Tips to help working from home be a success for management and employees
BY NANCY DAHLBERG
Large and small businesses are finding interesting ways to keep employees engaged and feeling like they are part of the team while they are working from home. And amid the new reality, workers are expressing a desire to make the new arrangement work, even beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Is remote work here to stay? The jury is still out on what the post-COVID world will be like, but some workers already are asking for a permanent work from home policy, or at least the flexibility of a hybrid office-home situation.
Commissioner Thomas D. Epsky of the Florida Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission believes COVID-19 suddenly forced an involuntary experiment called remote work for much of 2020.
“As the vaccine to control COVID-19 now moves forward, many business leaders now have to assess whether to continue this as a work arrangement,” Epsky said.
Indeed, even before the pandemic, workers valued flexibility and have been voicing their preference for remote work. Offering it could be a competitive advantage for small businesses that want to hire and retain the best employees.
In a recent Gallup poll, two-thirds of the workers surveyed said they’d like to continue to work remotely as much as possible once public health restrictions are lifted. In all, 35% of those who have worked remotely would simply prefer to do so, while 30% would like to do so because of a concern about COVID-19. Another 35% said they would like to return to working in their office.
Still, in another recent Gallup survey, the pollster found that the percentage of engaged workers — i.e. those who are not only committed to their work and workplace but are also highly involved and enthusiastic — reached 38% during the pandemic that’s the highest it has reached in several years. Companies are trying everything from sending employees lunches to hosting virtual happy hours to let them know they are valued.
RBB Communications in Miami has taken this to a new level with a number of virtual wellness activities like yoga classes and stress management webinars. To lighten things up, they also had a take your pet to Zoom day.
As the pandemic stretches on, more companies are considering continuing with permanent or voluntary work-from-home arrangements long after the pandemic subsides. In addition to being creative with Zoom sessions that encourage engagement and team spirit, human resource experts recommend that small businesses follow similar protocols that larger companies would in setting up guidelines for permanent work from home arrangements, including:
Set clear expectations: Clearly define what job requirements can be performed from home and what cannot. Set clear expectations on which virtual meetings they will need to participate in and, once the physical office reopens, make clear whether office visits will be expected and the frequency.
Help employees feel comfortable: Give employees advice and financial assistance if possible to create efficient workspaces with the proper technology, good lighting, ergonomic chairs, headsets that suit their needs, etc.
Set clear ground rules: Set guidelines for work hours, family time, virtual calls, etc. Some companies provide flexibility on working hours, but make the rules clear, particularly around how you will communicate and when team engagement, albeit virtually, is required.
The tech is key: Ensure workers have the high tech devices and high-speed connectivity needed to perform tasks to expectations.
Security training: A work from home situation may present cybersecurity challenges. Make sure employees get the training — and protocols — they need to avoid trouble, such as by using public Wi-Fi.
Take stock: Very important — establish how job performance will be determined and measured and how feedback will be delivered.
Epsky sees remote work likely being part of the future of business and cautions that organizations forced into remote work during the pandemic should not rush to a dismissive this does not work verdict.
He believes the benefits of remote and flexible work options are significant but that, “every team is unique, and leaders have to determine what works best for the team.”
This article is provided by the FBDC at IRSC, the Small Business Development Center within Indian River State College’s School of Business. The center’s team of business experts works one-on-one with hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners each year by providing confidential, no-cost consulting. The center’s mission is to help Treasure Coast businesses grow and succeed.
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