The transition from the workplace to the home office has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This national emergency has forced a large percentage of the workforce to suddenly go from an organized office environment to working at the kitchen table amid a chaotic house/apartment full of kids, pets, spouses, and roommates, not to mention homeschooling, chores and searching for the golden roll of toilet paper. To say it’s an impediment to productivity is an understatement. In the following article, we’ll share our sometimes amusing advice for managing your remote workforce during this unprecedented period.
In a ‘normal’ teleworking situation, we’d offer up the standard tips and recommendations for success.
Well, ha ha, the joke’s on all of us because the world is turned upside down and the rules as we know them have changed. Here’s some not-so-practical advice from the experts:
- Create a dedicated and appropriate workspace. This can be a tall order when the house is crowded and office supply stores are sold out. Not everyone has a separate room that they can transform into a workplace so don’t expect to see spacious, color-coordinated home offices stocked with high-tech equipment and plentiful supplies. Some remote workers don’t even have a place to sit—and that’s where ingenuity kicks in. From standup desks configured from iron boards to monitors situated precariously on top of Monopoly and Scrabble boxes, innovation has no limits. Expect people to carve out a place as best they can, whether that means a corner of the laundry room or a seat at the dining room table.
- Keep disruptions to a minimum. Again, is that realistic when six people, three dogs and four cats are trapped in the house amid stay-at-home orders? Noise, distractions, and disruptions are facts of life during COVID-19. Wearing a headset can be helpful during conference calls and closing the door is great if that’s possible. Otherwise, understand that your employees are dealing with interruptions as best they can.
- Stick to a schedule. Depending upon the type of position your employees hold, standard working hours are probably impractical. Right now, work may have to get done late at night after the kids go to bed, or here and there between homeschooling efforts. Instead, throw schedules out the window where possible and replace them with a more adaptable, tolerant attitude about getting the job done.
During the COVID-19 crisis, conventional wisdom about working from home must largely go by the wayside. Instead, flexibility, ingenuity and understanding are the keys to success in this unpresented landscape.
Adopt an empathetic approach. Do what you can to help your employees find solutions rather than holding them to strict guidelines and procedures. Some suggestions to help your remote team be their best:
- Realize that productivity may falter. You might find that your staff members are working more hours but are only producing 70% of what they once did. It simply may not be possible to do better right now, and you might need to accept that dip as your new performance normal in this environment.
- Encourage employees to keep in touch with their coworkers. When working from home, those casual conversations in the hall or the breakroom disappear. That means it’s even more important for remote employees to make an effort to keep colleagues in the loop regarding schedules, assignments, issues, etc. Encourage members of your team to connect with coworkers frequently by email, phone, video chat, web chat, or even better using tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
- Take a new perspective on productivity and focus on boosting morale. Most people are motivated by knowing they’re doing a good job, and it can be harder to get that kind of feedback when you’re working remotely. Recognizing achievement, rewarding performance and acknowledging excellent work—whether it’s with tangible benefits like bonuses, gifts or time off, or non-tangible like peer recognition at your virtual staff meeting. Something as simple as saying thank you via a hand written note that you mail to their home can go a long way towards keeping your remote workers engaged in the company’s success.
- Communicate well and often. A major drawback to remote work is that a cohesive culture tends to go by the wayside, so make sure you’re visible on Zoom or another video conferencing tool and adopt an open door messaging strategy. When leading a remote team, you have to work harder to ensure that everyone is on the same page, so schedule individual weekly/bi-weekly update and coaching meetings with each remote employee. Use that time to inquire about any issues they may be having and encourage them to ask questions when they don’t understand something. Consider more informal ways to build connections within your workforce too, such as virtual “happy hours” every now and then. In other words, do what you can to help your remote workforce feel that they are an integrated and important part of the company.
- Resist the urge to micromanage. With a remote workforce, there’s no place for micromanagement. You simply can’t track your team’s every move so let them get their work done as they see fit. Don’t be overly concerned about how, when and where their tasks are completed.
- Trust your team. Have faith in your people until proven otherwise. Yes, there are plenty of distractions and fears stemming from COVID-19. Finances are problematic for many people. Schools are closed and children, pets, spouses, etc. are underfoot. There’s a never ending stream of negative news. This is the time to trust that your employees will work through the distractions, rise to the occasion, and deliver as best they can.
- Take time to be appreciative. It’s easy to feel isolated in remote working situations. Remind your staff that their contributions matter and that they are valuable members of the team. Let them know that they are not only permitted to work differently, they should. And so should you.
What creative methods are you using to work at home? We’d love to see how you’re improvising! Please take a picture of your conventional or not-so-conventional home office solution and post it here.
The HR Team has decades of experience helping companies succeed during challenging times, and we can assist your organization, too. Please reach out to our knowledgeable professionals to learn more.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.