How to support remote employees during the Coronavirus
Due the spread of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, many companies are encouraging their staff to work from home. However, many employees are not prepared for full-time work from home or other remote locations. Here are some ways you can help support workers that may be new to working away from the office.
Give them the technology and tools they need
Video and messaging tools like Skype, Zoom and Slack are more common than ever in the workplace, but these tools can be utilized to allow remote employees to meet ‘face-to-face’, even if they are not in the same location. Encouraging everyone to use the video features can increase personal connection and help with clearer communication between co-workers. It can also help working from home feel less isolating and lonely, especially for workers that are used to the
camaraderie of an office. Video is often employed in team meetings or conference calls, but using for 1:1 meetings can be just as effective.
Apart from video conferencing, you might consider using a project management system like Slack or Asana, so that all of your employees (local and remote) can talk in one place–apart from email. Other collaboration tools like Google doc.
Provide them the things they need to outfit for their remote ‘office’. A one-time stipend to cover things like office supplies, and upgraded internet connection or other computer hardware (the second monitor is key to many people’s productivity). This can help them be productive right away, with missing a beat. .
Set clear goals about communication and expectations
There is no doubt that working at home is different than being in the office. You trust your employees to get their work done, but for those that are not used to it, it can be stressful. They may fell like they need to be plugged-in at all times to show that they are working and available. This can make workers feel chained to work in a way they may not feel while in the office.
Setting clear goals and expectations can help manage this for new remote workers. Let them know you trust them to do their work. Set-up regular and frequent video meetings, and keep them even if it is just to check-in. Also, let them know if you are OK with text messages and that you don’t always expect immediate response to off-hour emails. Also, schedule regular meetings for teams so they can communicate with each other and make sure everyone is on the same page. Feeling out of the loop can be extremely demotivating, especially if you’re working out of your home, and can also cause anxiety in workers that are used to frequent in-person collaboration.
Be sure to check in with them regularly to provide feedback, and try not to only contact them when something is wrong–be deliberate with your communication. Sometimes a daily standup meeting at the start of the day can help everyone feel connected and on the same page.
Stick to these regular meetings and avoid micro-managing
For supervisors that are not used to managing remote workers and distributed teams, it can be challenging not knowing exactly what your team is up to at all times. However, it is important to demonstrate that you trust them to get the job done.
Respect work-life balance
If everyone on your team is now working remotely, it can often be a struggle to separate work-life from their home life, especially if they are new to working from home full-time. Again here it is important to set clear expectations about hours you expect them to be working, what flexibility might be OK and that you do not expect them to go beyond their regular.
Try not to send them emails or other messages after-hours. Many email tools give the option to delay or send messages at certain times. This can be helpful so employees do not feel like they need to respond while eating dinner with the family, putting their kids to bed or relaxing and watching the Bachelor.
Appreciate everyone’s unique situation
Working from home can be different for everyone. Maybe some employees have room for a dedicated office or workspace. Others maybe live in a studio apartment without much room for their work life to invade their living space.
Or, maybe, they live with family members that make it more difficult to work (and concentrate) during all regular working hours. If they are working at home due to the virus, maybe their children are home as well, or other roommates or family members. This can be difficult and you should have some empathy for everyone’s situation.
The Takeaway: Support and Appreciation goes a long way
The most important thing to takeaway from this article is that your employees that might not be used to working remotely should feel supported (tech tools, clear communication) and appreciated (with clear boundaries, trust them to do their jobs).
You can let them know their work and effort during these difficult times is appreciated. Maybe send them a gift or other token of appreciation. Or maybe some branded tech products that can help them be more productive while at-home. These types of signs of appreciation and can let your employees know that you care and understand that they are working hard. Swag.com can also help you distribute these gifts to your distributed employees with our Swag Inventory platform.