Originally featured in Prolific North
As COVID-19 forces the world to retreat into their homes, many workers are, for the first time, carrying out their professional duties away from the hubbub of the office and within their kitchens and living rooms. Shirts, blazers and brogues replaced with Metallica t-shirts, hoodies and slippers.
The novelty of this new reality often makes the first few days, even weeks of home-working enjoyable, but once that novelty recedes, employees can begin to experience a range of negative emotions such as lethargy and irritability.
In this piece, we provide five top tips for keeping your housebound workforce happy and productive.
When asked their opinion on employees working from home, many business owners respond with scepticism on the grounds that they believe productivity levels would drop. However, these business owners are working on the assumption that, away from the gaze of management, employees would take advantage. They’re mostly correct, but onlyif those employees are provided with little or no structure to their day.
Whether it’s by communicating daily targets over the phone, producing timetabled itineraries, or using online workflow apps, ensure each employee understands what is expected of them on a daily basis and check in with them regularly to monitor progress. Which leads us to our next two tips…
Effective communication is a critical component of a successful business when there isn’ta global pandemic, now we’re in the midst of one, it is arguably the most critical. Fortunately, as we now live in a technological age, there are a plethora of tools at our disposal to keep conversations going.
Your workforce, as well as wishing to discuss the usual, day-to-day goings-on, will want regular updates on the company’s overall health and strategy as the lockdown continues. Honesty and transparency will be crucial here. Schedule frequent meetings, if possible, using multi-tenant video calls. Seeing colleagues, as well as hearing them, creates a much more personal and engaging experience for all involved.
The best companies are those that show their employees they really care, and there’ll be plenty in particular need of that in the coming weeks, even months. Some of your workforce may live by themselves, some in households that are not happy environments, and others are likely to be managing young families as well as their workload. For these employees, isolation, stress, and cabin-fever are likely to surface and, if left unchecked, could impact on the quality of their work.
Make the time to speak to your employees as people, not just workers. Ask them how they are and listen to their answers. If you get the inkling they’re struggling without their usual diverse human interaction, set aside 10 or 15 minutes to speak to them about topics unrelated to work.
Ultimately, we’re all going to have to find our own ways of getting this through this period, but even simple words of praise and encouragement or a 10-minute chat about Netflix documentaries can go a long way to keeping employees in sound mind.
Enable feedback mechanisms
As rigorous as your plans may be for the practicalities of having your workforce operate from their homes, prepare yourself for the likelihood that they will require continual refinement. If productivity levels are below what you expected or engagement levels appear to be suffering, don’t try to figure out solutions on your own.
Put in place feedback mechanisms and actively encourage your workforce to communicate their feelings about how things are working out and to share any ideas they might have.
Forward-thinking businesses utilise employee feedback anyway to further shape and evolve processes and procedures, if it’s something you’ve previously given little credence to, now is the time to start.
Promote healthy activity
Even for employees whose roles are largely desk-based, the act of coming to and being at work involves movement. Even if it’s just walking to and from meetings or colleagues’ workstations. Constantly at home, it is easy for a person to slip into an extremely sedentary lifestyle where meaningful physical activity vanishes, and poor dietary decisions become the norm.
With such sedentary, poor diet lifestyles comes the risk of complications with both physical and mental wellbeing. Neither of which makes for a happy and productive employee.
Impress on your workforce the need to stay active and healthy. Some companies are punctuating their weeks with group online yoga sessions and/or webinars where they share healthy recipes and exercise ideas for the home. Others are gamifying exercise and allowing employees to upload step counts with those accruing the highest number getting nominal rewards. Even if it’s just sending links to healthy food and fitness websites and apps , keeping your workforce fighting fit is great for them and essential for your business.
Some fitness apps running free session online