The COVID-19 crisis has upended the workplace as we know it. To prevent the pandemic’s spread, employees everywhere have made the shift to remote work. Home and office life have converged, and collaboration, communication, and company culture have all gone virtual. Effectively leading, managing, and engaging employees to drive business goals and talent needs in this evolving environment requires HR managers and their teams to continually realign resources and responsibilities. Thankfully, the HR toolkit has ample assets easily adapted to successfully support a remote workforce.
Ensuring Continuity with Communication
Proactive, consistent communication is essential to supporting employees in a new work environment. Helping the workforce stay informed prevents unnecessary confusion when routines have been disrupted. One way to do this is to create an easily accessible, interactive central repository where employees can get answers from HR to their most immediate and pressing questions. This may include information around best practices, processes and procedures, client-facing messaging recommendations, external resources, and real-time updates from the business continuity team to aid employees in navigating evolving scenarios.
Active information sharing applies to the executive leadership team as well. Corporate communication is vital to promoting stability and company cohesion in uncertain times. Weekly communications on best practices, employee needs, and what’s coming next will help keep everyone on the same page, ensure consistent messaging is being driven down to management and their teams, and help managers develop the necessary skills to guide a remote workforce and foster productivity.
For employees suddenly thrust in remote roles, the ability to effectively communicate with colleagues, managers, and other stakeholders is also critical. But this isn’t always easy when balancing business objectives and deadlines. Encouraging regular use of online video communication platforms like Google Hangouts, Teams, and Skype, among others, can facilitate collaboration. It also assures employees feel “seen,” helps reinforce relationships and trust, and builds culture.
Preserving Culture in a Crisis
Even under exigent circumstances, it’s important to make an effort to maintain company culture and motivate staff to pull together as a team to support clients and each other around common goals. This may take the form of a virtual water cooler approach. Checking-in with teams via video chat over morning coffee to plan out the day and discuss upcoming challenges, recent accomplishments or recognition, or finding creative ways to move established culture-building activities online.
HR departments can further empower newly remote employees by promoting best practices – like moving to other rooms and finding the most comfortable ergonomic set up – to make working from home more comfortable. Subsidizing necessary supplies, urging staff to take breaks to allow for flexibility, or providing an internal platform for employees to informally engage with one another are other ways to cultivate camaraderie and culture when congregating in the company kitchen is no longer an option.
Laying the Ground for Leadership
Succeeding in a remote work environment requires employees to be both proactive and self-motivated. Now is an opportune time for both managers and staff to discover what helps them to deliver and motivates them to get there. With remote work now the new normal, and the potential it may remain that way even after this initial crisis has passed, demonstrating effective organizational and time management abilities, managing overlapping projects, and staying clear on objectives and deliverables is more important than ever.
HR managers can help remote staff realize greater value by providing secure access to tools and apps to allocate tasks, share files, take notes, set reminders, flag issues and plan, control, and schedule projects to ensure productivity and efficiency. Likewise, as employees achieve their professional goals, HR managers can enable remote reward program tools to recognize their success and further boost employee productivity and satisfaction.
HR managers and staff play a primary role in how the remote work experience is aligned, shaped, and delivered to employees. Ideally, this includes partnering with employees to develop useful and sustainable work practices to support them in any environment to do their best work every day and making sure managers have the training, development, and resources they need to establish a thriving and unique remote culture.
A high-quality remote work environment is attainable. By making simple modifications to existing programs and strategy, HR can improve employee experience, engagement, and productivity while supporting overall goals so their company can continue to grow no matter the business setting.