This may very well be the time in history with the most remote workers we have ever experienced. Many managers and HR Pros are asking their employees how they are feeling about working from home. Often the response is something like, “The new dress code is awesome”, or “I should get commuter benefits to pay for the wear and tear on my carpet from walking down the hall to my office”. And I must admit, as one of the remote workers, some of the benefits are great. But there is a downside, and one that many workers are not talking about. Loneliness. There may be a spouse or children at home. Or maybe the employee lives alone or with a dog. But there is a special kind of loneliness that comes from not being able to share with those people who are a part of the same thing we spend so much of our lives being a part of. The Company.
Having your employees feel supported and connected while working remotely is not something that happens by accident. It takes planning, dedication, and consistency from a team of managers that really care about their employees. A company culture cannot be built by one person, and it can’t be maintained without commitment from the managers and the company. It doesn’t matter if you have 3 employees or 30,000, your employees need you now as much as you need them.
Here are a few simple things you can do right now to help make your remote employees feel connected.
Conduct team video meetings at least weekly. You may get some push back at first from employees that don’t want to be on camera, but seeing faces and smiles creates an energy that can help remote workers feel as though they are not so alone. Suggestion: To ease into this, change it up a bit. Tell employees that next week they can put up a picture of whatever makes them smile every day instead of being on camera.
Make time to talk. More than ever, it is important to make time for small talk. We are all busy, and although this may seem to be a waste of precious time, it is one of the most important things you can be doing for your employees. Suggestion: Before digging into the meat of a call or meeting, start off by asking a question to allow for friendly conversation, such as “What new apps have you downloaded since being required to stay at home?”. Or maybe, “What activities are you doing to help you get a little exercise?”
Set up an afternoon 10-minute group stretch or yoga break. Include a calendar invite so everyone can do it together. Suggestion: Use an online meeting platform to share exercise videos or provide suggested apps like Office Workout or SWORKIT. When possible, hire a local trainer to lead the remote sessions with your team.
Create consistency in a time of chaos. Fear of the unknown impacts everything we do right now. Providing some things that employees can count on to remain the same is very helpful in lowering stress levels and keeping employees connected to the company and their work. Suggestion – Provide clear expectations of work to be done, pre-schedule meetings and calls, and stick to deadlines in order to provide comfort to employees by requiring them to plan their daily schedule.
Initiate Meaningful contact. When an employee seems to be disconnected or not themselves, reach out one-on-one. Encourage the employee to share their thoughts and struggles “off the books”. And be open with them about your struggles as well. Connection is the best solution to loneliness. And if you sense that this is going deeper than just a bit of discomfort, suggest resources for help through your company Employee Assistance Program or Mental Health benefits. Suggestion: If the employee seems to be reluctant to reach out for help, share a story about you or an employee who used the EAP or another resource and was very successful in getting actionable items that were useful.
Even though we are not together, we are still part of the same team. Every minute spent communicating with employees now will create loyalty, improve performance and increase the likelihood employees will return to work when this is all behind us. And please remember to take care of yourself as well. Loneliness prevention is a two-way street.
In a recent nationwide survey conducted by InvestiPro, 95% of HR professionals said they believe that how HR communicates during the pandemic will impact the success of employees returning to work.
Download “Plan to Return Employees to Work: A Post COVID-19 Employers Guide HERE!