Remote working has become the new normal in the wake of COVID-19. How can employers support their remote employees from afar during this period?
Despite having been around for years, not many employers offer remote work as an option. Many employers were thus unprepared for the transition to telecommuting when governments around the world enforced stay-home policies to curb the spread of COVID-19 within the communities.
With most businesses closed, these are challenging times for both employers and employees. Day care centers for children and seniors are closed and living at home with both children and elderly family members to care for can be taxing for working individuals. .
Here are ways employers can support employees working to care for themselves and their dependents during the COVID-19 outbreak:
With kids at home and other personal commitments demanding for attention, staying focused while working from home can be challenging for employees. Employers have to recognize that employees, regardless of their gender or marital status, can be parents or caregivers. During this period, employers can support employees by allowing them the flexibility to arrange their work around their other personal commitments. For example, letting employees arrange video meetings during their children’s nap times.
Communicate your expectations
Many workers are telecommuting for the first time ever and may feel lost or uneasy with the new mode of work. Moreover, working at home has blurred the lines between work and personal life, and some employees may not know when to switch off. Leaders need to communicate their expectations to employees clearly and let them know how their performance will be measured during this period to help them understand what needs to be done. Also, when setting expectations for employees, be realistic and take into consideration various life factors that could affect employees’ productivity. For instance, the Internet speed might be slower at home as family members will be accessing it to do work or home-based learning.
Focus on output rather than screen time
Similar to presenteeism at work, employees’ screen time does not equate to productivity. Don’t insist that employees have to be at their screens from 9 to 6. Leverage on the flexibility that remote working gives and let employees work at timings when they are most productive. For instance, let an employee take a longer lunch break so that they can cook lunch for their family. The employee can make up for the additional time away by working at a time when they are better able to concentrate, such as when their dependents are asleep. Free from distractions, the employee may be able to produce better quality work or get more things done than usual, benefiting the employer.
Check-in on employees regularly
It is more important than ever to connect with employees personally now that opportunities to interact at the workplace are gone. Besides team meetings, employers can also make use of video conference technology to organize virtual team events where employees gather to mingle online. Employees’ children can also be invited to participate as well, which can help young children understand that their parents are working at home even though they are not at the office.
Employers can also connect with their workers on a personal level by having one-on-one video calls with employees. During the call, check in on their conditions and if they have any concern that they would like to share. Lend them a listening ear when needed as some may have no outlets to turn to for stress relief. This is a difficult period for many and showing empathy and support can go a long way in helping employees stay engaged and motivated.
Create a support group for employees in the same situation
Employers can create an online platform for employees with the same situation to seek advice and share resources. For example, employers can create a group chat in communication apps for working parents where employees can share resources for home based learning, activities that parents can do with their children or seek advice from each other for parenting issues.
With remote working becoming the new norm for now, employers have to rethink the way they manage employees and keep them engaged and focused during this challenging time. View working from home as an opportunity to discover new (and even better) ways to engage employees rather than a disruption to business as usual. Show employees that you care about them and they will reciprocate in turn.