It’s no surprise business operations have been affected by the global health crisis of 2020. The first half of the year has presented many challenges, but some businesses have experienced positive shifts such as stronger collaboration, more productive work routines and improved health practices as they navigate the changing landscape.
While the focus has been mobilising workforces from home, the challenges managers now face in the wake of the new norm include:
How to remain connected and boost productivity among employees continuing to work from home
How to engage and motivate staff to return to the workplace, where they had a positive experience working remotely
While the crisis has affected your entire workforce, it’s important to acknowledge that individuals will have unique experiences. Some employees will find coming back daunting, after months of overcoming barriers and redefining their working arrangement.
Workers will trust management to ensure their workplace is safe and procedures are in place to safeguard their wellbeing. Leaders will need to support their employees back to a safe and healthy workplace so they can perform at their best.
One way to re-energise your staff is through a clearly defined purpose. People feel driven when they have a purpose and know what they’re working towards. Leading with empathy and purpose will assist to navigate the changes and address employee concerns.
According to SEEK research, the importance of communication has risen, ranking among the top qualities (under current conditions) candidates look for from an employer.
Communicate a positive vision for the future and encourage your workforce to invest in a shared vision. Work out the best way your employees can provide feedback and ask questions without judgement. Listening to their concerns and responding with action can build trust and greater employee engagement.
Motivation is a tool to help ease the post COVID struggles and may contribute to levels of excitement and commitment your employees bring to work.
An effective way to rebuild workplace motivation is to ask your staff what inspires them about the work they do. Use their feedback to design a mix of self and reward-driven initiatives that encourage behaviours that will benefit your business. Here are a few to get you started:
Implement an incentive and rewards program
Celebrate and promote achievements
Re-evaluate performance measures considering employees’ concerns
Schedule frequent communication. This could include a mix of formats such as an inspiring video or using humour to lift spirits and help your staff feel excited about their return to work.
Review roles and look to capitalise on employee strengths
Develop career progression plans
Another strategy to drive staff motivation and productivity when working from home is to suggest they wear work attire to help separate home life from work. Sometimes establishing routine, daily goals and set times for meetings are helpful to create structure and a sense of achievement that lead to work satisfaction and heightened engagement.
The mental health and wellbeing of employees play a major role in performance, business success and economic recovery. Businesses are concerned about the impact that new ways of working and job instability may have on their staff. To help reduce the emotional, physical and mental stress of the current environment, consider implementing an employee wellbeing program.
Workplace wellbeing programs support your employees to be happy and healthy at work and home. Happy, healthy, and positive employees a more likely to be high performers and engaged in the organisation. They tend to take less sick days and can be highly productive, contributing to overall business profits. Staff wellbeing benefits individuals and businesses, so efforts to promote wellbeing are a win-win for everyone.
Your wellbeing program could include things such as access to counselling services, webinars, nutritional recipes, strategies to achieve work-life balance, physical activities and resources to support a healthy mind and spirit.
Tools to assist staff wellbeing:
Free coronavirus wellbeing support service (for individuals) - https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
Managing mental health risks at work training for managers and employees - https://elearn.headsup.org.au/course/view.php?id=2
Mental health digital resources - https://headtohealth.gov.au/
For employees returning to the workplace, allow time for reunions and team adjustments. Employees will have mixed feelings about coming back and will need time to get back into the routine. Look to create a safe space for your employees where they can talk about their mental health concerns or take time to find ways through challenges.
One way to do this is to implement a ‘recharge’ room similar to some larger companies (think Nike, Google, Unilever and Lego to name a few). Go a step further than a cafe or a chair grouping and make it a room where employees can take a few minutes to zone out, get new perspectives or rest. The idea is to help your workers relax and emerge recharged, ready to tackle even the toughest of projects with renewed energy.
If you have a dispersed workforce working remotely from home, you may have already found an approach that works for you and your employees. For those continuing or extending work from home capacity, it may mean introducing a mix of face-to-face digital and in-person catch-ups to keep motivated, connected and build strong working relationships. The frequency of these meetings will depend on the needs of your team and how many are working remotely.
While you may talk to your employees every day, most managers are task focused or only talk to their employees on very specific topics relating to work. But you should go a step further and talk to your employees about how they are doing and how they are dealing with the new normal. A one-on-one catch up with your staff to check in with them about their workload and how they feel can put minds at ease and provides an opportunity to help employees develop professionally and personally. Above all else, your employees will appreciate and respect you for having a human conversation with them that is not just work related.
Apply these helpful tools in your workplace and reconnect, engage and lift productivity across the diverse working arrangements.
After all, investing in your workforce will help you achieve goals together that set your business on a path to success.