How you can help your employees thrive while working in quarantine
Almost overnight, the majority of Utah’s corporate workers turned into remote employees as social distancing closed office doors across the state. While technology allows many companies to keep doing business without a centralized location, adjusting to work-from-home life can be challenging for leaders and frontline employees alike.
In my 20 years with CHG Healthcare, I’ve faced many challenges but the logistics of moving all 3,100 employees out of our offices and into their homes was one of the toughest. And that was just the beginning. In the weeks since, we’ve seen some of the challenges of remote employment like social isolation, mental health concerns, and a general lack of connection.
Here a few things we’ve focused on to combat these concerns.
Putting health benefits to good use
The coronavirus pandemic has already had a huge economic impact on virtually every industry. When it comes time to cut costs, it’s easy to turn to healthcare benefits. While it seems like a quick fix, that decision can have lasting consequence. In times of crisis, smart companies should actually place more emphasis on health — especially mental health.
Employees are more productive when they are both physically and mentally healthy. If they’re struggling with emotional wellness, encourage them to use mental health counseling. Also, model the importance of getting away from the computer and into fresh air. Recommend regular short breaks to interact with family members, take a walk or get some exercise.
There are also plenty of online workouts, yoga classes, and meditation courses you can share without adding cost to the company. Plus, doing these activities together can serve as a great teambuilding opportunity.
Create opportunities for social connection
When people start working from home, the lack of face-to-face interaction can be jarring. Though computer screens can never replace real-life relationships, there are a number of simple things you can do to help people feel connected to each other.
Start by making the most of virtual interactions. Online meetings don’t have to be all business. Mix them up by asking people to have fun with their background images or have a session where everyone wears a silly hat or dresses up.
Schedule time for virtual watercooler chats or coffee breaks with your team and encourage them to do the same with their work friends. The most important rule is that these meetings can’t be about work. Instead, these moments are a chance to decompress and recharge. It’s an important way to counteract the stress caused by the pandemic.
That’s just the start of the things you can do with video meetings. You can also try virtual scavenger hunts, karaoke, happy hours, and ice breaker games. You can share pictures of your pets or family members (or introduce them on-screen) or let team members share the hobbies they’ve picked up during quarantine, from puzzle building, to learning a new language, or podcasting.
Don’t forget to recognize your people for their hard work, especially in difficult times. Give shout-outs in meetings, have a treat delivered to their home, or send a handwritten note in the mail.
Keep them in loop
One of the best ways to help your people through difficult times is by being transparent and open. In times of change and uncertainty, leaders need to overcommunicate by regularly updating their teams on what’s going on in the business — whether it’s good news or bad.
That communication can come in whatever form makes the most sense for the company, whether that’s virtual townhall meetings, Q&A sessions, podcasts, blog posts, emails — or all of them. While company-wide communication sets the stage, each leader within the company should reinforce those messages with their direct reports and be ready to answer questions specific to the team.
Honest, open communication is also the best way to quell rumors and reduce some of the anxiety that comes along with the unknown.
Though adjusting to a remote workplace isn’t easy, I’m confident that it will result in some unintended benefits. Leaders will be forced to become more flexible as they work around employees’ at-home responsibilities, leading to more trust and autonomy for everyone. Companies will gain trust by added emphasis on transparent communication, regardless of where employees do their work. Teams that stay engaged and pull through tough times together will be stronger on the other side of the crisis. And mostly important, this is a fantastic opportunity for leaders to show they care about their people in good times and bad.