The onset of COVID-19 has dramatically altered the workplace for many companies. Whether by choice or necessity, more employees than ever are reporting to work from a remote location, usually their homes. Remote work offers some advantages for both employee and employer. Employees may have more flexibility in their work schedules, allowing them time during the day to care for children or attend to other responsibilities. Employers benefit by retaining workers able to carry on duties from a remote location.
Remote work, however, has a few downsides. Employees at home may feel out of touch with their colleagues as they lose face-to-face interaction, and their lack of presence in the office may make them feel they are missing out. The new challenges brought on by remote work can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Companies can help reduce the stress on employees working from home. Listed below are four steps employers can take to help meet the challenges of a remote work environment.
Establish Daily Check-Ins
With employees unable to speak in person to their direct reports or make small talk with colleagues as they arrive for work each day, the standard face-to-face morning routine is lost. A daily check-in is one way to bring workers together. There are many technology tools available to use. Consider video conferencing, where each person can see other meeting participants in real time similar to an in-person meeting. A time clock app with GPS allows everyone to clock in from where they are and keep an accurate record of hours worked. A phone conference call will also connect workers whether they are in the office or working from home.
Equip Employees With the Tech They Need
To maximize productivity, remote workers may need to equip home offices with tools they use regularly. Employers may help workers move desktop computers, printers or other equipment from the office to the home. In some cases, purchasing a laptop, smartphone or other equipment for an employee might be best.
If they are not using it already, companies will need to consider project management software. This type of software helps employers assign tasks while employees provide status updates and progress reports visible to the whole team. Project management software may be a tool that companies will find useful even after remote employees begin to return to the office.
Provide Mental Support
As they adjust to life and work outside the office, remote employees will need time to figure out their new routine. Work and home life will mix together in ways they are not used to, and the emotional and mental strain may play a part in productivity at first. Employers have an opportunity here to help. Create a positive work environment that is open to questions and flexible to schedule changes. Encourage remote workers to take care of themselves, remembering to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and make time to exercise. Managers should set regular office hours so employees know when they can be reached. Also, companies should be willing to reasonably accommodate changes in workers’ routines or schedules, as life events can arise without warning.
Establish Team-Building Exercises
When colleagues work together in a common space, they have the chance to converse, make friends and build community. Lack of time together takes away those opportunities that are part of a happy, healthy work environment. One way to help employees stay connected on a more personal level is to host non-business meetings. For example, employers can build in time after a virtual meeting for coworkers to stay on a video conference call and catch up with each other. Team-building exercises are another way to keep employees connected. Examples of such events are remote lunch-and-learn sessions, online storytelling workshops, icebreakers or virtual happy hours.
Employers have the power to help and encourage remote workers, and the benefits of a healthy workforce will show forth in better productivity and a satisfied workforce.