In light of the novel Coronavirus, many U.S. companies and organizations have made the difficult decision to close their doors. While the CDC recommends this as the most practical course of action to slow the spread of disease, remote work arrangements require new policies, practices, and most importantly: patience.
The bright side? We’re all in uncharted territory together. Managers, HR departments, and team members will have to work together to keep business going — not as usual, but as effectively as possible. This requires every level of business using their best judgment and individual talents to help ease the transition overall.
Generally, learning to do your job in a different environment is the easy part. The challenges come when you throw in communicating, holding people accountable (when you can’t swing by their desk), collaborating virtually, and coordinating across departments and teams.
This article is focused on how a business can maintain (or build!) positive, supportive productivity while working from home during COVID-19. Team members are already helping each other by maintaining social distance, so why not use that sense of camaraderie to help operations continue to run smoothly?
At ONE EIGHTY, we’ve taken some time to break down work-from-home tips for optimal efficiency. Read on to learn more about how employees can help themselves transition to a ‘new normal’ while lightening each other’s workload at the same time. (And of course, reducing tension and conflict for everyone involved.)
Transition Tips for Managers
Support Human Resources. Overwhelmingly, HR has been the department most affected by COVID-19. The disproportionate workload for HR is a result of being on the front line for answering employee questions, managing policy changes, and handling constant communication relating to both — on top of everything else they usually do in a day to keep the business running. Send them a note to say hi and ask how they’re doing (supporters need support, too) and check-in proactively to gather information that you can relay back to your team.
Embrace total transparency and an open-door policy. Make sure employees know they can talk to you, too. During times like these when people are experiencing big changes, it’s critical that managers step-up 1:1 communication with team members and act as a liaison between departments to keep communication flowing.
Set expectations, prioritize, delegate. Make sure you’re setting clear expectations for how you and your team will be working, communicating and holding each other accountable in your new work dynamic. If you haven’t already answered these questions, consider making them a priority:
What tools will you use?
What are the most important things to be done now?
What can you delegate and to whom?
What do communication, ‘workspaces’, and meetings look like? How will they function?
What remote etiquette do you expect people to follow?
If issues arise (digital or interpersonal) how do you want team members to handle them?
Transition Tips for Human Resources
Get organized. Create and communicate a schedule of revised or restricted ‘office hours’ for HR. For example, reserve a 2-hour time-block one day per week (or each day) and let employees know they can ‘drop-in’ to a Zoom meeting where an HR representative will be hanging out to answer any questions or just talk. If that’s not possible, simply ask employees to schedule appointments rather than sending a chat or an email, which can help you bucket and respond to different types of support requests.
Provide assurance. Kindly remind everyone that you’re putting processes and policies in place and that, while they may not be finished yet, you are working on it and have their best interests and the company’s best interests in mind. This is also a great opportunity to provide documentation of current policy, to give employees a point of reference in the meantime.
Bolster your resources. Sometimes the only thing that’s helpful is an extra hand. If you have extra support in the form of an EAP, you should deploy it. Otherwise, there are lots of companies offering free support and resources during this time. ONE EIGHTY is offering complimentary 30-minute consultations to help employees and organizations get ahead of any issues that may arise from major changes in work and team dynamics. From there, you can decide the best way forward to ensure your business’s culture and infrastructure remain strong for as long as needed — with or without professional support.
Transition Tips for All Employees
Be patient. Before making an inquiry, revise it to ensure clarity and relevance. Can you find answers to any of these questions on your own? Has someone already shared an answer in a Slack channel? Alternatively, is it very time-sensitive and related directly to your ability to work from home? Once you’ve sent an inquiry, make sure you give your manager and HR sufficient time to reply. If they haven’t already shared what communication turn-around time will look like, let them know that you don’t expect an answer right away and give them a chance to give you an estimated response. (Or just assume it’ll take a few hours longer than normal.)
Figure out what you’ll need at home. Start with the basics: computer, phones, headphones, chargers — and check to make sure your device’s microphone and video conferencing work properly. Then, do your best to make it a positive, productive environment — whether that’s coordinating with your family members, creating a schedule for yourself, building in virtual social time with friends, or even just practicing a moment of gratitude or joy each day.
Focus on your tasks. If possible, plan each day around the projects you can complete on your own, or your specific tasks on a project. That way, your fellow team members know you’re still committed to completing work efficiently and on time. If anything gets in your way — or if you’re simply not feeling like you’re in a good place to knock the work out — be sure to communicate immediately with your manager to let them know. It’s OK to show vulnerability, and it’s OK to ask for help.
Organization-Wide Transition Tips
Even when it’s really tough, try to remember to …
- Demonstrate empathy through flexibility. Remind yourself that everyone is experiencing unprecedented change in their personal and professional lives. Beyond understanding, this necessitates flexibility regarding deadlines, communication, and procedure shift at every level — all while remaining as available as possible yourself.
- Maintain a sense of normalcy. Who do you normally socialize with at work? How often do you get up from your desk? What do team meetings look like in the office? Be thinking of the little things and how you might go about integrating them into your remote routine as well.
- Take it day-by-day. Avoid sweeping changes or ambitious projects wherever possible. These may put undue pressure on already stressed employees and cause tension. Instead, try harder than ever to break down projects into manageable, incremental steps.
- Don’t incite panic. While it’s natural-and often even necessary-to talk about COVID-19 and its effect on your work, keep jokes and references to a minimum in group settings. Now more than ever, it’s important to maintain trust among your team to avoid workplace conflict.
- Stay positive! As silly or obvious as it may sound, simple positive thinking is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your team in these uncertain times. Keep yourself on a (flexible) schedule, and don’t be afraid to reach out if you need additional support.