With the government instructing people to return to working from home if they can this week, the first reaction for many might have been disappointment about missing the Christmas party.
After all, we are already used to working from home so it should be easy to transition back to it, right? Wrong.
Being so close to Christmas, this is a very different situation from when the last work from home guidance was issued and HR teams must act quickly if they are to ensure they get the most from their workforce over the next few weeks and beyond.
Set out expectations around deadlines and working hours
Firstly, the instruction to work from home less than two weeks before Christmas when the temptation to finish work early for the festive period is strong, could mean productivity levels suddenly drop off a cliff.
To manage this, line managers need to establish clear rules. They should communicate with their teams to stress what is expected of them between now and January (factoring in their agreed annual leave) and let them know the standards that you’ll hold them to.
For example, set out expectations around deadlines and working hours, and give some guidelines on the amount of time they should spend working in their home office. This should help ensure targets are met.
Any scheduled meetings or catch-ups should be kept in the diary and switched to a virtual environment. This will help them feel more connected to their colleagues and ensure that they’re staying on top of their work.
Keeping spirits up
Morale will be hit hard by the news. We thought we had made progress and a return to tighter restrictions will have hit people hard. Having to cancel social occasions and Christmas events will only have made it worse.
A business’ success is driven by its people. Maintain a happy and driven workforce and they’ll do their best for you.
Conversely, if they’re miserable and frustrated, little will get done so it’s your job to find ways of resuming the Christmas cheer either virtually with online Christmas parties or videos or by sending gifts in the post to thank them for their efforts and commitment throughout the year.
If you can’t do that, the next best thing is plenty of communication. Make sure they know that they are appreciated and give them something to look forward to when they return to the office in 2022.
Remember, employees who are working from home can sometimes feel isolated or lonely. Make sure you provide them with the support they need by creating a virtual water cooler where they can chat with their colleagues.
Ask department heads if they require extra support or training for new starters
The third element HR must consider is logistics. Is everything still set up for the whole staff to work from home?
Check everyone still has access to the online tools and systems they need and ask department heads if they require extra support or training for new starters.
Working from home can be a challenge, but you made it work before and you can do it again. By establishing clear rules, communicating with your team effectively and providing support, you can make sure your employees remain productive and happy over the next few weeks.