Before the coronavirus outbreak began to unfold, “43% of US employees worked remotely at least some of the time,” according to Gallup. Yet, the coronavirus has now forced many companies to switch to virtual work, and others to adopt work schedules that limit the number of people in the on-site location.
Your employees may struggle as worries about childcare, employment, or illness mount. This unique situation can add complexity to remote work along with other distractions.
To support your employees and partially alleviate some of the anxiety they may be experiencing, try these five ideas to connect your on-site employees and remote staff while boosting productivity and engagement.
1. Provide Extra Support
A supportive work culture is important even when things are going well. But, with the added stress and uncertainty about coronavirus, it makes it essential. If your staff is worried about workplace policies or other concerns, they disengage.
Providing extra resources addresses their issues and empowers employees to take control.
Try these three tips:
- Post phone numbers and email addresses of managers/leaders on all employee communication channels.
- Give links to information about benefits, and other updates.
- If available, share information for people experiencing anxiety or other mental health concerns.
2. Support Employee Development
Employees want their employers to support their role year-round. But, the abrupt shift to virtual work leaves many employees asking for extra help.
Not everyone adjusts well to self-isolation. Nor do they have similar skillsets when it comes to remote technology. Engage your employees by assisting with their professional development.
- Identify different levels of tech skills and gaps in experience.
- Provide real-time webinars and videos that walk employees through how to use remote tools.
- Save your webinars as on-demand videos for employees to access at any time.
- Create a how-to guide to accompany your webinar for those who aren’t visual learners.
- Make tech help available to help employees and let them know who to contact if they have technical problems.
- Send out an employee engagement email and ask if you need to offer more resources.
3. Host Weekly Video Conferences
Video conferences work well for both remote employees and on-site workers practicing social distancing. A video-enabled meeting creates a sense of community and gives teams much needed face-to-face time.
The best way to increase engagement during video meetings is to start with an agenda. Allow time to go around the room and give all employees a chance to speak. Plus, you may want to provide extra flexibility and tolerate some background noise.
Many employees may avoid joining a remote session because of other family members in their home. Encourage all employees to participate during this challenging time, but don’t make it mandatory or overdo it with more than one or possibly two video meetings a week.
4. Create an Online Breakroom
Even if your office is still open, for social distancing reasons, people aren’t spending time eating together, filling meeting rooms, or chatting over the coffee pot. Teams working from home still crave adult non-work time. In fact, a Gallup poll finds, “Perceived workplace isolation can lead to as much as a 21% drop in performance.”
Develop a safe space where people can chat about non-work issues. Consider creating channels for teams using Slack, WhatsApp, or IM services.
Get employees involved by:
- Sharing a daily talking point or theme. List a fun topic like a meal of the day or pet of the day or favorite work-at-home co-worker. Then ask team members to share a photo or short video.
- Adding humor with a GIF thread. Ask everyone to respond with a GIF that relates to your theme or daily question. This is a fun way to let off some steam.
5. Send a Weekly Coronavirus Update Email
More than anything, your staff wants to stay informed. Many worry about the fast-changing situations or the health of the business. Give your employees something to depend on.
Create an email template with sections like:
- Company coronavirus update: List any changes or policies you’ve enacted to assist workers and the company during the coronavirus crisis.
- Weekly focus or inspiration: Share a business-related story, tool, or tip. Consider highlighting one of your remote workers each week.
- Mental health activity: Include a link to a helpful article or video. Topics like short meditation sessions or avoiding burnout support your team’s mental and emotional health.
- Call to action: Don’t forget to tell your team what to do next. You may ask them to leave a comment on the team messaging board or to contact HR with their questions.
Engage Teams During the Coronavirus Pandemic
During the coronavirus outbreak, your teams rely on your unified communications system to stay connected. Moreover, they turn to business owners and leaders for reassurance and support.
The right approach and tools engage your employees and instill confidence in your business. Although you’re facing unprecedented challenges, your company has an opportunity to build relationships and develop a team that’s stronger than ever before.