If you are managing staff working from home, there are certain things that you can certainly do to help support and aid your team. With the virtual workplace becoming the norm for many employees, understanding how to support these staff virtually is increasingly important.
So what can and should employers do to aid employees who work from home? Let’s take a look at some key things that can be done.
1. Communicate Regularly and Clearly via a Variety of Media (One-to-one and Team Meetings).
Adapting communication and interactions with your staff is essential if they are working from home.
Schedule regular communication and consider using various types of media as possible, as every type of medium serves a different purpose.
Regular communication needs to be scheduled.
Otherwise, it is easy to forget to get in touch when working remotely.
Lack of communication can lead to an employee feeling isolated and dissociated from the rest of the team. In addition, a line manager might not realize if and when a member of staff needs support.
2. Provide Up to Date Technology and IT support
Ensuring that you provide the right level of IT support is important when your employees work from home.
This will prevent your employees from feeling frustrated.
One thing about employees working virtually that is especially relevant here is that staff will often be using their own computer i.e. laptop (unless you have supplied a workstation for them for home-use.
With this in mind, there are three areas that staff working virtually will need to consider and these are a:
- good anti-virus program (such as Norton, Kaspersky, or McAfee)
- a clean-up tool (such as Norton Utilities or McAfee Quick clean)
- PC repair and tweak tool such as Reimage
These three tools together will help your employees to keep their own machines running more efficiently and this is important for work productivity.
Importantly also, it will help to protect work files and help to maintain some level of security, at least with a decent anti-virus program being used by the employee.
Tip: One of the easiest things you can do to support staff in terms of technology and IT is to provide a work-from-home document.
In this document, use print screen images to show your team how to achieve the IT tasks they might not know how to do. Also, include direct links to software and whatever other information will make their life much easier and make their work more productive for you.
3. Empower and Reward Employees When Managing Staff Working from Home
Just because employees work from home and you cannot see them as they work, it does not mean that they do not want to be appreciated.
When employees are working from home, use this as a chance to empowering your team. Give them some ownership over their job and the ability to make certain decisions without having to ask a superior all the time.
You will find that some employees really thrive and are much more productive when they are empowered and trusted.
It is also worth rewarding staff for a job well done. An employer or line manager can do this through praise and through giving financial or physical rewards (such as vouchers). Ensuring you give praise where its due though is often enough to make staff feel valued.
4. Set Clear Expectations for Working Hours
It is also a great idea to set very clear expectations in terms of the working hours you expect from people you are managing.
This has to do with your employees’ life-work balance.
Just like the employee needs to be transparent, it is also important for you as the manager or employer to let staff know if there are specific time slots when staff needs to be available, due to business needs.
Of course, you still need to allow your staff time for breaks and not burden them with unreasonable demands to avoid burn out.
5. Encourage Employees to Take Breaks and to Look after Their Health
It is essential that your employees, when working from home, still remember to take the breaks they are entitled to so that they look after their health.
Workplace health, in other words, is still important even if the workplace is their own home!
One solution can be to provide your staff with group training via online teaching.
Some great courses for staff wellbeing include:
- Digital wellbeing
- Mental Wellbeing & Health for Employees Working from Home
- 3 in 1 Wellness at Work package
6. Provide Mental Health Support
You may or may not have an in-house counsellor whom your employees can ask to see.
If you, as a company, do not have the resources to employ your own counselor, you can always try to raise mental health awareness through training and/or other support schemes.
7. Encourage Virtual Social Events
Social interactions are certainly more challenging to create in a virtual environment, in that you are not going to see people in person as you go to make a cup of tea or coffee, for example.
As an employer, you should still try to create a social aspect to the work environment for your staff, even if it’s online.
So, even if employees do not take the initiative, you might want to start organizing virtual social events and encourage staff to take part. This can be very positive in terms of team morale.
Managing staff working from home, in other words, is more than just the work itself. Think about the individuals themselves and how you can support their social needs as a member of staff.
8. Make Sure the Office Set-up is Safe and Ergonomic
You can certainly work to ensure that your staff who work from home have the right guidance and advice on their working environment.
You can either send an assessor to your employees’ homes or ask your employees to self-assess by sending them questionnaires.
Provide staff clear instructions and consider making a document on best practice for their office set-up. Include tips on home office ergonomics.
9. Create a Working from Home Policy
A policy is useful to summarize expectations and what support is available.
Also, the advantage of having a policy is that staff can refer to it if in doubt.
A working-from-home policy can include things such as:
- Working patterns
- Instructions on setting up a safe work home environment and an ergonomic workstation
- Links to support on health and wellbeing
- Sickness policy and overtime policy (in relation to working from home)
- Procedures on dealing with security issues (such as how to keep your computer secure)
- How to report personal injury and damage to the company’s property
10. Be Alert to Signs of Distress
If you are a manager or team leader, in particular, you need to be able to listen to your staff and to pick up signs of distress.
For example, if you see that team members are withdrawn during virtual meetings, or if they do not reply to emails, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Then again, it might be that everything is perfectly fine with them.
So, if these types of behavior happen once or twice, there may be nothing to worry about, but, if they become regular issues, it may be worth you having a one-to-one virtual meeting with your team member to find out more and see if they need any help.
Some team members may be proactive in seeking help but others may not be, so try to keep an eye out for any sign of distress.
Make sure also to give information about the support available. There is no point in providing support if employees do not know it is there.
So, make sure to advertise and communicate as clearly and as widely as possible what support options are available for staff.
Dr Paul Symonds
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