As the UK continues the ‘second phase’ of lockdown, the mass move to remote working has challenged many employers and their teams to adapt to new ways of working.
For many organisations, the prospect of setting everyone up away from the office might have been an easier prospect, while for others, the road ahead may have been more challenging.
Across the globe, workforces are made up of people juggling home and work life, all of whom are coming together full force – whether that’s the stark reality of home-schooling, or navigating the challenges of a partner being furloughed. There are many individual battles each person continues to face – even for those used to working from home.
For many HR teams, they find themselves more pressured with keeping on top of the ever-changing Employee Relations (ER) landscape – as well as trying to maintain business continuity.
So, here are some tips to help businesses to maintain a motivated and productive team throughout this difficult, and unusual, moment in time.
- Act like you are in the office
Maintaining a daily routine is vital during these challenging times. So, little things such as getting dressed and ready, like you would for a shift in the office, can help get into the right mindset to start.
For employees fortunate enough to have an additional room or study, now is the time to use it. This can help workers feel more comfortable, operate from a productive workspace and make sure their ‘to do’ lists – and everything they need to complete projects – are all within reach.
If colleagues do not have another room to work from, employers should recommend that they aim for a quiet area of their home with a suitable desk or table – rather than a bed or the sofa – to make their workspace as efficient as possible. Ideally, staying away from the television or keeping it turned off, if that causes huge distractions, can help too.
At the end of the day too, the act of closing the door or – shutting down the computer and work phone – enables colleagues to switch off more easily from their working day.
- Stay focused and disciplined
Yes, there will be distractions, but stick with the task in hand as much as possible. How would productivity remain at a premium in the office? Would it be through ‘to do’ lists and goals set for the day? If so, emulate these elements to maintain consistency and high performance.
And, now is not the time for employers to be placing additional stress on employees as they juggle home and work life, alongside the worries concerning the pandemic. It’s important for employers to be flexible and understanding of their workforces needs. For example, some will have childcare challenges – and trying to fit in a typical working day into an unusual situation – so it’s critical to strike the right balance. Instead, stay patient, confident and positive during this truly turbulent time – and translate that message on to the team to help them do the same. Be encouraging and empathetic to help motivation.
- Take regular breaks
At the beginning of each day, people should give themselves plenty of time to prepare for the day – whether that’s making a hardy breakfast or enjoying a strong cup of coffee – so that they are in the best possible frame of mind to tackle their schedules.
And whether getting a hot or cold drink, or simply having a break away from the screen, employees should factor in time to themselves throughout the day. Allowing the opportunity to step away from a laptop or work mobile – to think and take the pressure off – can help employers and their workforces to recharge and ‘go again’ when they return to their desks.
Finally, ensure colleagues take their lunch break/allocated breaks – and create an environment where they feel they can switch off from emails too. Encourage exercise, opportunities to get some fresh air and re-energise. And, try not to book in meetings or calls during these breaks if they can wait and communicate effectively to avoid this happening.
- Find appropriate ways to communicate
This is vital for a productive workforce because it is imperative to maintain regular contact with colleagues and customers. Some might be finding the lack of ‘office buzz’ a little strange, whereas others might be enjoying some welcomed peace and quiet! Finding the right balance, and still communicating with employees effectively, can go a long way to maintaining motivation.
Zoom, Hangouts, Slack, Microsoft, GoToMeetings are all great online tools to ensure people keep in touch remotely. And, for employees, refrain from leaving comms to the bosses – if there is a need to speak to a workmate, go ahead and set something up.
- Prepare for the next shift
At the end of a working day, or the beginning of a new one, take the time to know what to expect in terms of any scheduled customer calls or team meetings coming up. Of course, ad-hoc projects might occur throughout, but having a quick check of diaries and putting effort into setting reminders can help with planning.
For employers too, stress that employees should not be working additional hours unless necessary. Often, people feel a sense of ‘guilt’ or believe they must prove they are being productive when they are ‘out of sight’ and typically work longer – so it is important not to let workforces fall into this trap.
If the work gets completed – and to the high standards expected – that is all staff members should really be worrying about.
- Enjoy working remotely
Take this opportunity to slow down a little and enjoy some space – and time – away from the office. If people have loved ones at home, make sure they feel like they are able to spend some time with them, but also stick to their daily routine.
It may be a case of ‘less haste, more speed’ for many organisations as their leaders take the opportunity to think about what positives they can draw from the experience. What has been working well? And what processes can continue when things return to ‘normal’?
Think about how the business has adapted to the ever-evolving climate and keep any strong, motivational factors going throughout 2020 and beyond.
Ultimately, know that, in the future, people can look back at this period and see it as an acute ‘moment in time’. Globally, we will remember how organisations reacted during the Coronavirus outbreak – and for business owners or leaders, they surely want to be known for the good they brought to their teams and customers…