Remote work has become a necessity, rather than a novelty, due to the fast spread of COVID-19. Luckily, remote work has its benefits. A two-year study by Stanford University found that remote employees are more productive, have lower attrition rates, and save money for the company by working at home. Over 80% of remote workers feel less stressed than those who work in an office.
For recruiters used to meeting and interviewing people face-to-face, remote work can be a bit of an adjustment. Some remote workers report feeling lonely or isolated. Companies that were unprepared for the quick switch to telecommuting may be missing the right tools and procedures for easy communication. Here’s how your company can adjust to the new state of work and foster a productive remote work environment.
Get the right tools in place
Working from home can be a challenging transition, but the right tools can make it less frustrating. Empower great communication with videoconferencing, instant messaging, and project management platforms. Some of the more popular, low-cost or free options are:
- Slack or Microsoft Teams for chat
- Google Hangouts, Zoom, or FaceTime for video calls
- Trello, Asana, or Basecamp for project management
- Dropbox, Google Drive, or WeTransfer for file sharing
- Toggl, Todoist, or Woven for time management and hourly tracking
Key to implementing these tools is having policies to go along with each one. “Leaders need to clearly define regular communication protocols and set expectations for when a remote worker must be accessible, and on which medium (Slack, text, phone, etc). For as great as technology is, it won’t help unless people use it reliably,” writes one expert in Inc.
Support an at-home dedicated workspace
Employees who are new to working from home may have some trouble focusing – especially if there are other family members or pets occupying the same space. Some companies are even providing stipends for employees to get set up right: Shopify is providing a $1,000 budget per employee to be spent on office supplies, including lighting, desks, chairs or other supplies.
Encourage your team to find space in their home that can be used as a dedicated office space. It can be as simple as a specific seat at the kitchen counter or turning the guest room into a no-kids zone where you can make a call without interruption. “Even if this office is a temporary makeshift space — such as a guest room, basement, attic or walk-in closet — this can help you mentally separate work from home,” write the experts at the US Chamber of Commerce blog.
Remote work can be lonely, especially in a pandemic where social interactions are completely virtual. Establish daily check-ins with your team that go beyond reviewing work deliverables. Managers should offer virtual office hours during which they are available on messaging apps or videoconference to help employees with any personal and professional issues that may come up. Support your team’s mental health by encouraging your team to take time out of the day to get away from the computer screen, take a walk (if possible to do so safely), and practice self-care. It’s easier than ever for employees to get burned out; when you work from home, the lines blur quickly, making it hard for some people to turn off work at the end of the day and recharge their batteries. Try to stick to normal working hours and resist emailing your team in the evening or early morning.
Ask for constant feedback
Remote work is new for everyone, and there are bound to be some growing pains. Transparent leadership can make the adjustment period easier for everyone: remind your team that you’re learning as the situation develops. Transparency helps foster a great company culture and can keep your team more engaged as the situation develops.
Nina Krol, outreach manager at Zety, suggests setting up an employee engagement survey to gauge how your team is adjusting. This survey can be used to track the general mood within your workforce without having to put someone on the spot. A survey can tell you if you’re micromanaging, communicating clearly, or not communicating nearly enough. It can also alert you to when morale is low and help you course-correct as needed.
Keep your culture alive
In a crisis, there’s no such thing as business-as-usual. But that doesn’t mean you should throw everything that’s been working out the window. Remote teams need some consistency – which is why it’s important to keep your company culture intact. Find some creative ways to keep your company culture alive. Some businesses are hosting virtual team-building events, like online office games, online storytelling workshops or remote lunch and learn sessions. Others are mobilizing their workforce to find creative ways to give back to the community. Draw from the core tenents of your culture – whether its volunteering or professional development – and find ways to translate those values virtually.