It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has altered the way we operate our daily lives for the worst. As it continues to spread through our great country, government officials were forced to issue stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of the virus. Many businesses had to also switch their business model to fit a working-from-home (HFM) model rather than having them come to the office.
As uncertainty continues to loom over us, business owners are wondering if they can meet the challenges that will emerge in the upcoming weeks, months, and possibly years. Are they equipped with the right communication tools? Are they seeing the right type of content to stay productive? We can safely say that this pandemic caught everyone off guard. With staff having to work across different zip codes, you still need to keep engaging and communicating with your teammates.
While there is no one sure way to keep all of your employees 100% productive, here are a few tips and tools to keep your employees connected during this remote work revolution.
Embrace Video Conferencing
If possible, try to incorporate video into your internal communications. Using webcams to videoconference in will give your staff the feeling like they are talking at an in-person meeting. Using video conferencing increases engagement because it allows you to read other people’s expressions and quickly find out if someone has checked out of the conversation. Whether you choose to opt-in for a paid platform like Zoom or use a free one like Google Hangout (Also now Google Meeting), video conferencing will keep your team connected and engaged with the speaker and each other.
With video conferencing you give your employees that extra motivation to look presentable and avoid the temptation to multitask during a meeting. Not only that, but video conferencing can also help your team members foster new meaningful relationships with the people they collaborate with. Now unless you are accustomed to video conferencing, it can feel a little awkward when you first get into it. To some, being in front of a camera can seem daunting, but, as with most things in the workplace, you and your employees will quickly get used to it.
Taking a quick lunch break? Let your team know.
Pounding the phones? Send a quick text to your group.
Knocking out the paperwork? Update your progress to your team throughout the day.
Simple notifications like these can help keep your team engaged throughout the day. In our experience, it is almost impossible to over-communicate in a remote work environment like this. These little updates also help keep your employees on their toes as it motivates them to one-up each other. This also subconsciously sets the expectations high for all employees.
There is a good chance that some of your employees might see this as a micro-management. It almost feels like reporting to work, clocking in, and reporting your 15-minute breaks but this helps your team stay aligned and ensures everyone understands what people’s availability and response times will be.
It’s not good to micro-manage your team during times like these, however, you may want to consider adding one or a few of the following into your office’s work-from-home policy:
- Daily check-ins
- Publicly shared to-do lists
- End-of-Day recaps
- Lunch and wellness break announcements
Get Creative With Your Technology
The proverbial water cooler found in the office allows your employees to connect with other members of the company. Now that everyone has gone virtual, many will start to feel disconnected from their fellow colleagues. You should take this opportunity to create this same environment online to keep company morale up. This could be as simple as a virtual happy hour or coffee talk where staff can gather virtually or a quick team meeting to wish one of your employees a happy birthday. Try to unify your communication platform so that employees can send a quick message or a high-five any time one of your employees does a job well done or when a department as a whole had a major win. Last, but not least, make your virtual meetings fun by allowing team members to wear crazy hats or a fun shirt.
Find Other Ways To Connect
Your industry will dictate whether you can have everyone working remotely or just a few departments. If you are a company that can have an entire team work remotely, then make sure you’re finding a few new ways to connect. Take some time out of your busy schedule to share things like what you’re binge-watching, how you’re maintaining physical fitness at home, or enjoy a virtual lunch together. Emails are good, but there are so many other platforms to choose from that offer a better interactive experience (Slack, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Etc.). This is the place to share things like a new workspace, a new “co-worker” ((i.e. children, pets, significant others, roommates). These simple adjustments will make working remotely feel more natural and has the potential to open up new opportunities for connection and engagement.
Leverage Familiar Communication Channels
Providing critical updates to your employees is crucial so make sure that you are sharing this information on channels that are already familiar to them. You know your company better than anyone so you know if your email system will be the best way to send this information. There will be many companies that won’t have an email structure so another way to send share this information is through your website. If neither of these options works, then texting might be the best alternative to get the message out. Remember that sharing this information can cause anxiety in some of your employees so try to ensure that your crisis communication method doesn’t add unnecessary stress.
Be Flexible With Time
Due to COVID-19, many employees are living a new day-to-day routine. Parents are now seeing their kids more as schools currently closed and spouses are now sharing their office space. New working arrangements are constantly being made, there will be interruptions from children, and there is still a lot of uncertainty in our future. Do set some expectations but also be realistic about what your employees are going through in their home lives. People eventually settle into a normal routine so trust that your employees will get their work done. Know that they will adjust and put in the hours even if they don’t fall within the standard workday.
Everyone Needs A Break
Your employees have a fifteen-minute break for a reason. Sitting and staring at an office monitor eight hours a day is not healthy. The same principals have to be applied while working from home. During normal times when everyone was back at the office, your employees would take a few minutes to got get a cup of coffee or a snack or chat with a colleague. If this was a routine, do the exact same thing while working from home – get up, stretch your legs, and get some coffee. It’s ok if you take a few minutes to call a fellow employee for a quick chat. Take a stroll through your neighborhood to get your steps in. Whatever it is that you do, keep doing it at home as this helps to keep everyone productive.
Everyone Isn’t Always Working
We’ve grown accustomed to having or phones and laptops near us to check emails and messages whenever we have to work remotely. Many would see this as simply staying on top of things, however, the majority of people like to shut everything down at the end of the day. You can’t always expect to have immediate access to your employees all hours of the day. Take this moment to clearly state what you expect of every one of your employees when expecting a response from them and what you will do to respond as well. Clear communication is key here.
Show That You Care
Simply giving and receiving recognition shows that you are thankful to have them, it generates trust among people, and increases the feeling of belonging. This is your moment to show gratitude and to thank your employees for everything they have done. This is also a good time to acknowledge them for being a crucial component in the company’s success. Assure them, that through this COVID-19 pandemic, you are still committed to their safety and well-being.
Keep Productivity Top Of Mind
As a leader and captain of your ship, the best thing you can do is continue to stay the course. We know this is going to be challenging for many as you know have to deal with children, spouses, or roommates at home. Just remember that you all have a common goal you are trying to achieve. We all have our insecurities and fears but keeping an open line for communication is key for good productivity and to keep everyone sane during these troubling times.
Final Thoughts & The Next Step
Companies need to start embracing remote working since we don’t know how long COVID-19 will last. In fact, as more and more businesses start to accept remote working (such as Twitter and a few other big tech companies) this might become the new standard way of doing business. If you want to make sure that your business makes it out alive and continues to grow after this pandemic, your work-from-home system needs to help your employees succeed as well.
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