The past few months have been a rollercoaster of change
As the world starts to accept remote work as a constant, employers are understandably left with more questions than answers. While there’s no denying that remote work saved many businesses, it was never really considered a realistic, long-term, plan. Employers entered into a sort of social experiment with WFH. Would it work logistically? Would productivity maintain? Would morale be boosted?
The past few months have answered those worries. Research from Amex found employees that worked from home were 43% more productive than those who remained in the office, with 53% of employees citing remote work as a priority when searching for a new role.
Employees, though isolated due to the pandemic, are just as engaged as they were in the office – with many of them calling to make remote work the norm. So, how exactly can you keep your employees on the ball while working from home?
Find the right remote engagement tools
Remote work calls for a different selection of tools – ones which not only aid collaboration but also monitor productivity. In the initial shift to WFH, one of the main areas of concern for the C-suite was a drop in productivity and a lack of self-motivation for employees away from the office. Project managing software like Monday.com and Trello are effective and transparent ways of watching over projects, whilst also facilitating team work virtually.
HRD suggests using tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout and Zoom to check in with employees regularly. Not only does this allow you to watch over you staff, it’s also a nice way to reach out to those feeling isolated.
Addressing unique employee concerns
Remote work is heaven for some, hell for others. The pandemic has thrown us all for a loop, leaving us exhausted, mentally shattered, and anxious. As with all things in HR, individualisation is key. It’s essential that you think of your people as separate entities – what works for some may not necessarily work for other.
Some employee concerns may be logistical – such as poor Wi-Fi or a broken laptop – others will be emotional – perhaps around mental health. As a starting point, host a town hall to voice any general concerns, and then follow up with personal one-on-ones. It’s important to note, however, not to overwhelm your people. IF they don’t want to talk, don’t force them.
Pre-emptively preventing employee burnout
As COVID-19 start to dissipate, HR leaders have another crisis on their hands – companywide burnout stemming from poor psychological health. A report from Pew Research Centre found that over one third of employees have displayed signs of depression and anxiety since the pandemic took hold. This number is expected to rise over the coming months, particularly in areas which are still suffering with COVID-19. In order to pre-emptively prevent further burnout, employers should be laying out clear boundaries for their people. Working from home can be flexible, however it can also lead to too much overtime and a poor work-life balance.
Set clear working hours. Encourage employees to take regular breaks. Speaking to HRD, Gena Restivo, VP HR at Astra Zeneca revealed her strategy for ensuring employee wellness.
“We’ve given employees an extra two days of annual leave to enjoy,” she told HRD. “When we work from home, it’s easy to forget to take breaks. It’s so important that employees have a proper lunch, sit down for dinner with their families, take regular walks around the block.”
Restivo made the decision to block out employee lunch hours to prevent them scheduling any meetings. “We all need to end meetings at least five minutes before the hour,” she told HRD. “It’s just common sense. It lets us grab a coffee or stretch our legs – just breaks up the intensity of the day.”
Being critical of your own practices
Self-reflection isn’t just for employees, it’s for leaders too. We’re entering into uncharted waters, not really knowing what 2021 has to throw at us. As such, it’s important that HR departments constantly check themselves. Look at your practices, look at your processes – don’t just assume everything is fine because you’ve been doing it the same way for the past 10 years. There’s always room for improvement – be that improving communication, investing in new technology, or simply hiring new people.
Key Takeaways for HR
- When you’re selecting remote technology, look at tools which will monitor productivity without ‘spying’ on employees
- Check in with employees on a regular basis. Set up one-on-ones with employees to go through their individual concerns – as well as town halls to raise general issues
- Prevent employee burnout by setting out clear working hours. Remember, just because employees are working from home doesn’t meant they’re working all the time.
- Review and revamp HR practices. Never rest on your laurels – there’s always room for improvement