COVID 19 has been transforming people’s relationship to work. With the lockdowns still being prevalent in many parts of the world, remote working has now turned out to be the new normal. A recent survey by Gallup panel data revealed that the percentage of employees working from home rose from 31% to 59% in March and leveled off at 62% in mid-April. Most of the businesses are experiencing an incredible amount of uncertainty in their workforce as a result of this pandemic. With everything that has happened so far, the whole situation could be classified into three phases.
The first phase was the health and safety phase: The outbreak of the virus hit the entire nation without giving any time for any kind of proactive measures. And the first response to this was health and safety, to get the employees out of the building or if they’re still working from the office, make sure there are proper safety precautions taken like the use of sanitizers and social distancing measures, etc.
And then there’s the second phase, the phase in which most companies still are: Now that almost everyone has evacuated their workplaces and are working remotely it’s up to the HRs and the managers to make sure that the work is actually happening.
Then comes the third phase: Many companies have already started to move into this phase. The big question that many companies face now is if their revenues are down, or if there are employees that aren’t able to work remotely, what can be done from a compensation perspective? And how should companies manage their compensation strategies in a way that primarily helps the employees and also checks in with the financial realities of the company’s business?
Another fact to consider here is that many companies didn’t even have a remote work policy before the outbreak of this pandemic. And a mistake some companies are making is that they are now trying to define the details and contours of what the remote work policies should be. It’s too late to do that now since the employees have already begun to work from home.
During times like this, HR’s have a huge role to play when it comes to managing their workforce and it all starts with proper communication. So, what exactly can you do to channel proper communication with your workforce?
Make sure your employees have the technology available
It’s important to check that your employees have the proper tools to enable successful communication with the rest of the workforce. This technology is more than your employees just having a laptop and a cell phone. Those are necessary but not sufficient. You also need to make sure your VPN is capable of handling all the bandwidth and have employees taken proper measures to protect themselves from cyber-security measures. It’s also good to make sure if your employees have the right quality cameras that enable effective video conferencing and whether their at-home internet and WiFi access are robust enough to handle the additional load that comes with office work. So that’s step one, to confirm the workforce has got the right tools and infrastructure from a technology perspective.
The right way to communicate in a virtual environment
Holding a virtual meeting is something new and could be challenging as it’s completely different from having an actual boardroom meeting. There are certain points that company leaders should keep in mind while hosting online meetings:
Have an agenda: Just like you’d have a list of things that you want to convey in an actual meeting, it’s important to do the same here too. Try to keep the meeting brief and to the point as it could be difficult to keep the workforce engaged for long hours.
Specify a time: The virtual meetings must start and finish on time. Now, you being the host of the meeting, must arrive early into the online space so that you can make sure everything’s set up perfectly and can start on time. If the number of people joining the meeting is too large, it’s good to have a co-host that could help you out as a moderator and also as a technical host.
Social interaction: As we already know interacting with the workforce is very important to build a sense of trust and rapport with them. And especially at times like this the need for social interaction is more than ever. So, interacting with the employees, asking them their feedback, and even having a small chit chat with them can help in creating a workplace vibe.
Dress up: Having an executive presence in the meeting is vital and the best way to do so would be by putting on clothes as if it’s a real physical workplace meeting. Now, you don’t have to look a million dollars but looking smart and on-brand is important. And make sure you get fully dressed in a formal manner rather than being half-dressed and letting the other half in board shorts.
Manage the workflow
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It can be challenging to manage a remote workforce especially if they work in different time zones. As an HR, it is important to assign a work schedule that specifies a daily target. You can either do it yourself or assign the team members to set their schedules. It shouldn’t have to be a tight schedule. It’s always a good idea to offer some flexibility in the work schedule. A recent survey revealed that 73% of employees felt more satisfied with their work because they had flexible work arrangements.
Once the work schedule is assigned it is necessary to monitor if the team members can stick to the schedule. There are employee monitoring applications that can help in tracking the work progress of an employee.
It’s always good to evoke a sense of competition amongst the employees. Doing so motivates the employees to work even harder and gives them a competitive mindset.
Setting up sprints is a perfect strategy, to begin with. You can assign individual employees or even split your workforce into teams and share the target or project goal that they must accomplish. And finally, reward the winners of the competition with an incentive or bonus.
Trust your employees
Some companies tend to compare the present employee work situation to a snow day but in reality, it’s more than just a snow day as there’s no certainty about when things will get back to normal. Working remotely can be challenging for individuals especially during this period as there comes the responsibility of managing the family along with work.
Therefore following the traditional work schedule might not be possible for the employees. So, as an HR or manager, you should be more focused on whether the employees are accomplishing the right outcomes rather than focusing on processes or activities that your employees engage in. Just make sure that the tasks are getting done even if it means that they’re getting done late at night or at a different time, you must be okay with this.
Now, it’s a good thing to assign office hours and during these hours the employees should be able to communicate with the HR or manager and work out on some sort of compromise about when they can be available and show up online when the manager contacts them. So, this is the time for HR’s to create narrow windows where there are expectations and outside of that just realize it’s going to be a very flexible and fluid situation.
Create a virtual chat room
Creating a chat room that’s open constantly would be an amazing thing to do. The team members could leave messages on this virtual platform. The sole purpose of creating such a space is to make the employees feel like they’re in the workplace itself and have the flexibility to communicate important issues with their team. Also, make sure that these chat rooms don’t turn into a cause of distraction and sidetrack the employees from their work goals.
Along with that, it’s good to provide another chat room where the employees could have their small talks and chit chats just like they do in the office. This helps in creating the same vibe that the employees get when they’re around the water cooler and they bump into one of their co-workers and have this brief social interaction with them. There’s a good chance one might feel lonely while working remotely and a company-wide communication platform is exactly what the employees need to refresh their mood.
Some of the best software available for this purpose are Slack, Skype, and Hipchat. If you’re looking for free software Skype is what you should go for. But if you’re looking for something more organized, Slack should be your choice as it provides a special feature called channel designed for workplace meetings.
Right now every single company is going through a phase of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At moments like this, HRs and managers must focus on building a sense of community, helping out their workforce, and creating a sense of reassurance that they’ll figure a way out. .