As the remote workplace environment becomes normalized throughout the world, companies need to practice more wisdom than ever. It is undeniable that a global workplace transformation will take place to flatten the curve of COVID-19 pandemic.
An Owl Labs’ report suggests that remote workers comparatively experience more happiness than a traditional work environment. Similarly, other reports highlight the fact that individuals who tend to work each month remotely show a 24% increase in productivity. In fact, almost 90% of people believe that remote working conditions significantly reduce stress.
That said, major tech giants such as Facebook and Google are encouraging companies to improve the remote work conditions of the employees. The transition takes time, but the companies should have clear guidelines and priorities in order to ensure employees’ availability. And this is where the role of leadership becomes a successive metric.
Study Your Enemy: Origins of Coronavirus
As companies brace for an unpredictable and uncertain future, there needs to be rigorous dissemination of updated information about the COVID-19 pandemic. When employers understand the details concerning Coronavirus better, it will help management make more informed and calculative decisions.
Technically, the Coronaviruses are part of a family of viruses that include MERS coronavirus. The origin of the COVID-19, however, goes back to animal reservoirs. Most of the coronaviruses originate from animals. Unfortunately, one virus jumped to humans’ spread in late 2019 in China.
COVID-19 has an R0** value between 2-2.5, which makes it spread rate on an exponential level. Comparatively, flu has just 0.5 R0 (spread rate) value. Realistically, the containment of the pandemic will take time. Therefore, it is imperative that companies introduce containment strategies of social distancing and self-isolation through the remote work environment.
Naturally, employers want to retain the workforce and create practical solutions that offer insights. Companies, at most, need to deploy HR initiatives that would ensure the career growth, health, and financial security of the employees. And when employers prioritize the well-being of the employees, it will help them approach the future with more confidence.
**R0, pronounced “R naught,” is a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It’s also referred to as the reproduction number. As an infection is transmitted to new people, it reproduces itself. R0 tells you the average number of people who will contract a contagious disease from one person with that disease. It specifically applies to a population of people who were previously free of infection and haven’t been vaccinated.
How to Handle Mental and Emotional Toll of COVID-19 on Employees
The self-isolation and social distancing measures are useful to flatten the COVID-19 curve. However, these guidelines are also taking a mental and emotional toll on employees. For instance, management can change the leave policies under a remote work environment.
Nonetheless, the last thing you need to do is implement half-measures that could risk the foundation of your company and jeopardize the well-being of your employees. Your workforce needs certain assurances and clear guidelines to have peace of mind. In fact, how you handle these guidelines will leave a long-lasting impression on your workforce.
Consequently, employers can use that impression to gain commitment from employees. It is vital to understand for employers that before the COVID-19 came into existence, your employees were already experiencing higher anxiety and stress levels. However, the absence of social contact increases those levels.
Nevertheless, there is a good chance your valuable employees will develop more effective methods of interactive productivity even in these tumultuous times. It is not the routine that changes; it is the new struggle that comes with the new habits that require attention.
A highly contagious virus can, of course, make your employees anxious. However, employers can alleviate this association of fear among employees by offering continuous support. Furthermore, your company can create mental health initiatives that would ensure the mental well-being of the employees. Similarly, relaxation of some of the stringent rules should be open to discussion.
Practical Guidelines: More Social Distancing and Less Disconnect
As companies grapple with more social distancing guidelines for their workplace environment, it might lead to more disconnect. However, it does not mean the decisions need to be forceful. Open communication will help your employees get to know new rules.
For instance, your company should communicate to non-symptomatic employees that the current state of work serves as a mini-vacation. However, the ease of rules should not affect the productivity level. It is true – the self-isolation period can disrupt your workplace environment. Home offices, after all, do not have the same level of comfort or luxury as a developed workplace.
Whether its new demands from your employees, productivity burnouts, potential engagement fallouts, or someone getting ill, employers will need to develop meaningful interactions that would serve a purpose. And these interactions would look past the usual routine of your employees.
Flexibility: Although employers should do their best to offer a high comfort level, it should have contingency plans for various demands that might be too relaxing. Nonetheless, make sure you explain the reasoning behind an accepted or rejected request of an employee.
