With Greater-Melbourne and Mitchell Shire returning to stage 3 restrictions for at least the next five weeks, businesses who were planning on staff returning to the office in the near future, will have to delay that action and again require their staff to work from home if they can do so.
Because of Victoria’s first lockdown, most companies have established some working from home capabilities where practicable. As we return to this phase, companies may be reflecting on the success, or lack thereof, of their working from home strategy during the earlier period of the pandemic. Here are some strategies we use at Resilient Services to keep our team motivated, engaged and productive whilst working from home.
Replicate some of the features of the office
A common mistake that employers make is forming the view that staff must behave in a manner identical to that of their office. Taking this position is flawed as people will mould to their environment, and the ‘home’ means many different things to many different people.
Take parents who, once again, will have to assist their child in navigating online learning, or employees in share housing who have little privacy, or those with poor network connectivity. For some, working from home is a blessing, and they will flourish in that environment. For others, apathy, boredom, or distraction may begin to set in as the working from home period continues. If these feelings set in, it invariably leads to a decline in productivity and motivation.
At Resilient Services, to address this issue, we replicate some of the soft features of the office environment in our working from home setting. We reproduce the ‘water-cooler conversation’ with regular staff calls, continue to celebrate milestones, and the positive office traditions that existed before the pandemic. It is not about trying to create the same environment as before, but rather, investing in touchpoints which foster a sense of unity.
This change of environment will require flexibility on behalf of both employee and employer.
Flexibility, in this sense, means recognition from both groups that they will have to change how they work to adapt to the ‘new normal’. The ‘new normal’ can mean different working hours, the utilisation of different technology, or doing unfamiliar tasks.
Through this recognition, a sense of trust will reverberate throughout the organisation. By fostering trust, there is a greater chance that when faced with the next challenge, employees will know that their boss has their back, and vice-versa. Cooperation breeds success.
Make time to share how you’re feeling, and ask others likewise
A decline in a person’s wellbeing could affect their level of engagement while working from home. We are experiencing a period of uncertainty, and therefore stress levels amongst the community are elevated.
If you are feeling down, overburdened, burned out, cloudy, make time to reach out to someone. Similarly, ask others how they’re feeling, again, these are arduous periods for some, and checking in on them can make a real difference. We also utilise an instant messaging feature to foster non-formal communication which allows staff to be open, even if it’s just an image or gif to represent how they feel.
Although the simplest to explain, this might be the most difficult in practice.
We underestimate how much we move about when working in an office/worksite. Not only do we frequently pace around the office, but many also leave at lunchtime to use a gym, to bathe in the sun, or to get lunch.
Over the course of a day, this passive-exercise makes a difference and makes us feel better overall. If our only exercise for the day is moving from the bedroom to the home office, kitchen, living room etc. our body and mind will suffer accordingly.
Get moving, in a manner which suits you. Some organisations are promoting weekly exercise competitions, while others are hosting digital exercise sessions during lunchbreaks or out of business hours. Find a way to get on your feet that suits you, you will feel better overall, and you will be more engaged with your work.
Blue-chip technology companies like Facebook and Twitter, have all suggested that working from home will form part of their business in perpetuity. No longer will working-from-home be derided. Instead, it will be an essential part of the core business. Thus, these strategies are vital for ensuring productivity, fostering a sense of togetherness and maintain staff mental wellbeing.
At Resilient Services, we have been working remotely since the beginning of March and have adapted our product and service delivery to suit our client’s ‘new normal’.