When the Coronavirus Pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, overnight business saw dramatic changes and part of these changes were the need for employees to work from home if they could.
For some employees working from home was a new concept, as they would not have worked from home previously, for other employees they had experience of working from home before so the concept wouldn’t have been a new experience.
Managers and HR departments have had to understand that with employees working from home, they are likely to have several distractions while they work from home. These can vary from having children at home needing help with home schooling, having their partner homeworking, or house mates, noisy surroundings, home phones ringing etc.
Employees may also be finding it hard to get motivated working from home, they can miss the office environment, miss the interaction with their colleagues and not necessarily have all the relevant equipment that they need.
There are ways that HR can help to improve productivity for employees and assist in creating positivity amongst employees while they are working from home.
However, it is important to note, as mentioned by HR Director, Michael Doolin from Clover HR, that during these difficult times, employers need to remain mindful of the way each employee copes with working from home. Some of the ways to do this include:
- Arrange daily or weekly ‘check-ins’ with home working employees, these can be done on a one to one basis, or can even be done as a team. The use of video calling can also be used, as then employees get to see each other, which is the next best thing to them being in the office with each other. A lot of departments/teams will be used to a morning or start of shift meeting with the team, so using video technology such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams etc to do this can keep this practice going and help employees to have a ‘normalish’ start to their working day.
- The use of online messaging to team members, during normal hours of work, is a good too to use if the option is available, by using these employees can communication to each other during the day, to ask advice or even to have a bit of banter with each other, as they can not longer do this while at the ‘coffee machine’.
- Ensure employees have the correct equipment and space to work in, a decent chair and desk to work from to ensure they are comfy. Employees don’t need a room to themselves or fully equipped office but the basics of chair, desk, computer/laptop, mobile phone, stationary items and good internet connection. Employers can look at providing these for employees, or agreeing to reimburse them for any costs they have occurred, within reason.
- Hold team building activities, such as virtual quizzes, bingo games or food deliveries can help to bring teams together and keep morale going. Many businesses held virtual office Christmas parties at the end of 2020, which was a new concept for all, organised by HR teams. By doing this can help employees to still feel connected to each other and providing time for them to talk and discuss things, can help them feel things are still a bit normal. These events can be weekly, or fortnightly etc depending on requirements and numbers. It is always good to get employees feedback on holding events like this and the frequency or them as you don’t want it to be counterproductive and employees feel like it’s a chore to attend.
- Provide support for employees, every employee will be dealing with the pandemic and lockdown differently, some will cope better than others and some will feel like they are falling apart. People management during these times can be challenging, but it is important that employees feel they are supported by the company they work for. Frequent communications to employees providing updates on company events, coronavirus advice, and most importantly that they are not on their own. Promoting and communicating any Employee Assist Programmes (EAP) that may be in place is good to do, or if there isn’t an EAP in place, who an employee can talk to if they need to, this could be a member of the HR department or their line manager. It’s important that employees feel they are not on their own and that if need be support is available
- Being flexible with when employees do their work, their will be certain tasks and jobs that have to be done at certain times, e.g. customer calls or orders, payroll processing, daily important functions etc, However a lot of tasks that employees do, can be done at any time of the day, it is important flexibility is applied, by doing so it can help to lessen the stress employees may feel or be under, many employees may have children at home that need supervision and help with home schooling, they may have toddlers or babies to look after, or may be the main carer for another family member etc. With schools and nurseries being closed to most, and restrictions on childcare, many employees find themselves balancing work and family life, under the same roof. Employees who do not have children also need to be allowed flexibility, as they may be struggling with working from home, they may have other commitments too they have to fulfil. By allowing flexibility, takes pressure off employees and is a positive way to ensure the work can still be done.