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Keeping teams happy, healthy and productive in the new normal

Due to COVID-19, employers and their HR teams across the country have been adjusting to managing employees remotely and the many challenges this poses. One of the main stumbling blocks has been how to cultivate a positive workplace culture when they are no longer within the same four walls.

How can HR keep employees engaged, connected and empowered by technology in a remote working environment?



Offer educational workshops

Education is vital, according to Danielle Haig, director and business psychologist at DH Consulting. She says: “Educating and supporting your employees with workshops is a useful way to offer value and encouragement to teams. They are a great resource for opening up conversations and resolving worries and concerns for your business leaders.”

Some examples of the kind of workshops HR can run to help promote good remote practice include online learning and development workshops, team building exercises (like virtual coffee breaks and weekly games night) and wellbeing courses.


Create boundaries

One of the most common challenges for employees is a lack of separation between work and home. HR should therefore encourage employees to create and maintain boundaries to help un-blur this line.

“Encourage people to monitor their time on social media and absorbing news,” says Haig. Staff should be educated on the pros and cons of social media and encouraged to think about how it makes them feel she says. “We know that social media reads our movements and will reinforce our thoughts and feelings with confirmation bias.”


Be flexible and empathetic

Remote working has led to an array of different working styles. While some are working around available childcare, others have been able to adapt their working hours to better suit their current lifestyle.

“Visibility of your people has changed and therefore, you must do the same,” says Eugenio Pirri, chief people and culture officer at Dorchester Collection, suggesting that though now it has to be done virtually face-to-face meetings are still valuable.

Employers also must remember that everyone works differently says Pirri. “Everyone is unique and as a result energy levels are also in flux – employers must remember this.”


Lead by example when it comes to distractions

The move from office-based to remote working has meant that many employees have more time to carry out more sociable activities throughout their working day.

Jane Christopher, senior HR business partner, Northern Europe at Citrix says HR must appreciate that working remotely can have lots of different distractions to being in the office – but it shouldn’t come at the expense of listening in Teams calls.

“As a leader, it is really important not to be distracted when speaking with your team, so that you can build trust by giving them your full attention,” says Christopher.


Give people a break

Not having to commute to the office has led to employees having more time to start and finish work. However, when working from home, it is easy to carry on past normal working hours to finish off a task that would have previously been left for the next day.

Managers must not use this as a reason to simply give employers more work. You need to respect your people’s need for focus, says Christopher. Rest time is still needed for proper and successful work to be done. “Do not overload them with back to back meetings and endless to do lists. Without time to focus clearly and add value, it can quickly lead to employee burnout,” she says.



Jump to conclusions

A common remote working stereotype is that employees are better able to pick and choose when to work and when not to. Perhaps meaning that they sometimes avoid working all together.

However, making automatic assumptions about what your staff are doing while home working stops you asking them questions, says Pirri. “People are not automatically taking longer lunches, the same way people are not all okay; you must ask you staff questions and react accordingly.”





Forget about company culture

Leaders should try their best to keep the culture alive and create a sense of belonging with the programs and apps they’re using says Christopher. “Using the right tools to continue collaboration and fostering creativity are all vital to creating a sense of purpose and make work – from anywhere – more meaningful.”




Use a camera all the time

Using Zoom for meetings has become the ‘new normal’ during the pandemic. However, Carl Frey, director of the Future of Work Programme at the Oxford Martin School says constantly using a camera for work calls can be detrimental for employees.

“We’re not accustomed to watching ourselves talk to colleagues, it’s an added distraction for us at work meetings,” he says. Frey suggests employees use just audio during Zoom meetings every now and again, to avoid feeling overwhelmed or worrying about the way you look on camera.




Forget to create empathy

There is no cookie-cutter approach or comprehensive playbook to follow during these unexpected and unprecedented times, and Melissa Dreuth, SVP of people and culture at Planful, says it’s crucial to lead with a people-first mindset to ensure that you’re adapting as the world is adapting.

“Remember that we’re all human and everyone is affected in a variety of ways,” she says. “How you treat your team now is what they’ll remember in the future, and being able to bring your whole self to work has never been more important than it is right now.”


Cast personal judgement

You should not point out differences between employees’ backgrounds when video calling with your team, says Marilyn Chaplin, chief HR officer at Global NTT.

“Managers should reassure everyone that no matter how different their workplace looks on a video conference, they are still part of the team,” says Chaplin.

Working from home may lead to employees feeling anxious about sharing their homes with their colleagues.

Managers should put doubts to rest by assuring staff that no one is being judged for their home working backgrounds.

Managers should also remind an apprehensive staff member that on Zoom and Teams you can change your background image to any photo of your choice.


The full article of the above is published in the 2020 Technology Supplement. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.