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4 ways to make work from home continue to work for your employees

From Twitter and Pinterest to your local property management association, millions of businesses have leaped to transition to a remote workforce with the start of COVID-19. And, as the pandemic continues, many businesses are extending their employees’ ability to work from home, with some even making that option permanent.

If you’re among those businesses with remote employees, how do you make a work from home environment sustainable in the new normal while still supporting employee morale and camaraderie? Here are 4 ways:

Tip 1: Focus on output instead of schedules

Unless you’ve got shift work (like customer service replies) based on availability, shift your focus to productivity and output rather than if the “green dot” is on their Slack or Teams icon. Stanford has found an inverse relationship between the productivity between hours worked and productivity; workers’ productivity in a 60-hour workweek is lower than in a 40-hour workweek.

Give your team the flexibility to get their work done when they can while still attending essential meetings. Flexibility can be especially crucial for work-from-home parents who may need to help their kids overcome technology challenges or make lunch.

We spoke with Tracy Cote, Chief People Officer at #OpenWeStand partner, Zenefits, who reveals quick tips on how small business owners can keep remote employees engaged to help improve employee retention and mental health.

Tip 2: Keep up communication

When everyone’s working remotely, it’s even easier to all fall into our silos of “getting things done” and only talking to the people on our immediate team. Get and keep your team talking with company-approved and integrated chat systems (like Slack or Microsoft Teams). Create channels for watercooler conversation like sports or music.

While we’re talking about communication, it’s essential not to forget the importance of updates from the top. Face-to-face communication builds trust and keeps your team connected. Consider running a live staff meeting or use a tool like All Hands to run an asynchronous meeting that your entire team can attend on their schedule.

Tip 3: Plan fun

Before you groan and skip to the next tip, there are still lots of ways to introduce some fun into your team environment, even if you’re working remotely.

Here are a few fun and light-hearted ideas:

  • Virtual Trivia: You can either host your version or work with a company like Teambuilding.com
  • Fantasy Sports or “Loser Leagues”: use an online platform or just a simple spreadsheet where each person has to pick a losing team for the week.
  • Online Team Building Bingo: Find someone on the team with a unique characteristic, like they have a YouTube channel or prefer tea over coffee.
  • Lunch & Learns: Let your team members teach something they’re passionate about, or invite a consultant or instructor. From yoga to language to art – the possibilities are endless.
  • Virtual Happy Hours: Even though the team can’t get together after hours like they used to, give them access to the tools and opportunity to get out of the virtual office – without the bosses listening in!

Tip 4: Check on their mental health

Finally, be sure to check on your team one-on-one more often, and not just about how things are going at work. We’re all handling a lot of extra stuff right now – things that are harder than ever. Even just getting groceries is a more significant challenge than it was a year ago. Many people are juggling kids at home or providing additional support to their parents, neighbors, or extended family.

Just a simple opening of “How is everything else going?” and a compassionate listening ear can go a long way. If more professional assistance is needed, share the information about an employee assistance program. If they need a little bolster of support, consider ordering food delivery or another type of respite assistance.

This new normal isn’t something that we asked for or have a plan for. But by working together, we can create a sustainable environment that supports all of our needs. 

Check out additional resources on OpenWeStand.org for more guidance and strategies you can use to get through these difficult times.