The coronavirus outbreak has caused entire organizations to shift from in-person office environments to completely virtual workplaces. Adjusting to working from home—and making the change during a global health crisis—has been stressful for both employers and employees.
As we settle into this new routine, it’s important for employers to consider how they will keep their telecommuting employees connected.
Here are five tips for employers to keep their newly virtual workforce engaged:
1. Create Connections
Typical office environments lend themselves to unplanned moments of connection. However, when working remotely, communications between employees may take on an “all business” tone, and it can be hard to build a sense of community among workers.
There are many ways to help build employee-to-employee connections, and they don’t have to be through forced ice breakers. By just taking a moment at the beginning of a call to ask how someone is doing, to comment on the weather outside your window or to chat about your new social distancing hobbies, you can build a sense of connection among workers.
2. Use Video Calls When Possible
Since employees are unable to interact face-to-face, video is the next best solution.
Video calls among staff allow employees to read facial clues and better understand the conversation. (Did you know it’s been estimated that 70% of communication is non-verbal?) Video calls can also allow employees to immediately share feedback and collaborate. Instead of multiple emails back and forth, decisions can be made quickly and with input from all the stake-holders.
3. Host Virtual Meetups
Create opportunities for employees to chat, both formally an informally. Consider ideas such as:
- Starting each day with a team huddle. It’s a great way to do a quick check-in and set the tone for the workday.
- Hosting virtual all-staff meetings. Things are changing quickly—Be sure you’re keeping all your employees informed.
- Planning virtual lunch hours for employees to connect. These virtual lunches could be open-forum drop-ins or have a theme—like what everyone is currently watching on Netflix. (Still so much more about Tiger King to discuss!)
- Establishing new company traditions. Maybe Tuesdays at 4:00 you host a Pets Party where staff can virtually drop in to a video call with their furry friends. Or maybe Friday at 2:00 is Story Hour, where staff home with their young children can virtually gather to hear a children’s book read.
You know your company’s culture best—Embrace what feels right for your organization.
4. Recognize Employee Accomplishments
With employees working remotely, it’s especially important to acknowledge their accomplishments. While in the office your employees were likely receiving far more feedback (even if it was informal) from managers and peers than they are in the current situation of working from home.
Managers should stay closely connected to their teams and should establish a plan for regular check-ins with their employees. Make regular feedback an important part of your organization’s strategy during this time.
[Related Reading: Tips for Working From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic]
5. Remember, People Are Not Working From Home Under Normal Circumstance
This is an unprecedented situation, and many of your employees are dealing with stressors in their personal life. Normal policies may need to be adjusted, and exceptions may need to be made. I recommend we all embrace the motto of my son’s kindergarten class: Go with the flow.
Coronavirus and the Workplace
Find more resources for plan sponsors:
- Visit the International Foundation Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page
- Catch up on the latest COVID-19 and the workplace issues from Word on Benefits
- Tune in to live or on-demand webcasts
How has your organization adapted during the pandemic? Share your story.
Communications Manager at the International Foundation
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