• Kyle van Niekerk

Is working from home going to be the new norm?

In 2020, remote working has become the new norm for many companies. Although some companies have had flexible working arrangements in place before Covid-19, they still find themselves in unchartered waters with multiple teams working from home. Many of our clients over the last few months have shared their thoughts on how to manage the workload as well as maintaining the mental health of staff.

1. How to effectively work from home

For many employees, this may be their first instance of working from home, finding themselves a bit lost in terms of how to ensure they can work efficiently. Provide your team with clear work goals, expectations, and constructive feedback, and it doesn't hurt to have some extra training as well. Be careful not to micromanage, as this has been seen to decrease productivity in many cases.

2. The less professional, professional

Working from home has unforeseen challenges, including for some, little humans running around in the background, loving every moment of mummy and daddy being home. Let’s face it, they live in testing times too, and we sometimes expect them to be more understanding and mature than their age. Parents often stress about how their efficiency will be perceived if children are seen around when video meetings are in progress. Clearly communicate to your staff that it is understandable if kids are around occasionally, little distractions are evident as long as they are not the norm.

3. Open communication

Implementing a solid means of communication and project/task management is the key to manage staff whilst working remotely. This also becomes a valuable asset to a company as it is much easier to track tasks and projects without needing to get on the phone or email employees and team members. Managers must keep the lines of communication open and provide regular information on changes in the business and what is being done to support employees through it. Set the agenda and goals for every scheduled meeting so employees can come prepared to get the most out of meetings. Reiterate that the values of the business cannot be lost with remote working ie. respect for others, working as a team, etc.

4. Listen

Communication is important but equally important is for managers to be available to listen to their employees. Have an open forum for staff to communicate their personal views about how they feel with the changes/decisions being taken and make clear it is OK to communicate negative feelings if any. It will only take one person to open up about their struggles which will give others the confidence to share their concerns. Helping employees feel heard will go a long way in maintaining their self-worth and keep up the team spirit. Remember, each employee has their own individual beliefs and struggles. Listening to them allowing them to express that, is what makes teams work well together with an open line of communication.

5. Meditation, mindfulness and exercise

Often times we are seeing staff working much longer hours due to the more informal relaxed lifestyle of working from home. However, it is still taking a toll on your body and mind. Exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and other activities can help keep employees focussed and possibly be used as a team bonding session. Again, tailor this to the audience. Staff can take turns to run sessions for their teams. Conduct virtual stretching exercises, yoga sessions, basic workouts, meditation, and mindfulness exercises. It doesn’t have to be for too long – 20-minute sessions can also reap benefits. #Mindfulness

6. Keep it social

Set up a couple of coffee catch-ups for staff to get together virtually over a cuppa to chat about all things non-business or maybe a Friday virtual wine o’clock where each staff takes a turn to set the theme of the session. Some ideas being – riddle time, showcasing skills like playing an instrument, singing, stand-up comedy, funny dress-ups, etc.

7. Mental health support

Proactively support workers who you identify may be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home) and refer workers to appropriate channels to support workplace mental health and wellbeing, such as employee assistance programs. Remind them to check their entitlements for bulk-billed services. #itsoktoaskforhelp

8. Training for managers

Some training companies are now providing free coaching and forums around how to manage change through COVID19 with emphasis on team management, time management, etc. It is a very interactive way to bounce ideas and learn what is working for other managers or other companies.

Ideas for companies that are fortunate to afford cash spend in these times:

a. Ergonomic spend

Poor ergonomics can lead to overall muscle weakness, aches, and pains, and cause easy fatigue. And let’s face it, this can lead to poor work outcomes. Encourage employees to set up their home office ergonomically. Allow them to expense claim any ergonomic equipment they require to set up their home office. Set an expense limit or offer to pay a part of the expense.

b. Special Covid leave

Some companies have allowed access to special paid leave for up to 2 weeks for employees whose job cannot be done from home and have to be in isolation, caring for their children, or at-risk family members or for all employees who have directly come in contact with a person confirmed with Covid.

c. Care Package

Put together little care packages for your employees as a way to show their support. You can add in a little handwritten note which will be the most appreciated content in the package. Tailor your package based on what your staff will appreciate – comfort items like coffee, cookies, or a little bottle of lavender essential oil for its calming effects, or a book about staying resilient, etc.

d. Organisational Psychologist Q&A

Set up a video session with a qualified organisational psychologist to guide staff through their psychosocial challenges, concerns and fears. An open forum will benefit everyone by bouncing off on each other’s topics.

Finally, remember this is a novel situation we all find ourselves in. Trust that everyone is trying to do their best; we are all in this together. Together we can support each other and overcome the current challenges more effectively. Take care and stay safe!

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