Compassion: Employers need to demonstrate the compassion that would help employees build positive emotions. For the sake of mental and physical health, HR needs to create a safety net for employees to speak up. Now, it does not mean allowing unionization. Instead, listen to the concerns of your employees that might need an empathetic response to showcase support.
Interconnectedness: You can offer more chances for employees to communicate with each other through video chat platforms. Well, just because the physical communications are on hold does not mean you should cut out a healthy connection between your employees. It will also normalize your support system and help employees form a new perspective.
Understanding Employees’ Cultural Background Matters
Your company’s culture is composed of various employees’ cultural backgrounds. In fact, the cultural relevance of employees creates a strong impression in a workplace setting. The better the understanding of that culture can help employers form realistic expectations.
Employers need to understand that employees with a diverse cultural background will engage differently. How your employees remain motivated, engaged, or committed depends inherently on cultural factors. Employers, for instance, can:
- Encourage and support learning a new set of skills on different projects.
- Help connect employees to the company’s overall mission
- Encourage them to surpass their goals.
- Encourage a positive work approach.
Your company’s culture primarily identifies “why” and “how” you can complete things. Simultaneously, your company’s culture represents the behaviors, values, small office rituals, the environment, and language that shape up your workplace.
The truth is, employees will also have to play a part in changing the workplace environment to render the highest possible performance. And cultural elements are at the center of it all. This process requires participation from all members of your company.
Best Strategies to Engage Employees during Coronavirus
Here are some of the best strategies employers can implement to engage better with their employees amidst COVID-19 pandemic:
Video Meetings: Utilize an amalgamated video application such as Zoom that would allow your employees to have more face time.
Digital Workspace: Create a digital workspace where everything happens. Employees should have complete access to relevant projects and assignments. Simultaneously, the digital workspace will inform employees as to who is doing what tasks.
Follow Common Calendar: A common calendar for employees’ can include holidays, vacation time, meeting timings, and relevant due dates.
Synchronized Communication: Your company can deploy a real-time chat application such as Slack to maintain the connection with employees.
Open Storage of Documents: You should avoid the storage of confidential files on an unsecured computer system. Instead, share documents on an open-storage of cloud-oriented space such as Dropbox, where your employees can access the required data cautiously.
Concurrently, employers need to have an open conversation regarding digital tools. There is no need to micromanage each employee. Just set clear boundaries about the accessibility of information to all the employees at once.
Elevate Strategic Communications to New Level
Contrary to misguided perception, remote workplace culture is not a luxury. In fact, it would become a successive parameter for small and large companies in the coming months. However, communications barriers in a remote workplace environment are relatively rigid and require practical solutions.
Discover Optimal Productivity Hours: Every employee has an interchangeable productive working time. For instance, most of the employees prefer to work in the morning, whereas some would demonstrate more productivity during the evening or night hours.
Utilize an Efficient Planner: Encourage your employees to form the habit of utilizing an automated planner. For instance, Employees can use the planner to note down and maintain important appointments and deadlines.
Don’t Change Your Project Management Application: Several employers often jump back and forth when it comes to project management apps. Although there are numerous advanced project management apps, get the one that can serve a purpose
Rewards System Works: A Reward system is arguably the most effective approach to lend a hand to your employees. It is a systematic way to organize important project activities and avoid procrastination. For instance, if an employee completes an important business call, he or she should be free to listen to some music.
Corona Outbreak: Work Transformation and Productivity
When regular social interaction among your employees becomes a healthy routine, the feeling of loneliness and isolation can impact productivity. Work transformation does not happen in a heartbeat. A new change, after all, comes with new challenges that could make your employees more stressed and less productive.
Here is what employers can do:
Inquire about Level of Comfort: Employers need to ensure that employees have the required equipment to take care of projects and remain productive. Therefore, ensure that your employees have a modern personal computer with a fast Internet connection. Similarly, inquire about your employees’ minimalist desk, necessary office supplies, lighting arrangement, and a modern ergonomic chair.
Suitable Workspace : The workplace culture thrives when employees designate the right workspace to maintain the same productivity standards. Now, it may take some time for adjustment, but a dedicated private space should be an ideal choice for employees.
