Every day we are being advised to avoid shaking other people’s hands and touching our faces. Cancellations of schools, colleges, sporting events, concerts, and even some industries occur daily. Wherever we look, it’s evident that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is already dramatically impacting our daily life.
Companies are responding to this pandemic by taking their employees off the road and out of corporate offices, shifting to “work from home” cultures as much as possible. Each shift of culture helps to slow the virus’ transmission rates.
If you are one of the companies shifting to a work from home culture, you may be asking yourself how to best engage and communicate with your workers across multiple locations.
In an effort to keep employees engaged, consider these five tips for remote work:
Introduce Video Conferencing
Try using video conferencing—with webcams on—for all meetings. The use of video in conference calls ensures that everyone has the same audio and video experience. It also allows the host to survey video feeds as they would in an in-person environment. Everyone will have a visual as to who:
- Is engaged in the conversation
- Might have questions
- Has checked out of the conversation
Daily face-to-face video interaction helps build relationships over time across the organization; it connects people, encouraging them to put their best face forward – without sliding into an overly casual routine!
Practice Time Zone Courtesy
Always keep time zones in mind, especially if you have team members across the map. It’s unrealistic to require employees to work the same office hours given the reality of how Coronavirus may be impacting commitments such as childcare and home care.
Encourage employees to work within their own time zones and avoid scheduling meetings before 9 a.m. (PST) and after 5 p.m. (EST). Allow room for flexibility. Once you determine how each individual works, respect their working hours.
Be Creative with Technology
Working remotely keeps employees from gathering in a conference room to celebrate a birthday or stopping by their coworkers’ workspaces to recognize significant milestones. However, you can offset the void of water-cooler conversation by keeping employees connected:
- Leave space at the start of calls or video chats for small talk, to fill the gap from the lack of casual office conversations
- Provide a central location where team members can share highlights from their weekends and their top priorities for the week
- Use instant messaging services to spontaneously celebrate team wins, individual achievements, birthdays and work anniversaries
One quirky way our team has been keeping things fun is incorporating “themed” video meetings. For example, we invited everyone in a meeting to wear a Hawaiian shirt!
Software like Microsoft Teams is a great option to achieve this level of connectivity for remote employees. If you don’t have software such as Microsoft Teams to help keep employees connected, we recommend encouraging your staff to move around throughout the day. A walk, meditation or other related activities can assist in clearing the mind, relieving stress or releasing built up energy throughout the day.
Consider an ‘In Person’ Onboarding Program
Remote work isn’t for everyone. The lack of physical interaction can feel isolating to some.
Be sure to take care of your newer associates in a time like this. They may be less familiar with whom to go to for guidance, or how to find company policies and procedures. Assigning a mentor to each new employee or hosting daily check-ins during the first few weeks can make a huge impact. It’s important to keep your new employees’ spirits high and help them out.
Honor the Office Hours and the Weekend
Employees who work from home often keep their phone or laptop within reach, as technology has made it easy to check email in seconds. However, just because you may find it convenient to catch up on email later in the evening — while watching TV — doesn’t mean your coworkers or direct reports do.
Refrain from creating an “always-on” working environment by clearly communicating expected response times for emails. Or simply delay sending emails until normal working hours the next day.
Working from home can be quite an adjustment for employees who are used to working in the office. Now more than ever, should you keep employees connected and collaborating. If you are interested in learning more about the collaboration tool mentioned above, Microsoft Teams, we are happy to help.
Contact us to get started with Microsoft Teams and other Office 365 tools.