Before the recent COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, 3.6%* of the US workforce was working remote and telework policies were often viewed as a company perk to accommodate employee expectations of flexibility or to appeal to millennials through talent attraction opportunities. In sudden measures, the outbreak immediately mobilized organizations to take action and implement policies and procedures to secure employee health while maintaining business operations that also upheld client expectations.
As the gravity of our normal continues sinking in for what it means to your business, yes, you now have a remote workforce harnessing your existing or ad-hoc telework policy and this is major change for your organization but we encourage you, as leaders of your organization, to remember that your employees are still your front lines, regardless of where they perform their work. Along with the IT and HR heroes who mobilized quickly and made working from home actually feasible, your employees are the lifeblood of your organizations and they are fighting to keep your doors open and your clients happy during this moment of global uncertainty. To further support them during this period of uncertainty, this article offers ideas on what employers can do to “make the noise go away” so teleworking is seamless and workers can continue advancing their employers’ mission in the time of COVID-19.
EMPLOYEES + FAMILIES FIRSTCommunicate directly with staff that the organization is gearing up to implement new working directives and these new policies and procedures are bound to merge with personal elements of home life that could create changes to work-life balance. Acknowledge that these can be complex in that work performed during the day may interfere with other roles such as parenting, caregiving, etc. in ways that that also require your employee’s attention or compete for it. Tip #1: Offer flexible hours and check-in with your employees to confirm they have the resources and “quiet-space” needed to work.
TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT SICK LEAVE/PTO BENEFITS + APPLICATIONIt is important to establish standards for when employees become ill or need to attend to family matters. How does your organization leverage floating holidays, volunteer days, and last year’s carryover time towards added flex days?
Tip #2: Develop a work plan for supporting individuals who need to take time to recover or care for family members during this period. How will tasks be redirected if needed? Tip #3: Empower staff to create “sick banks” where they have the ability to donate sick time/PTO to their peers in need .
EVOLVE FROM SWIM LANES TO INTEGRATIONEnsure that your organization has the right protocols and procedures in place along with a clear lens on which of these documents and practices need to continue evolving based on continuity planning. HR, Operations, IT and Finance – it’s time to move from “you stay in your swim lane and I’ll stay in mine” to joining forces and co-creating your organization’s competitive key practices. This co-creation and brain trust has the potential to also create a newly imagined employee experience that could just become your new competitive advantage.
Tip #4: Since your internal HR, IT, and Communications teams had to mobilize quickly to make telework feasible, challenge them to think about what else they could be doing to innovate and push your organization further. Define future projects of co-creation to harness collaboration practices.
A UNITED FRONT: BUILDING EMPLOYEE TRUST THROUGH INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION + LEADERSHIPOngoing communications and employee transparency is critical. During this time of uncertainty, it is important to communicate with employees on what is happening and help them draw meaning on the implications. Employees want to see their organizational leadership as one aligned and cohesive body rather than siloed leadership that isn’t aligned or fully bought into the new way.Tip #5: Employees are looking to their managers and supervisors for direction and answers. For key policy and procedure changes, make sure that you give these leaders time to digest these changes, so they are able to seamlessly and consistently answer questions from employees.
UPSKILLING MANAGERS TO MANAGE REMOTE WORKERS THROUGH CONNECTION + CUSTOMIZATION
Ensure your managers have adequate tools and resources they need to manage a remote staff and train on this “new day, new way” approach.Map out key personnel, prioritize tasks, and identify tasks most impacted – for each internal department, client account and vendor relationship.
Tip #6: Create checklists for managers on how to manage these tasks and their remote workers along with “best practices” for following up and reinforcement. Create new practices and traditions for teams to check in with each other. Example – share your new telework space in an image, develop best practices for Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts, Webex, Blue Jeans etc.
Tip #7: Conduct more one-on-one calls during this transition period to see how employees are doing and what they need to be successful in this new way of working. A “one size fits all” approach may not work for all employees teleworking – consider alternative management styles and engagement approaches for individual employees who are struggling with this transition.
Putting it all together:
Take the time to talk to your employees about their work-life situations and how teleworking has the potential to impact their productivity and ongoing contribution. Together, create an individual plan so they feel supported, connected to you as their employer, and empowered to contribute at their highest capacity, regardless of where the work is getting done.
* Statistic Sources: Global Workplace Analytics