COVID-19 has forced a huge number of employees to work from home for the first time. Managers and HR Directors are expected to navigate a new workplace reality. Many employees are left feeling more disengaged, disconnected, unmotivated and stressed. How can managers and HR teams improve productivity of their workforce while working remotely? Here are 10 tips to implement for successful remote work.
1. Clarify Top Priorities
Managers must step in and be very vocal about business priorities. Employees are more distracted and are coping with new information so they need clear priorities from their management team. Things are changing rapidly so daily check-ins and daily priority checks are more vital than ever before. In addition, employees no longer have quiet time to work because they have spouses, partners, children or roommates and constant interruptions, which makes it critical for them to receive clear priorities from their management team to really focus on what’s important for the business. Normally, remote workers "have peace and quiet, and large blocks of time to concentrate without interruptions," said Chris Dyer, a remote-work advocate and workplace performance and engagement consultant based in Brea, Calif. But these aren't normal times, with spouses, partners and kids in the house.
2. Become a CRO (Chief Reminder Officer)
Reminding people and over-communicating should be frequent (daily), consistent and tailored to each employee. Managers should be honest and transparent in their communication. Equally, managers should give their employees a space for them to communicate what they are experiencing. Daily manager check-ins, company-wide Pulse surveys, team meetings: the check-ins, the better. Managers should be very clear in communicating about how the company will adjust with performance and goals during remote work; this will reassure employees who might worry about compensation during this crisis.
3. Implement Boundaries
Managers should encourage their employees to identify certain areas of their home as a workspace, where possible. Identifying a no-distraction zone can help employees set physical boundaries around workplace versus home. Of course there might be instances when children will interrupt or housemates might come in, however, encouraging each employee to identify a dedicated work area will help them set some boundaries between their work and their leisure time. Managers should encourage their employees to switch off work at specific times of the day to allow time to recharge, disconnect from work and re-energize. This will also show to the employee that the manager cares about their team. When organisations implement boundaries between work-time and leisure-time, they improve their talent management skills be demonstrating that they value the well-being of their employees.
4. Streamline Meetings
In COVID19, working time is more limited than ever. Children, spouses, roommates, partners, pets and distractions represent more interruptions to the workday than usual. It is critical that managers limit the number of meetings to allow time back to each employee. "If it is not critical, cancel the meeting.” Scheduling shorter meetings of 10 to 15 minutes also help employees get some time back.
5. Encourage Self-Care
Anxiety levels and stress levels are higher during COVID19. Productivity happens when people reduce their stress levels so managers should encourage their teams to build self-care into their daily routine. Some managers block some time in their employee’s calendars for mandatory exercise or stretching or taking a break from their screen. Some teams create a challenge where they must hit their steps goals for the week, or hit a number of hours where they exercised as a team. This is an excellent way to encourage self-care and to build connections among employees. Mental health at work is becoming more important than even before and organisations should partner with expert diversity training companies to implement best practices around mental health at work.
6. Ensure Employees Home Station is Comfortable
Managers should ask each employee how their work station is at home. Ensuring each employee has a comfortable, ergonomic work station at home helps set each employee up for success. Even an office chair can make a big difference in how comfortable and productive each employee will be.
7. Implement Mentorship Programs
Mentorship programs are a great way for organisations to ensure that employees feel supported, even in COVID19. There are simple ways to start a mentorship program and organisations can hire diversity consultants to help. According to a 2019 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey, 9 in 10 workers who have a mentor say they are happy in their jobs.
8. Listen and Learn
A critical part of manager’s job is to simply listen and learn, and now more than ever before managers must use this skill. Organisations should encourage managers to listen to their employees and learn from their individual experience of remote working. This creates a safe space for employees to share struggles or successes, it builds more trust and it helps managers identify areas for improvement for the organisation.
9. Implement Meeting Best Practices
Meetings take a whole new meaning during remote work because they are the only opportunity for employees to connect. Managers and organisations should take the opportunity to refresh their meetings best practices and rules of engagement. Meetings good practices include managers who interject and say they’d like to hear someone finish when someone is interrupted; managers should nominate a gatekeeper to keep the conversations on track; managers should try to repeat ideas from people from previous meetings to show respect and help them create credibility by saying out loud that they learned from them; managers should give credit to the project owner even if they aren’t in the meeting. Managers can amplify and advocate in meetings challenge themselves to notice and take action when interruptions happen, cultivate a culture of credit, encourage everyone to identify the originator of ideas, push back on off-topic questions. These micro behaviours will influence how included (or not included) employees feel. These meetings best practices, if followed by all managers, will also help fight any unconscious bias in the workplace.
10. Give Constant Feedback
When managers give constant feedback, they help employees feel valued and build trust among their teams. During remote work when employees are more isolated, having managers give more frequent feedback is a great way to keep employees engaged. Managers should describe the impact on the business rather than the list of activities; managers should clearly explain the business impact of the projects being worked on and give clear feedback focusing on the business impact rather than the behaviour, personality. Giving good feedback is critical to retaining the best talents and diversity training and equality training is a great way for organisations to educate managers on how to give critical feedback.