At the beginning of 2020, I don’t think any of us thought we would be faced with working from home for 9 months of the year! However, whilst it may not be many employees or businesses first option to work from home, I think many have now accepted that this will change the way we work (within reason) as we move forward.
The difficulty many employers face with an employee base working from home is maintaining their staff engagement levels and ensuring that the company culture they have worked hard to build is not lost.
At the time of writing (December 2020) we are still not sure when working from the office will be permitted and as noted above, it is likely that many business will adapt a more flexible approach to working with staff working a split of days in the office and days at home as we go into 2021 and beyond. On that basis, it will be more important than ever for companies to ensure they are engaging with their employees and we have some suggestions on how to do this effectively below.
The thing many employees miss most is the ‘water-cooler’ chats, that social interaction with their colleagues. Whilst more formal updates to employees are also key, not every communication needs to be work-focused. You could arrange virtual coffee mornings, a virtual pub for Friday night drinks or arrange a weekly call with 3 random employees where they meet virtually to chat, both about work and their personal life.
Also, encouraging your employees to use video conferencing such as Zoom or Teams if they have to speak with a colleague instead of sending an email is helpful to ensure people have some social interaction throughout the day.
Without question, the most important way to ensure engagement is communication. Our top tips to do this are:
Managing a team when you have no face to face contact can be a challenge. To avoid any ambiguity, ensure that employees have clear expectations. Continue with your usual weekly catch-ups and place importance on them. If you cancel at the last minute, the employee may be left feeling lost or unsure on their focus for the week ahead. If you don’t have a shared to do list, it can be helpful to do so. There are several free online platforms that allow you to do so, and help with collaborative working.
In addition, it is useful to let employees know what they should do if they need help, for example what is the best way of reaching their manager? If they have an emergency situation, who should they contact? If they have a work or personal problem that they don’t want to share with their manager, who can they talk to?
In some parts of Scotland we are just about to leave our second lockdown, so working from home has become the ‘norm’. But that doesn’t mean to say that people are finding it any easier. Childcare can still be an issue for some people who cannot rely on grandparents as they normally would. Many people are missing seeing their families and loved ones and with the festive season approaching, this will be playing on their minds.
It is also fair to say that most people have up and down weeks whilst working at home, for many reasons but mostly being out of their normal routine and all of the other changes to life going on around them. The advice on this is therefore to try and be flexible. If your employees feel trusted by you to carry out their work and supported by their employer, they are much more likely to remain engaged and get the job done. The days of people working 9am-5pm are perhaps behind us, so it is important to accept that as long as your employees are completing their tasks and working their contractual hours, it may not mean they need to be at their desk during normal working hours.
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