During the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies are transitioning to remote work for the first time. Being able to work from home is vitally important for keeping employees safe while continuing with business as usual, but it can present its own challenges. Here are some steps you can take to make the transition to remote work easier for the whole team.
If you use a video conferencing service, it can feel like you’re meeting with your team in a very similar way to when you worked in the same building together. But when you only see each other for scheduled calls, you may miss out on opportunities to catch up with each other informally. Caitlin Pemble, Director of Agency Talent Acquisition at Guardian, manages of team of five direct reports, three of whom work in a different office. She believes that finding the right balance in communications can help build relationships with team members, even at a distance.
“I balance structured meetings and informal check-ins on both life and work.” Pemble says. “If I know someone had big weekend plans or a kid’s birthday, I’m going to send a quick ping in the morning to see how that was. Creating the comradery and investing time in relationships is important.”
Meg Vecchi, Assistant Vice President of Guardian’s The Living Balance Sheet® (LBS), manages an entirely remote team of seven and finds that her team benefits from using several different communication tools to work together.
“Leveraging technology has been critical,” Vecchi says. “We use video as much as possible, connect regularly on IM and text, and use virtual tools to collaborate and have full transparency around our work.”
With so much on all our minds, it can be challenging to focus on work. While maintaining personal relationships with coworkers is important for well-being, staying connected to your work goals is also essential. When working remotely, it’s especially important to make sure employees understand how their work fits into the company’s goals and that they feel their work is valued.
“Helping the team feel connected to the larger Guardian picture takes work when they can’t passively experience it walking the halls of a Guardian office,” Vecchi says. “We intentionally hold team check-in’s twice a week so we can connect on our work, trickle down key messages and spend time together as a team. Communication is critical and transparency builds a sense of trust and belonging.”
During a time of great uncertainty, employees are likely experiencing stress in multiple areas of their lives at once. They may be worried about their job security, their health and the safety of their loved ones. They may be struggling to get their work done without the same resources they had at their workplace. And the isolation of social distancing, along with the loss of their usual routine, may be taking a toll on their mental health.
You can help lessen these anxieties by making sure your employees have access to reliable and up-to-date information from credible sources like the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control. You can also reduce uncertainty by making clear what support your company can offer in terms of paid sick leave and flexible working arrangements. And you can proactively and transparently communicate what your company is doing to weather this crisis financially.
If you notice that some employees are less communicative, missing meetings or falling behind on their work, consider that they might be struggling with a mental health problem. Try not to be overly critical with employees who seem to be having a harder time transitioning to remote work than their peers. Instead, reach out to them one-on-one to see how they’re doing. They may simply need more practical support working with new technology, or they may be having trouble coping with anxiety, in which case you can show your concern for them and put them in touch with resources to help them find mental health support.
While working remotely can be highly efficient under normal circumstances, it’s important to remember we are in an unprecedented situation. Parents are caring for children and managing online schooling while trying to keep prioritizing mental health and well-being with their work. Some employees may be caring for sick or vulnerable loved ones, while others may be struggling with the loneliness of isolation. Whatever our circumstances, we ‘re all under additional stress and should take that into account when setting expectations. Be accommodating with employees who may need to adjust their working arrangements to juggle all their responsibilities at work and at home, and make sure your employees know that their health and safety come first.
To learn more about how you can support employees during this stressful time, watch a recording of our webinar on prioritizing mental health and well-being.