In order to slow the inevitable spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the government has turned to employers, asking them to do all that they can. On March 10th, Dr. Jay C. Butler, a top official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explained the agency’s rationale for its repeated calls to employers and ways in which they can help the fight.
Humans are highly susceptible to COVID-19, a respiratory illness that has already infected nearly 1.5 million people across the globe and killed over 83,000 in its path. Butler believes the coronavirus will be around for quite some time and will eventually infect every corner of the globe. Our collective goal as a society is to slow this down as much as possible, giving health care providers more time to treat the ill and scientists more time to develop a vaccine.
Butler urged employers to communicate the importance of proper handwashing techniques, offer generous sick-leave, and reconsider large group gatherings. The best thing they can do, however, is switch to a remote work environment and encourage all their employees to stay at home.
If your company has recently made the switch, you might soon realize that managing remote workers presents a unique set of challenges. Employees are more likely to get distracted, lose motivation, and suffer in productivity. On top of that, this transition is coming at an unprecedented time in which fear and anxiety run rampant, adding more obstacles in the way of workflow efficiency.It’s always challenging to keep employees engaged, and the coronavirus is making it significantly harder—but it’s not impossible. These five strategies can be used to maintain a driven and happy workforce during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic.
Tip #1: Stay Connected while Separated by Distance
One of the first problems you’ll need to solve is communication. At the office, it’s simple to brainstorm ideas, request a progress report, or hold team meetings, and synchronize as a company. Now that everyone is working from home, how will that change?
Separated by distance, there’s a chance that your employees will feel disconnected and disengaged, which can potentially harm their performance. That’s why maintaining constant communication is absolutely critical during this crisis. Although communication is essential for building engagement with all employees at all times of the year, keeping in touch with your remote workers right now will be more important than ever.
Fortunately, the surge in remote work during the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic spurred many companies to come up with innovative solutions for off-site communication. Some options you might consider include:
- Slack – an informal platform for internal staff that allows users to send direct messages, create threads, or set up channels for teams
- Zoom – software that allows remote workers to join video conference calls by enabling the camera and microphone on their phone or computer
- Microsoft Teams – included within the Microsoft Office suite, this feature can be used to send, edit, and save various documents
Touch base with your employees every day over the medium of your choice, but don’t just make the conversations about work. Take interest in their wellbeing, ask how they’re holding up, and see if there’s any support they need while lockdown remains in effect.
Tip #2: Adopt Project Management Platforms to Monitor Progress
If you don’t already use a project management platform, now’s the time to start. A product like Asana or Monday will connect your remote team and enable them to align, collaborate, and track progress all on one dashboard.
In the office, it’s easy to ask a team member for a status update on an assignment, but checking in with your employees at home might instill a sense of distrust or micromanagement. With this type of software in place, you can avoid stepping on any toes and ensure work is running smoothly by monitoring behind the scenes.
Plus, your employees will be more engaged with their work if they are required to track the time spent on a task, report project completion, and cross off daily assignments. By centralizing the workflow, you’ll help your team be more productive.
Tip #3: Show Them That Their Work Matters — Even If They Can’t See the Results
A project management platform can provide a clear view of progress and priorities on one easy-to-use interface, but being removed from the office, your employees may experience discord between the work they’re doing and why it matters. With all teams under one roof, it’s easier to see how individual contributions add to the company’s collective success. In isolation, however, work may begin to feel meaningless or mundane.
Therefore, you should make it a point to occasionally applaud your team members for their hard work and remind them that you value their contributions. Relay positive feedback and share success stories so that they know their efforts are impactful.
Tip #4: Provide Regular Company Updates and Status Reports
As the shelter in place mandate stretches on week by week, your remote employees will inevitably begin to feel restless and get a little stir crazy. On top of that, the state of the economy may trigger anxiety that distracts from their focus. Questions such as “When are we going back to work?” and “Is the company going to survive?” will be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Although no one can predict what the future holds or how long this pandemic will go on, do your best to assuage their fears and instill a sense of confidence. Remind them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that they are fortunate to have the ability to work from home while so many others have lost their jobs or are forced to risk their health by continuing to work on-site.
Tip #5: Offer Essential Resources to Demonstrate Care
Finally, employees care more about their work when they feel like their employer cares about them as a person. Show your staff that you care about their well being—always, but especially during this crisis. Experts are concerned about the mental health fallout that is likely to arise in the wake of loneliness and anxiety caused by the coronavirus, so provide employees with a list of free resources they can access. Also, make sure they know where they can receive updates from the World Health Organization and the CDC.
These times are scary, to say the least, but if employers do their part to control the rate of spread, we can all get back to “normal” life sooner rather than later.