Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Twitter are all companies who've rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). And with the recent stay-at-home orders, it’s reasonable to assume that shifting to the ‘home office’ will become the new normal approach to getting work done for many of us.However, working from home (WFH) isn’t without its issues and concerns. And as an LA based business, it would be in your best interest to consider elements beyond just addressing the technical delivery and cybersecurity concerns, but also what the mental and emotional strain this new way of working will put on your staff.
Historically, it was common knowledge that not everyone thrived in a remote work-from-home environment. But now that it's become the defacto standard, how you interface and manage your staff remotely is critical to the success of your business in this "new normal."
Now that we're here, the following are some key considerations to help you and your staff lead a well balanced work-life approach when working remotely from home..
1. Increase communications
The key to working from home is clear communications with your staff and your boss – knowing what’s expected of you and over-communicating.
Most people spend their days in close proximity with their boss and their teammates, meaning communication is easy and effortless. But that’s all out the window with remote work, and communication breakdown is even more likely if your workplace isn’t used to remote working. Your management staff might not be used to managing people virtually, for example, or your company might not have a ready-to-go suite of tools for remote workers, like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
2. stay ahead of loneliness
But even for those accustomed to it, working from home can feel unstructured and isolating. Last year, a study of 2,500 remote workers by online brand development agency Buffer found that loneliness was the second-most reported challenge, one experienced by 19% of respondents. Loneliness can make people feel less motivated and less productive.
So when you do communicate with your team from home, it helps if as much of it as possible can be “richer” communication that's face-to-face and instant - again leveraging IM and video tools as much as possible. Out of sight means out of mind and can be a real problem for remote workers. It's critical that managements understands this key difference and makes a concerted effort to address this.
3. treat it like a real job
Just because your staff can lounge around in their pajamas doesn’t mean they actually should. Help them see the value in treating their day to day no different from coming in to the office. The more routines they can keep, the less the lines will blur between "work" and "life". Encourage them to get ready in the morning just like they normally would - take a shower, get dressed. Treat it like a real job.
If a staff member doesn't have a home office, do as much as you can to help them create an ad hoc, space exclusively for work. Not having a well-equipped home office space when people begin remote working can cause a decrease in productivity. Investing in the productivity of your staff working from home pays dividends in the long run - both in productivity as well as in long-term staff retention.
Suggest to your staff that they create boundaries within their home for other family members so that their family members understand: "When the door is closed, pretend I’m not here." This serves as an important signal to those who live with your staff that they're "at work".
With a dedicated workspace where you can concentrate, it becomes easier to unlock the benefits of remote work.
4. Bookend your day
The most-cited WFH complaint is the inability to unplug after work. Commuting or even entering and leaving a physical office provides clear boundaries to the workday. “Psychological segues” can help put you and your staff in the right mindset: like a 20-minute coffee in the morning and then exercise right after work to open and close the day.
Even if childcare isn’t an issue, it’s still easy when you’re home to think "I have laundry to do, let me do it real quick.” You have to put yourself in a frame of mind that you’re really working.
5. AVOID FEELING ISOLATED
Still, even with all the remote tools, the enforced and abrupt nature of the transition from an office to a home environment could leave some struggling to get accustomed to the change. With coronavirus, it’s not clear how long people will be at home, which poses additional problems. Parents, for example, will find working harder if children are at home because schools are closed, meaning close communication with managers – who will need to be understanding – is vital.
Prolonged isolation could also potentially impact on morale and productivity. Teams need to work at sustaining a semblance of normalcy and camaraderie in unconventional ways, like virtual pizza parties or remote happy hours where people dial in and share a cocktail on Teams or Zoom.
6. KEEP SPIRITS UP
Make no mistake, these are stressful times. Negative headlines, worrying about sick or elderly loved ones and fighting the urge to go panic toilet paper shopping can all put answering work emails on the back burner. But the more effort you put into communicating with colleagues, the better chance you have of avoiding feelings of isolation, which can lead to depression.
It's on your Managers to provide clear communications, consistently, and it’s also crucial to keep up morale. Under today's environment, it’s easy to be stressed or depressed. If you’re a manager, acknowledge the stress and difficulty and help your team through it. Your job is to be a cheerleader for the team.
Clearly, we're now in a "new normal." And while this is certainly different, it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative. Make sure that while you've addressed the technology to make remote working possible, you're also doing all you can to ensure you're addressing the human touch as well. This is now more important than ever.
How do you manage your remote workforce? Are you increasing the level of communications with your staff? What virtual tools are you leveraging to improve their WFH experience? Please share your thoughts in the Comment box below or shoot me an email if you'd like to chat about this in more detail.