Richard Leader, MD of Collaborative Creations, shares his best practice advice for employers looking to support remote workers.
As hundreds of thousands of people across the country make a sudden switch to working from home full time, we need to think carefully about our teams’ mental wellbeing.
It might seem quite relaxed at first with no commute, casual dress rules and nobody looking over your shoulder eight hours a day. But soon it can become isolating (no pun intended) and lonely. Motivation can drop like a stone. Depression can set-in, fast.
It’s not going to be easy to manage this situation – along with keeping productivity up and all the financial issues raised by our current circumstances – but here are a few tips to try and keep you and your teams healthy:
Depending on your solution (Hangouts, Skype, Teams, Zoom, Webex… the list goes on) it can be cheap or even free. And it’s essential.
Get your team(s) together every day, at least once. You need to see people’s faces as well as
hear their voices. If you’re already a manager with a high emotional IQ, you’ll soon be able
to pick-up on body language. If not, is there someone in your team who you trust to help
you spot any nascent issues?
Start the daily call with social, personal chat. Just like you would in the office before work
starts, or in a meeting room as people come in.
Encourage your teams to do more than email or text each other.
Think: In the office, would I have a desk-side chat with this person? If so make it a video
conference, not an email.
Keep the conversation going
Back-up the video with other media. Make frequent use of email, text, Slack, WhatsApp,
whatever apps you might want to use. Keep the conversation going all day, every day.
We’re used to hundreds (thousands?) of social interactions every day. You’ll never get as
many when working from home, so don’t feel you’re over-doing the attention-giving.
Get a routine
Most of us work to a routine in the office, whether we meant to or not. We arrive at a
certain time, we have lunch at a certain time, we leave at a certain time. Ever notice how
you meet the same person at the coffee-station in the office most days? You’ve got a
Keep the routine. Don’t start work at the time you’d usually start your commute.
Don’t finish work at the time you’d usually get home.
It’s easy to get stuck in the house for 8 hours with no fresh air. It’s also really dispiriting to do
so. Most of us get some fresh air most days, even if it’s walking from the station to the office
or to Tesco at lunch to get a sandwich.
Encourage your teams to get out of the house at lunchtime. Go for a walk (somewhere not
crowded with people, of course). Stroll around the block, listen to some music. Get out of
the work environment because it’s quickly blurring with your home environment.
We all joke about doing the video conference in a shirt and pyjama bottoms, but dress
pretty-much as you would for work. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but don’t end-up
wearing that Grateful Dead t-shirt with the chicken tikka masala stains every day, either.
Dressing for work makes you feel like you are at work.
I’m not going to tell you who to look-out for the most, but do think about younger people – even though they are meant to be digital natives. Remember your first few jobs? When your colleagues were 90% of your personal network? When you take that away, it’s enormously isolating.
This may not be the toughest part of running your business over the next few months, but it is important for the mental wellbeing of your teams and the future wellbeing of your business.