Working remotely is not something new, obviously. It’s just incredibly more widespread, to say the least. While we are all dealing with unprecedented changes to every aspect of our lives, we also actually know a lot about how to work outside of the office and what it takes to be successful. Most companies have offered this option for many years now, and many employees have chosen it.
This is good news because it means that companies can draw on this knowledge to help their newly at-home employees. No one chose to work from home under these circumstances and many would not have chosen this arrangement at all. But while things are unsettled in many ways, there are things that we know how to do that work and will help. Working from home can feel more normal, more settled. Helping your people achieve this can lead to more satisfied, productive employees, even in a time of crisis. It’s just a matter of applying what we already know and tweaking it a bit for our current challenges.
Equipment and Technology Matter
There is no denying that having the right set of tools for the job makes the biggest difference. Spotty internet connections, subpar microphones, uncomfortable conditions – they all spell doom, in the office or out of it. Many employees are tech-savvy and already had or upgraded their capabilities on their own. But many do not have the knowledge or resources to do so. Mimicking in-office capabilities as much as possible is an important component of continuing to run a successful business remotely. Many companies are seeing the wisdom of helping their employees in this area.
First, make sure they have the know-how. Share best practices and tips on what they need to achieve optimum results. What internet speed is the best? Headphones or earbuds? Proper desks? Ergonomic chairs? Everything is up for discussion. We’re trying to recreate the office experience, the good and necessary parts anyway. Consider setting minimum standards and helping your employees achieve them. At the very least, recommend them, so people know what to do to help themselves.
Second, support these efforts financially. Either give your employees a budget or purchase and ship the equipment yourself. Obviously, no one size answer fits all, but in most cases you will benefit greatly from this outlay of capital. Support it at the level that makes sense for your company but seriously consider doing it. You’ll end up with both more productive and happier people.
Communication Is Critical
This is not news. We have known this forever.
It bears repeating though that communication is still critical, critical, critical. Employees crave information, especially in uncertain times. In addition to the normal stuff needed to conduct business day to day, there’s now all the pandemic-related news and info. People are also missing the camaraderie of the office, and the chance to discuss work and resolve issues with a quick conversation. They want to replace that communication in some way.
At the same time, people are also reporting feeling overwhelmed. The daily volume of email has long been a scourge and the actual necessity for many meetings and conference calls a hot debate long before COVID. People are dealing with a lot, juggling multiple responsibilities while working at home. Everything is a little harder now, including communication. So, while people need and crave communication, they also need and are clamoring for less. Paradoxical, but there it is.
What should you do?
First, survey your employees and listen to them. More than likely you’ve conducted employee surveys before, and now is a good time for another. Things have changed and people’s communication preferences and tolerances may have changed as well. For example, early on, people were attending large, all-team calls in high numbers. They were very interested in hearing firsthand from leaders and starving for news and connection. But as time goes on and we settle into the new normal, frequent, all-hands calls may be more of a burden.
Ask your employees how much and what kind of communication works for them. Ask them how you can support them in staying connected to their colleagues. Virtual lunches, happy hours and trivia events can be fun or feel like an obligation. Make sure you know. There is pretty widespread understanding and concern for everyone’s mental health and stress levels right now, but it’s easy for that to result in too many phone calls and meetings to “check in.” Well-meaning, but overwhelming.
Second, even more important than usual is that all communications be useful, honest, and accurate. People are pressed for time. It’s even more important than ever to make sure that meetings are kept on track, don’t run too long, and all the participants “really” need to be there. One “how are you” call a week may be enough. Redundancy isn’t always the best answer right now. Try to eliminate needless steps and roadblocks wherever you can. Simplify complex processes. Again, this is all sound business advice at any time, but it can make even more of a difference now.
Continue to Say Thank You
Finally, recognizing your employees for a job well done is absolutely the kind of communicating that should continue at this time! Take a look at how your current recognition and reward program is structured and how it should change. Rewards that involve travel or eating out are probably not as meaningful at the moment as a backyard DIY BBQ kit. Tickets to a sporting event, not so much. A box of family games and activities? Much better. Saying thank you, to individuals, your team, or the whole company for a job well done? That never goes out of style. It’s critical that you stay in touch but so very critical that you get it right.
Helping Employees Work from Home
Working from home on almost a 100% basis is a huge challenge for everyone. Can it be done? Absolutely! We’re resilient and smart. We will figure it out, survive, and even thrive. Best of all, we already know what to focus on and how to do it. Employer and employee alike, we just need to adapt and apply our knowledge to this new challenge.
Want to work with smart people who can adapt to the changing times? Contact us.