. Share healthy living tips with your employees to help them self-manage their health and wellness while in self-isolation. Click here to download.