Insights

Coronavirus: how do you keep your staff healthy in mind and body when working remotely?

Employers that have embraced employee centricity, automatically think about the wellbeing of their staff members. Since the coronavirus outbreak, working from home has become the new normal, requiring us to make all kinds of adjustments such as reinventing work-life balance, using technology creatively to stay in touch, regular communication with all team members and, of course, breaks and exercise. In other words, plenty of challenges. Read on and we'll help you overcome them.

#1 Make the most of working from home

As a response to the coronavirus threat, working from home has become the standard modus operandi. If telecommuting really isn't a viable option, staff members need to keep the personal space between them and others to at least 1.5 metres. Keep in mind that by allowing your staff to work from home, you will also be showing that you care about their health. But how do you turn this new way of working into a success story?

If, as a company, you really want to make the most out of working from home, then a good rule of thumb is: good agreements make good friends. This is all the more true if it's a new experience at your company. You'll need to go the extra mile to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

For example, set a timeframe when staff members working from home have to be available. Arrange one or more times per day to check in with each other, discuss work-related issues and stay on top of what's going on. Also define and communicate what working from home means for meetings with multiple participants, one-on-one conversations and appointments with customers.

Don't forget that working from home is also a good option even under normal circumstances. It is a sign of trust and also allows for flexibility (provided that there are clear rules). What do your staff members see as the biggest benefit of working from home? Freedom, obviously. Early birds can turn on their computers as soon as the sun comes up, while night owls may prefer to sit down at their desk a little later.

#2 Respect the work-life balance of each colleague

Whether working from home or in the office, there are different ways to respect everyone's work-life balance. In the office you can offer flexible working hours, additional vacation days and add a weekly fruit basket on top.

But staff members can't always keep up the same cadence when working from home. Certainly not in an emergency situation like the coronavirus crisis when their children are also stuck at home. None of us particularly want our son or daughter to interrupt and act silly while we're having an important video conversation. But these things may happen from time to time, and there's really nothing we can do about it. This is exactly why you need to discuss such situations in detail with the team. Another challenge of working from home is the now fuzzy boundary between work and personal space. The last thing you want is overzealous staff that don't take care of themselves and sit in front of their computers every day for 10 hours straight.

Some of your staff members may experience a spike in their stress levels or have dark thoughts that cause them distress. For them, taking the time to listen to their concerns as well as an extra hour of relaxation can make a world of difference.

As an executive at the company, it's your responsibility to lead the way. Give your team members tips on setting up their home office in a separate room, and encourage them to take regular breaks. We're sure they'll appreciate your constructive and flexible approach!

#3 Be smart and creative in your use of technology

Of course, working from home will only run smoothly if your staff members have the right infrastructure and your company's work methods lend themselves well to telecommuting. After all, few things are more frustrating than suddenly losing access to the intranet or not being able to open a particular document.

This is why you should try to save files to the cloud as much as possible. Work with shared spreadsheets and documents, use chat apps for internal communication (Slack or Skype), and manage all folders in the cloud (Microsoft, Dropbox, Google Drive) or via project management tools (Asana or Basecamp). And just as important: have meetings via video conferencing platforms such as Skype and Zoom.

Video chat services offer several benefits. They create opportunities for social interaction between you and your staff at a time when meeting in person is not an option. In addition, they are an excellent complement to e-mail and online chats, as the downside of written communication is that we don't get a sense of the person's intonation or facial expressions. Never underestimate the power of non-verbal communication. It plays a bigger role than you might think! So feel free to turn on your video camera when you're on the phone with your team. Cat or dog in the background? No problem, it will only add a personal touch to the interaction. And that's something we all need in these challenging coronavirus times.

#4 Keep up the communication

You've surely already figured it out: continuing to communicate is a must. Have a feedback session or performance appraisal planned with your team members? Rather than postponing the meeting, do them via a video call instead. But be sure to make room for informal conversations as well. Some staff members might have trouble adjusting to the changed circumstances and need a good chat.

Studies by Harvard Business Research show that loneliness is one of the most common complaints when working remotely. While many people think that extroverts have a harder time during mandated social distancing, isolation can also make introverts feel out of sorts. In fact, over a longer period of time, isolation can result in increased intention to leave the company. Make sure you're mindful of this, especially during crisis situations such as the outbreak of a virus. For example, research on emotional intelligence has shown that staff members rely on their managers for direction on appropriate responses to crisis situations. If you, as a manager, mainly communicate stress and despair, then everyone ends up in a downward spiral. What's the best approach? Acknowledge the emotional and professional consequences of the virus outbreak, but also convey confidence and positivity.

As a general rule, communication is essential in a business environment, and not only while we're in lockdown. Regularly share what's going on in the company, the objectives you want to achieve this month, and what went well or not so well last week. Because as a manager, you surely want to keep your staff members on the same page, right?

#5 Take breaks and get enough exercise

At home, your staff members can take breaks in a variety of ways, although exercise is perhaps one of the most effective options. Do we even have to explain the benefits?  For those of you who need a reminder: more creativity, increased performance, better memory and higher resistance to stress.

Getting enough exercise is all the more important for people with sedentary jobs. And the good news is that a short workout or a sporty break doesn't have to take much time at all! A brisk walk to the corner, 15 minutes of yoga or some stretching exercises can already do wonders. Want to turn it into a team effort? Video conferencing is the way to go!

And there you have it: your company now has the tools it needs to make the new telecommuting arrangements a success. Without causing your staff members a lot of unnecessary stress!

 

Interested in more tips to boost your employees wellbeing? Read more about the importance of employee centricity and the New Way of Working!