With workers up and down the country being furloughed or asked to work from home, you might be wondering what you can do to help your employees stay motivated, engaged, connected and productive.
Companies and managers across the country have suddenly found themselves having to manage remote working on an unprecedented scale. While many employers have a homeworking policy, these were not designed for managing the entire company. Matters are further complicated by the wealth of other distractions that employees face due to the Coronavirus, including home-schooling their children and being confined to their homes. In addition, thousands of employees have been furloughed, with their jobs put on hold until further notice.
In these extraordinary times, what can you do to keep your employees engaged and motivated?
1. Set Clear Guidelines and Expectations
You must be clear with your employees about exactly what is expected when they are working from home – including those who are self-isolating or part of the shielding programme. This includes logistics, such as establishing the hours during which people should make themselves available to customers and colleagues. If there is no business need for people to be available from 9am to 5pm, for example, consider letting people start early or finish late, if it will help them to establish a better routine with childcare or home-schooling. You should encourage your employees to stick to their hours of work and advise them to turn off notifications and log out of their emails outside their scheduled time of work.
Setting expectations also includes being clear about the tasks employees will be expected to complete and how their performance will be judged. Homeworking means staff working under less direct supervision and it’s important to put clear processes in place, such as how performance and work will be measured and how staff will be supervised. Make sure that managers are clear on what they expect from their team members and that they are consistent in their expectations.
You will also need to set out your expectations for furloughed staff. When does the company expect to bring them back into work, for example? If you’re not sure, then it is best to say it is under constant review, based on guidelines from the Government. If at any time expectations change, employees should be told as soon as possible.
2. Communicate Regularly with Your Employees
Regular communication with all employees will be crucial to maintaining engagement at this time. You should encourage managers and team leaders to hold regular briefings with their teams to check in with them. While it is important for engagement to increase the level of communication with employees who are now homeworkers, the regularity of the meetings should mirror the team’s natural way of working. Daily briefings or gatherings may not suit the needs of all employees in the team.
These meetings can be used to set the work agenda, for example, or to provide updates on the company’s ongoing response to the coronavirus situation. It is also important to go beyond formal communication. Make time for more informal contact with people – instant messaging software makes it easy to check in with people every so often and see how they are doing. Little and often is the order of the day. Just touching base to see how people are will be hugely valued at this time.
Face-to-face communication is particularly important and you can use video calls and conferencing technology. This builds engagement levels and can help to address isolation. Meetings should allow for more socialisation than usual, perhaps some time to allow people to discuss any challenges they are facing.
Do not forget staff who have been furloughed. Daily or weekly communications can help keep them updated on the company’s plans and help them to continue to feel part of the business, even while they are not working. Encourage furloughed staff to continue to access support services available to them and bear them in mind when issuing any guidance on managing mental health during this time.
3. Encourage Employees to Communicate With Each Other
You can encourage your employees in their teams to stay in touch with one another. One of the most difficult aspects of homeworking can be the temptation to shield outside contact to concentrate solely on work. It is important for employees to treat working at home, as much as possible, the same as a normal day in the office. Staff have conversations in the office, so they can have conversations when they work from home. Remind that if they were in the office and needed help they would ask for it. Nothing has changed just because everyone is at home.
You should still encourage your employees to set aside ‘do not disturb’ time over lunch and make sure that they take regular breaks. Employees with children at home may need to take extended breaks to home-school or look after their children, and they should make clear to their colleagues that they will not be available during these times.
With so many people working from home, it is important to keep lines of communication open. Isolation is the key theme here, because it’s important to ensure any functioning and successful business team remains and feels connected at a human level.
4. Show Support for Working Parents
Many employees will be trying to balance childcare and their schoolwork with work commitments. Employers must accept that there will be disruption and that some working parents will struggle to be as productive as normal. As an employer, you need to make allowances for this and take a flexible approach, especially for people with younger children who will inevitably need more care.
ACAS has updated its working from home guidance to encourage employers to consider individual employee needs, such as anyone with childcare responsibilities, and to record the homeworking arrangements they reach, so that everyone is clear on what has been agreed. Encourage line managers to speak individually with each member of their team and discuss how they can best support them to balance their family and work commitments.
5. Say Thank You
Remember that this is a difficult and trying time for all employees. It is vital that you thank everyone for adapting to new working arrangements, work pressures and ways of working. Recognise the efforts that have been made by employees and the sense of joint purpose – doing so can help with feelings of isolation, build bonds and encourage effective teamwork. Paying attention to these issues now can help you to build a strong business for the future.
If you need any more advice about keeping your employees motivated or trained, please call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.