Supporting Your Employees During The Remote-Working ‘New Normal’

wellness blog

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted all our lives, with working from home now the ‘new normal’. And, as the boundaries between our professional and personal spaces become more blurred, we are starting to see the impact – both positive and negative – of remote working. Particularly with the most recent lock down taking place with short days and long nights.

With the lockdown restrictions set to continue while the vaccination programme rolls out, and more of us being encouraged to work from home, we look at how employers can best support their remote workforce's productivity and wellbeing.

Businesses that have moved to remote working have to replicate their previous team development strategies and activities – identifying talent, role and career progression role progression. It can be done- some businesses that have always worked on-line – especially in the Tech industry – and they grow talent successfully through reporting and outcomes.

Remote working and wellbeing

While the shift to remote working has, in large part, been brought about by the pandemic, working from home can be beneficial. Research has shown that remote workers are as productive as their office-based counterparts, and one-third of home workers regularly put in more hours than they did in the office. Home workers can also skip that tiresome morning commute and, in many cases, have greater flexibility in how their hours are worked.

However, the downsides to remote working are also real – the loss of a working environment can seem invasive on home life and leave employees feeling disconnected from their colleagues. Isolation and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can all have a significant impact on an individual’s wellbeing.

So, if you are looking for ways to motivate your team and positively maintain productivity, evaluate progress and provide personal and professional development. we’ve put together our tips on how you can virtually support your remote-working staff:

Maintaining work/life balance

One of the potential casualties of the home-working revolution is the boundary between personal and work life. When working from home, it’s easy to let working hours expand by forgetting to take breaks or starting earlier and working later. Technology also means work is always in your home, making it harder to switch off. And when you’re constantly in ‘work mode’, stress levels increase, making you less productive in the long run.

Managers should always be proactive in setting a good example when it comes to work/life balance so home-working staff feel confident to follow. Encourage employees to let the rest of their team know when they are taking a break – a flag in a shared calendar, an email or changing the status on their instant messenger will keep everyone in the loop. And if you do see a member of your team regularly working or sending emails out of hours or over an unplanned weekend, check in on them to ensure everything is all right.

Make technology work for everyone

Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet…. names that are now so familiar when working collaboratively from home. But when it comes to supporting your remote teams, it’s important that everyone knows how the technology works. Offering the appropriate training can ensure everyone is up and running and not struggling with the tech, as this will only add more stress.

Taking the time to understand how different individuals prefer to communicate day-to-day can also help create a virtual environment that works for all, whether that’s email, Zoom, chat programmes such as Slack or even going ‘old school’ with a phone call.

It’s also important to explore all of the functionality which these platforms can offer. Both Teams and Zoom have the ability to host multiple user meetings by voice and/or video and have break out rooms and functionality for external and conference meetings.

Businesses which have VOIP telephony may not realise that the great thing about a VOIP desk phone is that it can be unplugged and plugged into any home internet connection and the phone still works as if you were sitting at your old desk. A boon for working from home – and also if we return to part-time office-based work in future – simply unplug the phone and carry it home. Or, explore the use of ‘softphones’ as a replacement for a physical phone, whereby you set up a software-based VOIP phone and headset combination, connect from anywhere or on a mobile app

Or you can use tech to help your team manage distractions and get the most out of their working hours. A good example is Microsoft Analytics, if you use Office365. This handy Outlook email add-in works as a ‘PA’ for your inbox, helping to prioritise emails, notifications, meetings and tasks, so you remain focused and on top of your workload.

Keeping track of performance

When working remotely, it can be harder to monitor progress or track your employees’ workload. And for effective performance analysis in remote working situations, it needs to be more than just hours worked.

Clear and achievable goals and targets, agreed tasks, and shared work plans using Workforce productivity analytics tools such as enable business managers to support development and encourage empowerment of teams and individuals and their progress and target achievements, for both remote-working individuals and teams. It gives visibility and insights into how both office-based and remote teams work, analysing productive time by day and week. It also shows which applications and websites boost or hinder productivity and identifies workflow bottlenecks across people, process and technology.

Technology like this empowers teams and creates trust while allowing employers to help employees to avoid burn out. It also identifies and develops the potential of the team and makes managers aware of team achievements and their dedication. It can also help to identify the best work schedule for individuals – we’re not all early birds!

Don’t neglect one-to-one time

One of the biggest concerns about home working is the isolation. And while virtual conferencing is filling the void of face-to-face meetings, it doesn’t always cut the mustard when it comes to natural communication. 

Stop your team from getting group video call fatigue by adding in one-to-one catch-ups, whether that’s via video conference, Facetime or a personal phone call. Check-in with each team member regularly, ideally weekly, and schedule in advance so you can both prepare and use the time to also discuss workload and progress. Making regular contact with each of your team also reinforces your working relationship and gives your employees the time to raise any concerns or ideas.

Microsoft teams makes it easy for colleagues to keep in touch with its instant chat function and its easy-to-use video function, which doesn’t quite fulfil the ‘water-cooler chat’ function, but can certainly relieve isolation with virtual coffee breaks.

Supporting mental health

Having to adapt to a new way of working while managing home and family life, as well as the stress and uncertainty of living during a pandemic, will understandably put many of your employees under strain. And as an employer, it’s important to help your teams maintain their own mental health and wellbeing.

Employees may be reluctant to highlight work-related or personal issues that are causing them stress and anxiety, so regularly checking in with them, as well as keeping the lines of communication open, means they can ask for support.

Many employers also offer support and wellbeing services – or alternatively, mental health charities such as Mind or The Mental Health at Work Network have excellent online resources that both employers and home-working employees can access.

And finally, making sure all your employees take their annual leave entitlement when they need to will give them the chance to take time out to re-charge and ultimately remain a motivated and productive member of your remote-working team.