How to support & engage employees while they work from home

Almost overnight,  businesses all over the world have scrambled to a remote working model in a matter of days. Some businesses already supported remote workers prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 (along with having the infrastructure required to make it happen). But most did not. As we acclimate ourselves to the possibility that this may become the new norm, in whole or in part, it’s important to continue to support and engage employees while they work from home.

  1. Keep open communication
  2. Trust in your employees
  3. Use tools to help your team
  4. Support with employee benefits
  5. Keep your company culture alive

Perhaps your company offers some of these lifestyle benefits, or perhaps you’re entirely unfamiliar with these benefits and this is all a new concept for you. Regardless,

1.  Keep open communication

When your employees work remotely, it’s important to continue to keep team communication lines open, and establish regular structured check-ins among team members and direct reports when working from home for a prolonged duration of time. This helps with:

  • Goal setting
  • Managing expectations
  • Project updates
  • Strategic planning
  • Team collaboration and brainstorming
  • Social bonding

The casual work desk conversion that occurs when your employees are in the office stops when employees can no longer see each other face-to-face. That’s why after just a few days of working from home, it can be easy for employees to feel left out of the loop, both from a business aspect and social. Regular team check-ins and virtual one-on-ones are ways to keep your employees connected to the daily operations of their team and the rest of the company, and keep them up to date on strategic decisions, while maintaining the human aspect of day-to-day operations.

2.  Trust in your employees 

Communication is key, but when it comes to the topic of working remotely, there’s a right way and wrong way of keeping communication lines open.

For employers who are new to having their employees work remotely, or are not 100% comfortable with work-from-home policies, it can be tempting to check up on their work or monitor their progress during the day. While there are appropriate situations where frequent communication is required, if you find yourself requesting multiple check-ins during the workday on a regular basis, ask yourself why this is a requirement.

In some cases, this may be required to help some employees restore structure to their days in an environment where that may prove challenging for some.  Your employees might feel that this is a matter of trust, but your employees should be made aware that trust is not the issue. It’s a matter of supporting employees and having them understand the importance of finding a new level of comfort for both employers and employees during these difficult times. If it is a trust issue, no amount of check-ins will solve that problem.

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3.  Use tools to help your team

Are you up to date with the online tools available to help your workforce successfully work remotely? There are a plethora of online tools today that facilitate more effective remote working and help eliminate the traditional pain points that come with it. We have compiled some of the most popular and handy ones below:

●     Zoom, Google Hangouts: Zoom and Google Hangouts are popular go-to online video conferencing platforms. They enable virtual meetings, webinars, and conference rooms.

●     Slack: Is your organization still reliant on email for internal communications? Slack is a workplace communication tool designed to organize communications within your company, and is a single place for your messaging, files, and tools.

●     Trello, Asana: Trello and Asana are organizational tools for managing projects and tasks within your team or company. While Trello mimics real-life boards to manage projects, Asana takes a task-oriented approach and offers a high level of workflow functionality.

4.  Support with employee benefits

Though your company may already offer employee benefits, if a large percentage of your workforce is now transitioning to remote work, then you may want to consider how your employees are now using those benefits, and how their needs may shift.

Lifestyle benefits consist of allowances commonly used for areas such as fitness, transportation, and education (among many others). With employees working from home for an extended duration of time, chances are, their lifestyles will change to reflect that. If you offer lifestyle benefits (whether it’s through a Honeybee Allowance Account or otherwise), consider adding or substituting reimbursement categories for expenses such as home office supplies, electronics, and furniture, grocery and take-out delivery, or household supplies. This can be done on a temporary or permanent basis.

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With employees staying at home more, virtual health services such as AkiraMD and Maple allow for virtual healthcare to be delivered to your employees anytime, anywhere. This allows your employees to have the peace of mind of having immediate access to healthcare professionals, without the burden or health risks of going to a clinic or spending time in a waiting room.

Working from home can also bring a sense of isolation in the long-term. It’s often not as convenient to maintain social bonds with colleagues, and the lack of face-to-face interaction can take its toll on employees’ mental health. Keep your employees supported with an Employment Assistance Plan (EAP), which offers access to professionals who can assist in a variety of matters such as mental health counselling, family, legal, or financial issues, and fitness and nutrition guidance.

 5.  Keep your company culture alive

Just because your employees are now working from home doesn’t mean that your company culture should disappear. In fact, this is when your culture is really put to the test. A strong company culture can continue to thrive virtually.

Using tools such as Zoom or Google Hangouts which were mentioned before, why not invite your employees to grab themselves a snack and join you weekly for a virtual team lunch to catch up and socialize? After all, working remotely shouldn’t make your employees feel like they are cut off from the rest of the organization or their colleagues. Social interaction with peers can significantly boost employee morale, and it reminds your employees they are still a part of the team, wherever they may work from. Think about promoting virtual seminars, conferences and other events to your employees to keep them connected to your industry and their peers, while brushing up on their training and development. 

Switching over to a work-from-home model can be a big change, but we hope it will make your transition smoother with these tips. Remote work shouldn’t feel like house arrest; by continuing to engage and support your employees remotely, you can ensure that morale levels stay as high as reasonably possible, and employee productivity remains a priority.

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