Maintain Similar Consistent Routine: You need to convey to your employees to follow the standard work schedule religiously. Also, communicate with employees what difficulties are most common to complete specific tasks. Consequently, your employees would be able to resolve difficult activities as soon as possible.
Utilize Time Management Applications: A time management app may become a necessity for your company if employees are struggling to complete tasks in a remote workplace condition. For example, most of the productivity apps can track the total time employees spend on every task and get rid of the attached distractions.
Common Cyber Security Practices Employees Deserve to Know
Anti-Virus Software: Make sure that your employees have installed an updated anti-virus.
Wi-Fi Connection: Make sure that your employees have a secure Wi-Fi connection.
Encryption: Assess whether or not your employees have encrypted tools.
Lock Screen Protocol: Inform your employees to lock the main server screen if there is a shared workspace. Ideally, it is the responsibility of the company to inform workers that shared, or co-working spaces are not safe at the moment.
Additional IT Security Details: Review the details of the security software installed by your employees. Encourage your IT team to collaborate with employees of all departments regarding add-ons, privacy tools, patches, and updates.
Back-Up Plan: Create a contingency plan that ensures the safety of your files. You do not necessarily have to think of the worst, but common ransomware is quite common and requires data backup.
Medical and Stress Support Management Should be Priority
Employers do not just have to look after themselves but need to have a clear reality check about the stress and medical issues of various employees. You can become a role model and encourage healthy behaviors, a positive attitude, and share your personal optimistic feelings that would help employees.
When it comes to caring for employees’ medical health and stress, it requires a collective shared responsibility from employers and managers. However, employers should be able to read the room and make sure no one crosses that thin red line.
In addition, how you communicate with your employees is equally as important as what you choose to communicate. Therefore, create a psychological safety net that would revolve around your empathetic and logical statements during communications.
Also, gather and pay close attention to the emotional response of your employees to new changes. From CEO to intern, the playing field is leveled during the Coronavirus. Nonetheless, convey the message that you will do whatever is best.
Employers can, for instance, encourage employees to do in-door physical activities, well-being exercises, and restrict social media interaction.
That said, employees will have to improve the overall efforts to maintain their health and reduce stress. The responsibility, however, lies more on the shoulders of your employees. So, encourage a broadmindedness approach among colleagues to share advice that may be useful.
How to Deal with Virtual Workplace Disruption
Normalize these three (3) effective practices to resolve virtual workplace disruption among your employees:
Allocate Time for Virtual Activities: Often, managers have to keep employees from feeling cooped up within the virtual world. In fact, there needs to be minimal personal interaction among employees through video chat platforms. For instance, employees can increase mindfulness through cooking or picking an exciting work project.
Try to Over-communicate: When employees are not working in a traditional office setting, employers will have to make extra communication efforts in working conditions. The out-of-sight work practice under for workers can lead to a long-term issue. Therefore, encourage your employees to communicate with team leaders frequently.
Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture: Although there is no telling how much time Coronavirus will force companies to practice social distancing practice, one thing, however, is certain that employees need to remember to enjoy their work. And more fun means less stress. In the end, however, your employees need to embrace the desired vision or big picture.
Employer Branding: How to Maintain the Reputation during COVID-19
It is true – Employers need to maintain their brand that attracts talent. And employees are the center of it all. You need to maintain, develop, and tend to your employees with fair treatment. For instance, you check on your competitors as to how they are doing.
Whether you are providing sick leaves or not will decide how much you care for your employees. When employers come through in a crisis, it upholds the reputation it speaks of. And reputation management concerning employees is all about job flexibility, salary packages, and benefits.
Also, analyze the sentiments of your employees during the Coronavirus situation. For example, you can show an empathetic response to employees who are new to remote work conditions. Interestingly, it will also reduce your employees’ anxiety, the burden of self-isolation, and improve mental health.
Which Performance Parameters Will Change for Employees Post-Coronavirus?
Though several employees will thrive in remote work conditions, others, however, may succumb to low productivity due to self-isolation and non-motivational incentives. It is not an easy task for employers and managers to keep employees motivated.
In fact, a successful transition in a remote workplace environment requires the implementation of certain practices. As long as you value and care for your employees, a high turnover rate would be the last thing on your mind. Your kindness and empathy is what employees will remember the most once the nightmare of the Coronavirus ends.
