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To combat coronavirus and flatten the curve, companies have made the transition to full-remote — in some cases, before they were fully prepared.
Now, it’s time to pick up the pieces.
Last week, we sent our customers a one-pager by superstar WorkTango Implementation Manager Christina Brennan about how to manage the early impact of COVID-19. Now, we want to share the next steps with you. Here’s what HR leaders and People managers should be doing in the days to come.
Set expectations and policies
It’s a best practice to have a company remote work agreement in place. But if your company doesn’t (or, in the likely case that it doesn’t cover an event of this magnitude), here are points to clarify and communicate:
Working hours and availability. Establish expectations on a departmental or team basis. Emphasize the importance of employees unplugging at the end of the workday — without firm work/life boundaries, it’s easy for employees working from home to risk burnout.
Employee responsibilities and obligations. It’s likely roles and ongoing projects have been affected by the transition to remote. Determine what your organization needs and expects from employees in the new normal and work with department and people managers to close the loop.
Expectations for communication. How will we communicate in and across teams? Companywide? How often?
IT and security requirements. How will your employees protect your company’s data while working on their home wi-fi? Partner with your IT department to establish and communicate best practices.
PTO, childcare, and emergency leave. Revisit your policies to see if they feel appropriate in the current climate. We encourage you to proactively introduce flexibility and paid sick leave, if you don’t already offer it — if nothing else, it will help ease your workers’ minds.
Active — or even overactive — communication is key to keeping your company aligned and thriving as employees accustomed to face-to-face interactions transition to remote work.
Work with your IT team to implement remote communication tools like Slack, Zoom, Discord or Google Hangouts, if you don’t have them already, and set up employee accounts. You’ll also want to move the entire company to shared calendars like Outlook or Google Calendar. Then, work with department and people managers to encourage adoption — or, if your company already uses these tools, to establish a cadence for communication.
Finally, talk to your people managers about instituting regular 1-on-1s, or even increasing their frequency. And conduct them over video call when possible, so that context (and human contact) isn’t lost.
Help people managers succeed remotely
Ever heard of a Manager READMe? If your company’s managers have never managed remote teams before, they likely haven’t, either.
First popularized in Silicon Valley, these quick guides are cheat sheets to help employees thrive on a manager’s team, and may include notes on:
- Communication style (“I’m introverted” or “I love emojis”)
- Frequency of 1:1s and other meetings
- Expectations around working hours (“I might message you on weekends; you don’t have to answer until Monday”)
The transition to remote communication removes the personal context that helps us interact with each other. So encourage managers to provide a working doc to their teams about what they expect in this time. It’s a good exercise generally, and will help your managers refine their expectations and responsibilities in this uncertain period.
Keep your workforce informed
Comms are always tricky business. How much is too much? What’s helpful, and what induces anxiety? At the very least, just as you would in the office, keep your people up-to-date on:
- Policy and staffing changes
- Company successes
- Tips for how to work from home
- Health updates
Be especially careful with the last — avoid fear mongering! If you do intend to share news about COVID-19, get your data from trusted sites like the CDC or Yale School of Public Health. At all costs, avoid sharing unverified news from Facebook or other social sites.
Keep morale up
All right, People & Culture leaders — it’s your time to shine. All the great work you’ve done at the office to create a thriving culture and engage employees still applies post-transition to remote. In fact, it’s more important than ever. Here’s how you can use the tools at your disposal:
Make sure you and other company leaders personally recognize employees for achievements during the remote work period. Give employees the opportunity to recognize each other, too. Optimally, connect your workforce by broadcasting those recognitions loud and proud in real time. (Feeling stumped? Check out50 Employee Behaviors to Recognize and Reward.)
Remind your employees you value them by giving them access to thoughtful, relevant rewards. Try group contributions to the American Red Cross and other relief organizations. Great personal rewards in this time might include subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, or food delivery gift cards. (Learn more about how to run a strategic rewards program.)
Those casual water cooler conversations comprise a foundation of your employees’ social lives. Keep the face-to-face events going with digital lunches, game nights, karaoke competitions and more. (Pro tip: Make these events encouraged but optional! Nobody loves mandatory fun.)
Incentivize healthy behaviors, like getting fresh air and exercise, chatting with friends, keeping a tidy desk, and more. Highlight positive behaviors in newsletters, with recognition, or by using Incentives to gamify good choices.
Check out our 20 Proven Strategies to Boost Employee Morale for ideas that work at home or the office.
Mental health boosters
Mental Health Awareness Month may only come ‘round officially once a year, but your employees need those resources more than ever. Dig into your communications archives, or brush up on free meditations, yoga videos, affirmations, and more. Folks who don’t need them will delete them. Folks who do will be forever grateful.
Your transition to remote is complete. You’ve got your policies in place, your morale lifted, and your comms running like clockwork. Now, the grander work: Keep everyone aligned and your business thriving. Make sure you have an active goals-setting program in your performance management plan — ideally, on a shared platform that allows employees and managers to track progress toward personal and company goals.
Why? Measuring that meaningful impact keeps employees engaged even in times of trouble. Plus, once the dust settles and it’s time to get back to work, your company will be ready to hit the ground running.
Keep the human in Human Resources
Remember, your employees aren’t only adjusting to a new work-from-home lifestyle. As our global health situation continues to develop, the laundry list of daily anxieties (infection, ailing loved ones, grocery shortages, cabin fever) only mounts. Your job right now is to enable your workforce’s well-being, not enforce their compliance.
You’ve done incredible work keeping your employees healthy and safe. If you haven’t already, take a moment to thank yourself for your hard work. Then take a breath, and let’s go: There’s a great deal to do ahead. But you’ve got it covered.