The COVID-19 pandemic has businesses adjusting on the fly. Gone is the luxury of having a smooth office-to-home work transition. While remote working comes with a number of benefits, this less-than-ideal situation has also been amplifying the challenges of working from home.
According to Buffer’s 2020 report, 20% of remote employees struggle with collaboration and communication while 20% feel lonely. Along with the other difficulties of working from home, they can significantly affect the workers’ productivity and physical and mental health.
Remote HR can help the employees overcome these challenges with the following best practices.
1. Make collaboration and finding information more efficient
One of the problems of working at home is that employees often feel that the management is out of touch with their needs.
It’s important for HR to keep employees informed and in the loop to make them feel that they’re supported by the company every step of the way. This also builds a strong sense of belonging so your teams will be more motivated and productive.
- Set virtual office hours. During this time, the team and their team leader should be online in the instant messaging app that the company uses.
- HR should designate an information hub which has all the company’s latest policies, protocols, guides, FAQs, and important links to place all important info at the employees’ fingertips.
- Invest in remote employee monitoring, video conferencing and collaboration-friendly technology.
- Create a forum where everyone in the company can post professional and personal updates. A section for feedback and suggestions can also help HR understand what their people need.
- HR should encourage team leaders to make it a point to assign collaborative tasks at least once a week to encourage the employees to stay connected.
- The team leaders should also be advised to establish a sense of normalcy by checking in on their teams at least once a day.
2. Gamify remote working
Don’t let positive results go unnoticed by creating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and timely. Not only will HR be able to set the teams up for success, it also makes it easier to keep track of the company’s objectives.
HR can even gamify employee recognition and performance management by mixing game mechanics and rewards with work. Employees will be more productive and less stressed since work will become more interesting and fun.
In fact, 90% of employees are more productive with effective gamification and 72% say that it inspires them to work harder. The good news is that, with just a bit of brainstorming in the HR’s part, it’s quite easy to gamify daily tasks and major goals.
3. Encourage employees to focus on good ergonomics
With the abrupt shift to remote working, employees have started working from home without much thought about ergonomics. While this might be fine for a month or so, the microtrauma and even work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) will soon catch up.
HR should take charge in providing employees with the resources and knowledge needed to implement good ergonomics at home. Encourage them to rearrange their workspace based on the principles of ergonomics, such as proper sitting posture, monitor distance, taking frequent breaks etc.
4. Implement an employee wellness program
HR should establish a corporate wellness program to help employees maintain a positive attitude and a healthy mind and body. It should advocate exercise, enough quality sleep, hygiene, and a proper diet.
A game-based employee wellness program with incentives and rewards can go a long way to encouraging the workers to take up a healthy lifestyle even when working at home.
In fact, it’s more important than ever for companies to include mental health benefits. The isolation and stress of working from home can lead remote workers to have depression and anxiety.
In June of 2019, 6.6% of work from home adults have symptoms of depression while 8.2 experienced anxiety. This year, because of the pandemic, the National Center for Health Statistics and Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey reported that these numbers have shot up to 30% for depression and 36% for anxiety.
HR executives should consider providing access to telehealth therapists in platforms like JustAnswer and Doctor on Demand. For example, Starbucks has expanded their employee programs to include up to 20 therapy sessions.
5. Equip your team with the right tools and equipment
Most of the time, it’s the remote workers that end up bearing the costs of working from home. Not only is this very stressful for the employees, it can also affect their productivity since they might settle for less than ideal work setups.
What HR can do is reimburse anything that was bought for the new home office. If this isn’t feasible, a monthly allowance covering part of the payment for the new equipment, better internet connection, and software subscriptions should at least be given.
In America for states like California, Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Montana, and New Hampshire, the law requires employers to reimburse the necessary expenses of working from home.
6. Teach your employees how to stay plugged and unplugged
For remote workers, it’s hard to stay in work mode with the countless distractions interrupting their focus. Then, after work hours, it’s another matter to actually stop doing and thinking about job-related tasks.
As the Lehigh University found in a recent study, if people cannot disconnect from work and recuperate, it will lead to burnout, higher turnover, more deviant behavior, lower productivity, and other undesirable outcomes.
Here are some tips that the HR should impart to their remote teams to make it easier for them to connect and disconnect from work.
- Help them create a dedicated workspace that’s free from distractions. This is especially true for parents who’ll be working while their kids are at home due to school closure.
- A morning routine and a work from home dress code can help make your employees get in the state of mind to be productive.
- Encourage your workers to add a bit of solitude to their after-work routine. Examples include non tech-centric practices like taking a 15-minute walk and meditation.
- Support them in taking up a new hobby or learning something new. For example, one of the rewards in the HR gamification program can be a subscription to Skillshare.
7. Set time for remote social interaction
It’s not just time for task-related meetings that are important. HR can reduce their employees’ feelings of isolation from working home alone by facilitating some remote social interactions among workers.
Here are some ideas that HR can try with their remote teams.
- Have a virtual happy hour wherein workers can bring their drink of choice and share things about their lives.
- Set virtual team-building events. Ask icebreaker questions, have small competitions, bring your own food, and tell scary or funny stories.