How to Work More Effectively From Home
HOME Vs. THE WORKPLACE
Establish a routine as if you were still commuting to the office, including getting up at the same time, getting dressed, and having that regular morning coffee.
Where possible, create a dedicated workspace that is pleasant and comfortable with a suitable chair and desk. Recognize that it may take time to get set up and to make arrangements that work with other family members.
Check-in with employees to help ensure they have the resources they need to do their work. This would include having a suitable computer, phone, and connectivity with security to Wifi, etc. Where necessary, help employees familiarize themselves with Zoom for meetings. Consider holding informal training to help employees become familiar with the technology. Check on whether employees have the necessary equipment to work remotely such as microphones and webcams etc. Noise-canceling headphones may be required, especially when there are young children in the home.
Set regular work hours and avoid and discourage employees from working too many hours. Arrange an end of day check-in with colleagues, and encourage employees to take sufficient breaks, and to move around for exercise
Managing Remote Workers
The first question is often “How do I know my employees are working?” This requires having a mindset of trust and empathy. Being productive never did require being at the office from 9am to 5pm. This requires a change in thinking. Employees still need clear direction when it comes to how quickly emails should be responded to, for example, while at the same time allowing them to structure their day in a way that works best for them.
Establish virtual protocols such as how and when to best approach other remote workers without disturbing their own way of working. Knowing the best time to talk with someone is easier when you can see if they are busy. However, when working remotely, it is best to first inquire as to when is the best time to talk, perhaps by first texting a co-worker or employee.
Keep in mind that communication is over 90% non-verbal. Emails alone can easily be misinterpreted, resulting in conflict and there are times, particularly where emotions are involved when picking up the phone or arranging a video call through Zoom would be more appropriate. This is especially important when delivering potentially a sensitive message for example.
Avoid feelings of isolation by establishing ways to facilitate two-way communication between management and co-workers. Where possible, facilitate group chats rather than just one on one discussions.
A sense of belonging and social connection, normally present at the office is now missing but still important. When connecting with employees remotely, begin conversations with a check-in to see how everyone is doing. Encourage employees to share their experiences working from home as well as other topics conducive to maintaining positive motivation between team members.
Group meetings could be daily and weekly events. Meetings will be one-on-one also. Touching base with employees daily could be by email, messaging or Zoom and providing ample opportunity to give updates, encouraging news, and to monitor outcomes, and set agendas and goals, etc. Weekly meetings should be on video platforms such as Zoom, geared towards sharing an overview of outcomes and action steps to be taken. There are document shareable programs that allow reports etc. to be accessible to co-workers such as Google Docs. Although these meetings should be structured, it is still important to give participants a chance to first socialize and to maintain morale. It takes only 5 or 10 minutes to achieve this outcome. One to one meetings also provide two-way communication between employer and employee, not only to keep employees informed but also to see how each person is doing given the circumstances.
Fear and Anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation can result in poor performance and bad decisions being made. The first step is to be aware of, and even to express these feelings. This allows us to then think more clearly and objectively. While we need to acknowledge and accept our feelings, times like this challenge us to become more resilient to weather the storm. This means accepting what cannot be changed and acting on the things that can be managed.
Change is inevitable. Just like in sailing, we need to set our attitude, our way of feeling or acting toward a person, thing or situation. This means being ready to adapt to any situation and to look for opportunities to advance, recognize that we will have negative emotions given a difficult situation, but choose to act even in the face of adversity. Reach out for any possible support to keep strong, both physically and mentally whether it comes from the government, from colleagues and the employer. We are all in this together.