Many American employees left their workplaces last March and haven’t returned, suddenly finding themselves members of a remote workforce created by the Covid-19 pandemic. VersaTel Solutions employees all work remotely and have since before Covid, so it wasn’t an adjustment for them. But for many people, remote work was a huge shift. While surveys have shown that the majority of workers enjoy having the option of working from home, there are those who miss going into a place of business. And even those who have no desire to go back to full-time in-person work may be feeling isolated without face-to-face interaction with co-workers. Zoom-square to Zoom-square contact just isn’t the same.
So how can employers make sure their remote team is adjusting after 18 months out of the office? On the website Business2Community, contributor Jeff Pozen writes, “It can be much harder to get a sense of employees’ wellness and engagement levels through Zoom, Slack, and email interactions. In-person, you might be able to spot red flags such as lowered participation or social withdrawal. Online, it’s difficult to figure out if someone’s just having a rough day — or if they need time off to take care of their well-being.” His company has chosen to prioritize wellness. Here are his tips for employers:
1. Check in with employees regularly.
“When you’re in an office, you don’t need to make as much of an effort to check in with your team. After all, they’re right in front of you and you see them in the hallway or break room. When you have telecommuters, though, you need to make check-ins happen by design.”
Pozen says, “We communicate regularly with staff both en masse and individually. These touchpoints allow us to pass along reminders to stay safe, mask up, follow healthy protocols, and prioritize well-being. Be open about your feelings and how you’re taking care of your health to make it easier for employees to talk to you about their own needs. If they believe that you’re trying to be superhuman, they might assume you want them to do likewise. That’s not realistic or healthy.”
2. Encourage healthy habits.
“Your employees aren’t your kids. You can’t force them to stop visiting the freezer for ice cream at midnight or cut back on how much they drink. What you can do is make healthy living more practical for them. Additionally, we share ways to keep our bodies moving, such as walking outside, going to gyms (when they’re open), and eating healthy meals. And be sure to encourage them to take vacation time to decompress and get away from work. You don’t have to be heavy-handed — just look for opportunities to help your staff understand that they always have options.”
3. Gauge workloads and performance — not productivity.
“When you were all in the same office, you might have measured everyone based on productivity. At this point, however, it’s probably better to monitor everyone by performance and workload. For example, you might need to reallocate certain responsibilities temporarily from week to week. However, you’ll have to ask your employees to tell you honestly if they’re feeling overburdened or burnt out.
Most workers won’t tell you they’re having work-life balance issues affecting their tasks until they’re way in over their heads. Therefore, you’re going to have to seek out how they’re feeling by asking related questions during your check-ins. You can also introduce companywide changes to help with work-life balance, such as clear bookends for the workday. Setting expectations of when the workday starts and ends through a fun ritual can encourage team members to stop overworking themselves early in the morning or late into the evening.”
4. Pay attention to the caregivers on your team.
You probably have a few caregivers on your team. These are the parents whose kids are still at home or whose daycares aren’t safe yet. Or they might be employees assisting older relatives who have health or mobility concerns. Being a caregiver is tough on its own, so trying to juggle telecommuting on top can be daunting for many people.
With this in mind, look into providing extra resources for your caregivers. These could include fresh meals delivered every once in a while or more flexible hours. Your assistance can go a long way toward making their lives easier — and in turn, helping them do better work.
I hope these suggestions on how to make sure your employees” health and well-being aren’t suffering while they’re working remotely are helpful. I enjoy working with my all-remote team, and I also enjoy sharing ideas with new business owners. So I’ve launched a new podcast. The Business Behind Small Business. In each episode, my co-host and I give advice on how to run a successful small business. So, be sure to listen, it’s available wherever you download your podcasts.