In the last few months, COVID-19 has forced us to change how we view the world and interact with each other as we adapt to the new realities of little to no physical contact. Here are a few tips that might help you as you transition to working from home.
The workplace has evolved, and now more than ever, the role of human resource professionals have become increasingly vital in this virtual world of work. We have been tasked with ensuring that productivity doesn’t decline due to remote work while keeping up the morale of employees. In my role as People Operations Manager at Branch International, a digital financial services institution, here are seven considerations I'll like to share that might work for you.
Video Conferencing: First, It is important to note that without adequate technology, it would be a herculean task to work remotely. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Hangout, Microsoft teams, Skype, etc. are important. If we cannot physically interact, we get to at least “see” people on video. Google Meet recently also announced zero subscriptions for its members. Zoom has cool functionalities such as the break-out room, which can be used for quick break-out sessions, it’s like mini-meetings within a large meeting. It also has fun features like virtual backgrounds, chats, etc.
Instant Messaging: Instant messaging tools simulate real-time conversation via text. Several companies have their customized instant messaging tools, however, some popular ones include, Slack, HipChat, Microsoft teams, Google hangout, and many more. Before you send your next email, pause, and think if perhaps a quick chat might be faster.
Slack has some cool features/Apps you can check out like; Donut, for making connections & increasing collaboration amongst employees. Slack can also be used for quick polls, video/audio calls, or giphy (fun).
Productivity Management Tools: Ideally you should have a tool to help you measure the productivity of your team, Trello, Asana, and Basecamp are a few popular ones and Kyber for task and project management via Slack. The goal is to adequately track and measure the output of your employees at this time in a sustainable way. Find what works for you and your company and use it to your advantage.
Work From Home Policy: In the virtual world, documentation is critical. This plan is a detailed guide and should be made available to all staff and updated as needed. The focus is to ensure you support employees with as much information as they need to succeed while working remotely and adjust expectations. A few things that could go into your WFH plan include:
Set Clear Expectations: This goes both ways. Having measurable weekly goals that can be cascaded into daily deliverables will prove helpful here. It is important to set expectations and leave room for autonomy. No one likes a micromanager. Consequently, the team should also communicate upwards. For example, if you are homeschooling your child, inform your team and block that time in your calendar so everyone knows you're unavailable during that time slot and let the team know the work will still be done.
Show Meeting Cadence: It could be weekly, monthly or however you decide, the important thing is for you to determine the cadence for this meeting and stick to it. Don’t forget to include this in a calendar invite. Encourage the use of the calendar app, and encourage the team to keep it up to date to include activities such as meetings, lunchtime, or breaks. This helps, so colleagues have a good sense of what you are doing per time.
Identify Communication Channels: Specify the preferred mode of communication during remote work. For example, everyone must know the instant messaging solution and video conference tools are the primary channels. Then maybe WhatsApp if still unreachable. Things are business as usual, so managers should hold consistent 1:1 sessions with their direct reports, and the direct reports should also follow up to ensure these sessions are productive.
Basic Remote Work Etiquette: Detail agreed on practices. E.g, things as simple as turning on your video for calls can make all the difference, dressing appropriately for calls (no one wants to see you in your pajamas). The trick here is to try to recreate normal work from office practices but home.
Employee Engagement: Employee engagement is probably the most important element as we transition to WFH. Based on surveys, some of the top issues employees struggle with while working remotely include; unstable internet connection, epileptic power supply, inability to connect with colleagues, loneliness, general feelings of demotivation. A stipend might help to relieve the pressure of the added costs, as power and the internet are quite expensive. With routine surveys, you can feel the pulse of employees, and find ways to address challenges they may be facing.
Connect on A Human Level: Start some of your team meetings by engaging in one of these relaxing activities or discussions for about 10 to 15 minutes before your meeting. Have people talk about their weekends, how they are coping, their struggles. The essence of these activities is to create new experiences for employees, one that keeps them engaged builds mutual trust and shows them change can be good. If an employee tells you they need a break, do approve their leave, this is not the time to decline their leave request because you erroneously believe remote work means they are resting! The case is often the opposite.
Virtual Team Bonding: You can engage employees in simple and fun activities such as the best coffee mug challenge and have virtual movie nights using Netflix Party. Keep the same energy, just virtual. Celebrate birthdays and carry out team bonding activities. It should be engaging and fun.
I hope you find these useful, and we can continue to position employees to be better suited for remote work. I would also like to hear what has worked for you, and the challenges you’ve faced during this time.
Until then, stay effective and stay safe!
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