With working from home now a firmly entrenched part of many people's 9 to 5 lives, what was previously a convenience is now a common practice. And while these temporary arrangements may suit some, others might have found it a struggle adapting to their home office arrangements. Eight months on from when offices around the country first shut, it's the latter category that managers must be mindful of as we head into the tail end of 2020.
Without the usual contact, environments and other comforts that the office can offer, certain employees may have found their performance, productivity and motivation slipping in a way that's noticeably different from their usual work ethic. And, as employees disengage from their work, it can have a knock-on effect on their own wellbeing too.
If you've seen certain team members' performance falter recently, then here, we'll offer some tips and ideas that can help them re-engage with their work and keep them motivated throughout each week while we're at home.
1. Define your remote work policy
If you're looking to boost engagement in your employees, then it's important to make expectations clear. If your team know what is expected of them, then it helps to provide their day with more structure and give them a sense of what needs to be done during their core hours.
To this end, it's worth writing a formal work policy to share with your team. In this document, you should provide clear guidelines for the following:
- Working hours: Are there strict working hours, or does this remote work arrangement allow for a degree of flexitime? Perhaps there are reduced hours in place. Either way, let your employees know how much time is required of them. Additionally, inform your employees what time of day they should be available online and through which channels.
- Online meetings: Are employees required to attend meetings? If so, inform of their frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, etc) and duration.
- Communication channels: What are the communication channels and tools you'll be using during this arrangement? Will different communication channels and tools be used for different purposes?
- Challenges and troubleshooting: If any employees are struggling, who can they discuss these difficulties with?
2. Encourage health and wellness
It's a stressful, difficult time for everyone involved right now, and if your team is feeling the physical and mental strain of current circumstances, then they won't be able to perform to their fullest.
Perhaps their physical exercise has taken a dip since working from home and no longer having a daily commute to the office. If so, why not introduce them to one of the many physical wellness apps like Vantage Fit so they can take part in healthy activities from the comfort and safety of their own homes? Such apps have been shown to have positive effects on productivity, can decrease absenteeism, and overall let your employees live healthier, happier lives - something that certainly matters right.
3. Host virtual coffee breaks
Coffee breaks were something many of us took for granted back in the office. However, they can actually be a powerful part of the day, allowing for a respite that can boost productivity and engagement in the long term.
That's why it's worth hosting 15-to-30-minute "coffee break" video calls where everyone can grab a cup of joe and engage in some small talk. To make them as successful as possible, try scheduling them regularly at a time that suits everyone. However often you have your coffee breaks, make sure the time works for your team and is predictable – it'll more readily become part of everyone's routine that way.
4. Engage employees through recognition
Ensuring your employees feel valued is important, but with everything being conducted from behind a screen right now, the need to recognise their efforts is more crucial than ever. Acknowledging your team's efforts and contributions goes a long way – fuelling them to repeat their successes, and increasing company loyalty and retaining top talent as a result.
Without recognition, employees withdraw from their work, becoming unmotivated and devalued in the process. Therefore frequent – but genuine and authentic – praise plays a massive part in how employees approach their roles. If you use Slack, then consider creating a channel devoted solely to recognising the efforts of others on your team, so the whole company can see the talents they're working with on a daily basis.
5. Hold knowledge sharing sessions
Knowledge sharing can have a positive effect on our engagement, enabling us to grow on an individual and team level and helping to foster greater connections with those we work with.
So, what do we mean exactly? Knowledge sharing in the workplace is the process of sharing expertise, information and skills among employees in a company. In the usual office arrangement, this tends to happen naturally and spontaneously as we work side by side, but when working remotely, it might not happen as easily. That's why you'll need to adopt a more structured approach.
There are plenty of different things you can do to share knowledge. For instance, you might do a group watch of a webinar on a topic that relates to everyone's field or get everyone involved in a problem-solving workshop over Zoom. Monthly talks or presentations where each team member takes turns to talk about a topic that's dear to them can not only be informative, but it helps everyone to get to know each other on a more personal level. You might even hold a book club, letting people take advantage of their spare time now that we're all back indoors once again.
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6. Keep communication lines open
As we mentioned earlier, it's important for team members to know who to turn to if they're struggling. Since it's a tough time for many, chances are some might be feeling under the weather.
Make sure that your employees know that you're free to talk, whether it's over Zoom, Slack or e-mail. Often, when someone is in a slump, they may not always make their feelings clear, but talking through their issues is a crucial part of working through their struggles, helping them to re-calibrate and refocus so they can get back to their usual best.
7. Hold a close-off meeting every Friday
Working from home means there's less of a distinction between finishing up for the day and getting to relax. With no physical office to leave, there's no symbolic act of clocking off right now, which can make it hard to maintain the boundaries between work and play.
Not being able to unplug from our duties can wreak havoc on our wellbeing and lead to burnout, so it's important to delineate the division of working and not working somehow.
One way of preserving the illusion of leaving the office is by hosting a short, 15-30-minute video meeting at the end of each Friday. Use this time to acknowledge the work you've done during the week, take note of any successes, and, perhaps most crucially, share plans for the weekend. When you exit the video call, use that as your cue that the weekend has started. It's a small gesture, but right now, even the little things count.
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