Last week, we provided a list of resources to help individuals get adjusted to working from home. After it was published, I received this note.
Dear HR Bartender! I’m a loyal and excited reader of your blog and usually find very great tricks and tips I can experiment with at my workplace. Currently, I work as an HR generalist in a team of 2, taking care of 110 employees. It’s always been our main focus to take care of employees by providing regular career feedbacks, mood boosting events, and just being around (literally) to chat. Like many organizations, we have moved to working from home due to COVID-19 and it’s very new to us. I was wondering if you have any practical tips and tricks how to lift employee spirits from a distance and how to take care of those who might not take this situation well? I would love to read an article on that! Thanks.
First, thanks so much for the very kind comment. We try our best to be a good resource to all managers and HR professionals. It’s always great to hear this kind of feedback.
Now, this is a really great question! Some people might feel that working from home can negatively impact company culture and employee disengagement. I won’t lie – it might if the organization doesn’t make the effort to engage with employees. But in many cases, this work arrangement is an opportunity. Here are two things to consider during this time of remote employees working from home and sheltering in place.
Give remote employees the tools they need to get work done
Think of this situation in two parts. First, employees need resources to do their jobs. That might be technology, software, office supplies, etc. Basically, they need the stuff that the office environment provides. I’ve heard of companies allowing employees to take computer equipment home. Managers should check-in with employees to make sure that they have the things they need. And if they don’t, maybe the company can give them a small stipend to buy some office supplies online. Or someone can put together some office supply boxes and send them to employees. Bottom-line: figure out how to give remote employees the things they need to work and use it as an opportunity for engagement.
I’m sure some of you are saying, “Really? All we need to do is give employees staples and paperclips?!” And for some employees the answer is “yes”. Under normal circumstances, remote employees get time to put an office together. COVID-19 forced us to make fast decisions and employees didn’t get time to prepare. Don’t forget rule number 32 from the movie “Zombieland” – enjoy the little things. It will help you keep your sanity. And the engagement of your team.
But really when I refer to tools and resources, the big one on the list is technology. Some employees might not have desktop computers at home. They might not have WiFi. And if they do, their technology and internet might not be the latest and fastest. Not like at work. I’ve mentioned before that there are studies indicating if employees have to spend a lot of time creating workarounds because they don’t have the best technology, this can contribute to stress and burnout.
Support remote workers’ well-being
The second part has to do with emotional support. Speaking from personal experience, when you work from home, you’re disconnected. Some of your employees are going to love that. Others…not so much. Managers need to set up time to chat with remote employees – about work projects of course, but also just a “how are you doing?” and “what can I do to support you?” In many office environments, this happens in small 5-minute chats throughout the day. Now it’s going to have to be a little more intentional.
Encourage employees during this time to take care of themselves. Let employees know that you understand the challenges they’re facing. Families are spending all day together. Let that sink in for a moment. Employees are working and home-schooling their children. They can’t see parents or grandparents. No birthday parties or anniversaries. It’s possible we will spend religious holidays like Easter and Passover – traditionally extended family events – by ourselves. Maybe now is the time to create some (virtual) employee affinity groups.
I honestly don’t know that I have all of the answers here. You know who might? Your employees. Consider asking employees how HR can best support them during this time. HR could do training sessions over a platform like Zoom. This might be a perfect time to do some virtual lunch and learn sessions about social media or even manager development. Maybe have some “coffee chats” or create a book club.
The goal (and the challenge) is to be there enough that employees know you’re supporting them but not so much that all of the activities get in the way of the work. It’s a delicate balance for sure. Asking employees what they need – and they might not know right away – will help start the conversation. And it will engage the workforce by bringing them into your strategic planning.
Image capture by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Austin, TX13