That said, a sustained workplace culture environment required robust adaptability from team managers. Furthermore, companies must figure out which managers have transferable abilities that may help to train new staff.
Moreover, companies need to avoid sending mixed signals to employees. It may lead to inconsistent productivity and even come across as unfair treatment. And this is where the collaborative efforts with HR can become quite useful. An informal or joined discussion will create a good image of the company in the eyes of the employees.
The Role of Leadership during and Post-COVID-19 Period
Shifting the leadership style in ordinary circumstances may not be a good idea. However, tough times require decisive leadership. There is nothing wrong with an authoritative leadership approach. However, a progressive approach during the Coronavirus pandemic might be more suitable for your employees.
Good leaders have a natural sense to judge a particular situation with objectivity. As fears related to the COVID-19 virus become rampant, it is up to your company’s leadership to resolve complicated tasks through collaborative efforts. However, in certain situations, an authoritative style may be more effective.
A collaborative leadership style, for instance, is better where you might be accustomed to make a demand for the completion of tasks. Therefore, be more adaptable, agreeable, and progressive towards the well-being of your employees that might just usher a new era of higher productivity for your company. Unlike meager leaders who might want instant results no matter the cost, you should empower your employees to thwart uncertainty and ambiguity.
Coronavirus: Inclusion of Tax Credits and Employee Benefits
As of now, there is new tax-related legislation to help companies. However, employers should return the favor of these inclusive tax credits and offer suitable employee benefits such as sick leave or family leave.
Naturally, no organization wants to come across as egregious and not guarantee paid leave benefits to the employees. Employers, on the other hand, can avail tax credit scheme from the IRS, which applies to the entire or portion of your Social Security.
Under the CARES Act, employees are entitled to sick leave salary. However, the amount of sick leave can vary from employee to employee. For instance, eligible sick leave wages amount to $511 each day, where sick leave for mothers who have to take care of a kid is up to $200 each day.
The good news for employers is that if the tax credit ends up more than your net tax liability, you will get to keep the extra tax credit as a refund. Apart from paid sick leave, medical and family leave, and health coverage, employers can help employees get COVID-19 authorization for diagnostic testing.
Checklist: Common COVID-19 Prevention Measures Employers Can Deploy
As your company makes constantly informed decisions, there is no telling which employees might have to work with each other. Therefore, now would be a good time for you to devise a set of preventive measures to protect your workplace environment:
Be Realistic: Before you implement a safety guideline, make sure it is realistic enough for your employees. You can conduct a formal meeting to find out where everyone stands. It is time to have real conversations – so do not sugarcoat the safety measures of the COVID-19.
Respect for Colleagues: No one understands more than employers that textual communication has its limitations. Evidently, you cannot observe the body language of your employees who may be on the other side of a window chat. However, you can still take into account the useful insight of employees and when you are in safe physical distance to put in place more empathic safety measures.
Ask Questions before Implementing a New Guideline: Your collective employees represent your team that deserves to grow and evolve to achieve new productivity standards. So, do not impose preconceived safety measures on your employees. Instead, ask your employees what is on their mind and then move forward in the right direction. Once persistent takes place, it would become easier to implement safety precautions.
Always Expect Positive Outcome: Sure, there are not enough cues you can gather from video chats or virtual contact to figure out practical safety measures. And this is where you will have to assume situational embedding and establish positive intent. It might sound easy, but you will have to fill a multitude of gaps and assume certain situations in probable person-to-person contact.
Employees’ workplace culture can only thrive when employers showcase mature leadership that can restore confidence during the Coronavirus pandemic. Also, employers need to take extra efforts to collaborate, communicate, and offer work-related updates. Once employees start to feel comfortable, it will bring back the normalcy to the entire work.
That said, a lot of it depends on how employers communicate and show their willingness to make a connection with employees. From friendly work reminders to dissemination of information, employers need to act more humane to understand the concerns of the employees and avoid conflicts. Ultimately, employers need to build agendas that cater to the company’s needs and take into consideration employees’ needs.
Follow our blog to find out more about how employers can perceive a positive image and maintain productivity standards during the Coronavirus pandemic.