A very wise person (probably on Twitter) said the following: “You are not working from home - you are at home, during a crisis, trying to work”. We couldn’t agree more.
You’re unlikely to have HR guidelines for this specific situation. The transition from the office to getting everyone set up at home might have gone fairly smoothly, but what now? How do you make sure everyone’s doing okay, and still working well together? Here are our thoughts:
It’s important that everyone’s on the same page, when it comes to the effects of coronavirus on the company. If there was ever a time to harness that ‘all in it together’ spirit, it was now. So tell them if business is booming. Tell them if it’s not. Be transparent, and give regular updates - because it’s not just your company, it’s their jobs and, by extension, their lives.
Don’t forget to chat too. Not every video call needs to be functional. After all, you’re missing all those sessions of kettle-hovering gossip and Netflix recommendations. Get your team to catch up once or twice a week in an unstructured, relaxed way - you’re people first, colleagues second.
For a lot of your employees, working from home will come with a certain set of challenges. Some might be juggling logging on for a status report with wiping down a sticky toddler, or getting their kids to sit down and do some reading. Others might be in a nightmare houseshare - battling for bandwidth and the few quiet corners. Or members of your team could be living alone, and finding it difficult. Accept the 9-5 might not work for everyone right now.
And don’t be surprised if people aren’t giving their A game. There’s a lot to worry about - from health concerns for themselves or loved ones, to financial issues, to housing problems, to getting out to the supermarket for essential supplies. It’s a hard time for everyone. So forgive slipping standards, snappy emails, low motivation. This is a time for support, not blame.
One side effect of lockdown is mental health suffering. Be aware of this. Understand that your team needs space to take care of themselves, and don’t need unnecessary stressors. Forget last-minute deadlines, or unrealistic targets. Don’t put company performance before all else - or you won’t have staff well enough to sustain it.
And put your money where your mouth is. Provide access to counselling or support networks. Set up remote sessions with mindfulness or yoga professionals, anything that lets your team stop and breathe (and do it within work hours - remember those external priorities we talked about?). Give your team the tools they need to keep themselves well.
As we mentioned, video calls don’t always have to be business-focused. Set up after work drinks sessions, or ‘pub quizzes - get inventive with ways to hang out, without even leaving the sofa. You could also introduce company-wide competitions or challenges too, from who has the best mug to dance-offs! And don’t forget to keep celebrating birthdays, workiversaries, and other events you normally would.
Remember that people love perks. Now more than ever, the thought of something nice arriving at the door is an exciting one. Why not pull names out of the hat for a free lunch, delivered to the lucky winner’s door? Or - better yet - hit us up and get fresh coffee (and tools to brew it with) sent to every one of your employees? It’s the little things that keep us going.
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