COVID-19 is on its way to being an endemic disease that forever changes the way we live and work. For companies who continue to make challenging decisions regarding office workers returning to the workplace, one thing is for sure—working from home for at least a portion of the staff is here to stay.
Tackling COVID-19’s Emotional Toll
Aside from the practical, financial, and moral concerns, your employees have dealt with, one of the biggest crises they’re experiencing is a drop in morale as they continue to deal with this “new normal.”
Humans thrive on social interaction. Even if they enjoyed working in their pajamas for a while, the reality of not seeing our work friends regularly can have a detrimental impact.
As we look ahead, it’s vital that employers prioritize personal interactions while employees continue to adapt to the work-from-home life. It’s not just in crisis times that these adaptations are necessary. The habits we’ve learned are likely to stick around, including this new era in which work is more flexible and less dependent on physical interactions and workspaces.
5 Ways Businesses Can Appreciate Employees from a Distance
What we do now to prioritize authentic employee engagement paves the way toward a successful future. You can discover new ways of working, innovative solutions, and—most importantly—a new level of empathy with your employees that could see you rising to future challenges with a more united front. After all, an engaged workforce is 17% more productive.
Here are a few ways to start:
1. Stay physically present on the screen. For leaders looking to support remote employees emotionally, active listening will be paramount. Good video conferencing software is your tool. When you’re on a video call, stay physically present—don’t navigate around your screen while the other person expresses themselves. Give them the same care and attention you would if you were sitting across from them.
2. Move from flexibility to malleability. Flexible working has been the trend for a while, but ongoing remote work calls for greater malleability. That means finding new ways to work so your employees can keep adapting to their family situations. For example, every person on my staff currently has an infant. When daycares close due to COVID outbreaks and they’re faced with working from home and caring for their children at the same time, we’ve had to apply a whole new level of creativity to how we work—think hosting spontaneous video meetings or taking unplanned breaks in the day.
3. Plan your reactions to the unexpected. We can’t predict every situation that comes our way, but we can prepare our reactions to unexpected changes. When hosting a remote meeting, for example, what do you do when a teammate’s child calls out for her parent? Interruptions will happen, and your warmth and tact in acknowledging this will show how much you understand the situation and appreciate your employees.
4. Make time for feedback and peer-to-peer support. Sharing the details about trials and successes is even more important now. Set aside dedicated time to connect with employees, hear about their struggles, and gauge how to infuse your culture into their work lives. Further boost morale by connecting employees with supportive networks where they have space for peer-to-peer support meetings and can appreciate each other.
5. Practice gratitude. This one might be the most important of all. Appreciation keeps employees engaged. Put your usual praise and appreciation on steroids. Whether you send a personal email, recognize team members by name on a call, or send a greeting card or care package, every little act of gratitude helps you create a culture of appreciation.
The task of translating a normal workday into a collaborative, team-building experience in a work-from-home situation is new to many leaders. Companies can play a large role in making sure their employees stay connected to others and engaged in their work while they manage their lives.