The grand experiment of directing millions of people to work from home over the last six weeks is yielding some interesting results. For instance, it is clear that many homebound workers are not big fans of being confined. What once seemed like the ideal situation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has become a mode of working that many of us now dread.
Lost in all of it is the need to stay connected. Indeed, personal connections are one of the biggest things we miss about going to the office. We are used to seeing our coworkers on a daily basis. We are used to talking about things that transcend work – things such as family activities, birthdays, and personal struggles.
At Webtek Interactive, we want to encourage our clients to not let working from home permanently change the dynamic among employees. Don’t miss those opportunities to stay connected so that, when we all do eventually return to the office, relationships among coworkers are even stronger than before.
Keep It Real
We Americans make a habit of stressing business as the primary reason for communicating at work. When everyone is in the office and things are going as planned, communicating and collaborating over business is a fine strategy. Things are different while we are all at home. As such, we need to make an effort to keep it real.
Some workers might be finding in more difficult to stay motivated these days. Some are struggling terribly with the idea of work-life balance simply because there is less of a clear distinction when working from home. Others are having a challenging time with the distractions that the home environment creates.
The point is that working from home is an entirely different experience. That experience should not be swept under the rug. Coworkers should be encouraged to talk about the realities of what they are going through. They should be encouraged to share their coping strategies with one another. By keeping it real, we can better encourage one another to carry on.
Embrace the Routine
The words ‘routine’ and ‘structure’ cause many modern business executives to cringe. We spent the better part of the last 20 years breaking out of old-fashioned molds that lent themselves well to postwar business but not so well to the 21st century. However, routine and structure are exceptionally helpful during times of crisis.
It is fine to be less structured in an office environment where distractions are kept to a minimum and coworkers stay on top of one another to make sure things get done. Home is a completely different environment. At home, there is far less collaboration. There are far more distractions.
Establishing a routine to facilitate communication is a good way to bridge the gap between the collaborative office environment and the distraction-filled home environment. Managers can, and should, encourage their employees to create a routine for connecting from home. They can even help create routines for those employees struggling the most.
A routine provides definition and purpose. It provides the kind of structure workers need to stay on task. Most importantly, it provides a way for team members to stay connected without having to force the issue. They do so organically as part of the daily routine.
Focus More on Morale
It is difficult to talk about staying connected without mentioning employee morale. Now is not the time to focus excessively on productivity. While at home, employees have other things to worry about. They do not need the boss constantly reminding them to put their noses to the grindstone and produce.
A portion of routine conversations right now should be devoted to morale-related issues. Employees should be encouraged to talk about what they are feeling and experiencing. They need to be free to share their frustrations and talk about their triumphs.
One positive aspect of so many people working from home is the opportunity to change the team dynamic. Perhaps you have a team that, in the office, seems to lack cohesiveness. Here is an opportunity to change that. The difficulties of working from home represent something the entire team has in common. It is something you can build on. Doing so is good for morale.
Utilize Multiple Resources
Staying connected is a lot easier when companies utilize every available resource. Regular e-mail communications are great between coworkers collaborating on certain tasks. Videoconferencing is an excellent tool for conducting team meetings and training sessions. Live chat can facilitate those lighter conversations employees would otherwise have around the water cooler or coffee machine.
The more resources your team puts to use, the greater the number of opportunities to stay connected. So utilize as many as possible. Even resources that would not normally be part of your daily operations can be valuable during this time.
Working from home is not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, plenty of people have made it clear that they cannot wait to get back to the office. That time will come. But until it does, it’s vitally important to stay connected. It is important to keep things real, embrace a routine, focus on morale, and connect in as many ways as possible.