The ability to work from home has been of ever-growing importance to the workforce over the last decade. Flexibility has become a staple of a well-rounded employee value proposition. As we are all fully aware, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has now placed this kind of working in the spotlight more than ever and our economies are currently reliant on the success of this business model.
Although there are numerous benefits from having such flexibility for both the company and workers, once put into practice, many people find that the novelty of working from home can wear off quite quickly. Self-motivation can be a struggle, depending on personalities and preferences to being surrounded by colleagues, and loneliness has a potential of kicking in if businesses are not putting the right strategies in place.
To help keep productivity, wellbeing and morale high during these times, SRG has researched some ways to help:
1. Keep connected
When working remotely, people aren’t immersed in the buzz of the office. The personal connections made around communal areas or face to face meetings are obviously lacking. Therefore, it’s important for team members to be reminded that they are still working alongside others, just from afar. This includes knowing that managers are on hand should issues arise or support be needed.
The key to staying connected is to still spend time together, there are many good web based platforms to facilitate group face to face meetings, this article covers some of the best. If you already have one-to-ones planned, it may be good to do them more regularly over this time.
Video calls are a better gauge for team members to keep an eye (literally!) on colleagues, for assessments of mental health (can see a physical decline in personal grooming for example, stress on face, expressions when speaking). All of which is harder to assess over the phone. Any decline in wellbeing can then be tackled sensitively by managers or relevant team members.
2. Take real breaks
When you’re not in the office, time seems to fly by and many people report working longer hours (with less distractions it is easier to get fully immersed in tasks). Encourage teams to move away from their computer at regular intervals as it is vital to have regular breaks, including taking a full lunch break to keep physical and mental energy levels high. Not only this, it helps keep our minds focused and boosts creativity. The pomodoro technique is a way that some people find helps to keep them productive, focused and fully refreshed.
Encourage teams to take time for themselves throughout the day, getting up and walk around the room or stretch every 10 or 15 minutes along with taking lunch. It’s best to encourage getting away from screens, especially if you can get outside to have some fresh air, the change of scenery and seeing there is more than the four walls of your ‘home office’ so feelings of isolation will reduce.
3. Creating the right work environment
A workspace that feels positive and vibrant means a healthy workspace and a healthy workspace means a healthy mind! Offices are fit for purpose, so are usually more open than homework spaces, they have appropriate equipment and breakout areas which might not be the case at home. Talk to your teams to make sure they have created a workspace that is dedicated to work but that doesn’t take over, separating work and private time is important. Encourage them to pack work things away in the evenings and at weekends to maintain a barrier between personal and private lives.
When setting up a space, consider how much natural lighting there is, try to get away from the household, ideally set up a work station on a table and use a chair (rather than a sofa as this is not good for posture over time) think about the use of plants or art if possible/appropriate. All this will make a much more pleasant space for your teams to work in.
4. Balance work and play
Along with not being able to chat in the office, have lunch in the breakout room or have face-to-face meetings, colleagues may be feeling they are missing out on social activities.
It is time to think outside the box… using technology, here are some things you can do with in your team:
• Breakfast club
• Weekly ‘Pub Quiz’
• Friday hangout/happy hour
• Lunch break hangouts
• Book club
5. Encouragement, recognition and support
Team members can be reminded that they aren’t going through this alone, if more people share how they are finding things combined with strong support networks, this really empowers the sense of togetherness, naturally boosting morale.
Dedicate time to have conversations about how you and your team are finding things, make sure that people have space to mention their thoughts and feelings, not just how they are coping with workload or the technicalities of working at home. The more commonalities around morale or motivation that come out in these conversations, the more connected teams will feel. These shared feelings and enhanced connections will boost productivity, morale and engagement.
Another important activity is to continue to notice and appreciate hard work, achievements and productivity. If this activity drops off, there is an even bigger impact when you’re working remotely, it can feel like efforts and accomplishments go unnoticed and employee engagement drops.
Finally, make sure there is an open stage for support and feedback. Keeping team meetings and one-one-to-ones on the agenda is vital. Ensure you make these video rather than phone sessions whenever possible, make sure they encapsulate the usual workload and development planning but ensure there is a chance to talk about how they’re coping working from home, what are they struggling with? Maintain a positive attitude and ensure there is a chance for feedback too. It can be valuable to provide updates on how the wider company is doing here as well, keep everyone part of the bigger picture. Lastly, share support networks and avenues before the session is over and schedule the next session in before wrapping up.
6. Highlight the company’s values and provide updates
When you aren’t in the office, it can be easy to feel slightly detached from the company. To help keep morale high it’s important to remind employees of how their work feeds into the bigger picture and to understand what’s going on in the company. Reminding colleagues how their role is contributing to something greater than themselves, looking at what your business does and finding the big “why”, can help employees feel more engaged.
Take advantage of any employee platforms you may have such as Workplace to post regular company updates, using a weekly newsletter could also be a good way to do this.
Be as transparent as possible but an upbeat, positive attitude is best. The more you stay in touch and the more good news you share, the more you'll raise morale.
For further information and support on working from home SRG have a dedicated blog and video guide to working from home.
Along with having a flexible working policy, there are several other things employers need to do in order to attract and retain the top talent. Our STEM Survey looks at this as well as numerous other key players in the current STEM recruitment market.
If your company is supporting the pandemic response in the UK, then get in touch with our specialist COVID rapid response team for your recruitment solutions: firstname.lastname@example.org