This article first appeared in ESG Clarity, 20th April, 2020
City Hive’s CEO and co-founder and editorial panellist for ESG Clarity Bev Shah says the adjustment to WFH is more than simply plugging in your laptop
This situation we find ourselves in is a by-product of a global crisis and not the well-resourced, planned and executed Working from Home revolution so many of us have campaigned for.
Ask anyone who works from home on a regular basis successfully and they will tell you there is an art to doing it right, and not the science of simply plugging in your laptop. Often it will involve more than just walking to another part of your home and switching your computer and brain on. There are certain rituals that need to be performed, a sort of mental commute, that will ease you into the day as you would in the office, so you are highly focused and ready to produce impactful work.
Usually, when working from home, you are trading a noisy bustling office full of multiple interruptions, for more serene quieter surroundings that allow you the headspace to think clearly and produce work effectively in a short period of time.
However, we are now asking our entire workforce to work successfully from home surrounded by our families, flatmates, partners, noisy children or loneliness. We are asking them to do this when they have never done it before and if they have not for long periods of time. We are asking them to ensure our companies survive past this crisis and the economic crisis that is to follow, while their movement is restricted and they are full of fear not only because their own future is uncertain but so is the health of their families and friends colleagues and the entire globe.
Here are some of tips we are sharing with our City Hive’s corporate members on how to support your staff.
In uncertain times people need certainty. Things that you may have thought were a given assumption when everyone was jostling together in the office no longer are. So, ensure to cascade information around to everyone. Facts are much less damaging then rumour and will ease anxieties even if they are bitter to read.
Build Team Spirit
Schedule weekly team bonding time separate from other video calls so when you do have ‘virtual meetings’ your team can focus on what needs to be discussed and not deviate. It is important for people to have a set time for when they can discuss their emotions and experiences of the crisis but you will be more productive if you do not go down the rabbit hole every time you have a call and instead have a scheduled time to do this. This could be over Thursday night virtual beers on House Party or it could be on a Monday morning for example. 1-2-1 virtual coffee catchups with colleagues, instead of face to face coffee catch-ups, are also good. Often these are with people in different teams with no project overlap so may not seem important in this current period, but are crucial for information flow and morale.
Invest in your staff with training
Cultivating impactful teams who are novices to working from home is difficult. So, invest in training that will give them the guidance they need. Interactive webinars are a good cost-effective way to provide the guidance and support they may need building skills, confidence and resilience.
Set realistic KPIs
Look at any study about those who work from home and they will show productivity levels as high. But we need to be realistic that this is not business as usual. So, it is important to set realistic objectives and focus on outputs and deliverables. This may be easier in some roles over others. Email timestamps and response times are not a good marker for productivity in this instance.
Grief is the only way to describe how the majority of people are processing this crisis, so it is important for managers and colleagues to be vigilant of behaviour changes. Mental health issues are on the rise with less support from the usual sources available. Although as an employer there is only so much you can do, ensure your staff know what options are available to them and who they can speak to in confidence if they need to. Encourage physical exercise and mindfulness.
Domestic violence has also increased during this lockdown and although we would hate to think that any of our colleagues would be affected ensure that all staff know who they can call for help.
Managers need to be open minded
Remember that not all managers have been advocates of WFH so when forced upon them they may need to be encouraged to embrace it and equip them with the right tools to make the working relationships within their teams harmonious. After all you want to retain your talent after this crisis.
Don’t forget the kids
Schools are likely to be closed until September with the burden for home schooling being placed on parents. It is likely to impact your female staff more if the anecdotal evidence is anything to go by. If you are committed to improving diversity, then ensure you put some policies in place to support the new home schoolers. And do not penalise them for something that is out of their hands.
Many people who would have planned holidays for this period and booked time off will now have cancelled. If they did not receive a refund, then they will have been offered vouchers to use by a certain date. It is important you plan to have enough staff in the office if everyone reschedules for the same time. Ask staff to confirm dates before they rebook to ensure crucial staff do not overlap. For those who have not yet booked time off, buying back holiday time could be an option but ensure this is fully costed before offered.
Ask staff to report if they suspect they have the covid-19 virus and sign them off for one week then check in with them to see if they need longer to recover. They should not try and work while ill. Also, ask them to let you know if any of their close family gets very ill. This will be immensely stressful time and they may need some compassionate leave.