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6 ways to support your employees while working from home

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6 ways to support your employees while working from home
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As the quarantine continues worldwide, working from home is the new normal for most of us. Not coming into the office every day can be jarring for some while it’s business as usual for those who already work remotely. In much the same way, most businesses were forced to transition to the work from home model thanks to the current crisis.

So you may be wondering how you can support your employees while working from home. Sure, the office is empty and work gets done but how can you make life easier for staff and the organization as a whole? With the right tools, goals, and support, working from home can open new opportunities for companies.
Keeping that in mind, here are 6 ways to support your workers while working from home.

1. Put the technology in place
A successful work from home policy needs the right technology. Remote working was not possible before the advent of high-speed internet, cloud computing, and communications systems. The same is true when your staff is working from home.

You might need a variety of tools depending on your business needs and requirements. The basics do not change, however. Every business needs these systems in place for working from home:

  • Business phone lines
  • Video conferencing tools
  • Virtual meeting software
  • Instant messaging
  • VPN for external access to company networks
  • Mobile applications
  • Business software and hardware
  • A cloud VoIP solution offers many of the above features without having to purchase different tools. Remember that IT systems need to work flawlessly and be readily accessible to all employees who need it. You’ll need the IT staff to test the system to make sure you can support all employees working from home. After all, your system may be able to handle a handful of workers but may have trouble when the entire office is attempting to connect and login.

    Testing all the enterprise systems is essential for another reason. When something goes wrong in the office, the IT staff can easily fix a computer or server since they have access to the hardware. When something fails when an employee is working from home, it’s much harder. Your business should have backups for when something fails such as a laptop or if someone’s phone line stops working.

    2. Encourage social interaction between employees
    A lot of people appreciate the freedom of working from home. After all, it means you get to avoid the daily commute, the traffic, the noise from colleagues, and all the other distractions inherent in an office environment. However, not everyone is comfortable working alone all the time. Even an introverted employee will miss the social interaction that comes with working in an office. So, how can you help your staff stay in touch with each other?

    It’s a given that employees will communicate more when working from home. But social interaction like organizing an office party or simply hanging out in the break room is not easy to come by. Encourage your staff to interact socially, even if it’s through an online chat room or a group video call.

    Teams can set aside an hour or two each week for a wind-down session before the weekend. Simply sharing a few jokes or talking about the workweek can help everyone keep their spirits up. For those juggling work with homeschooling or minding little kids, this might be the only social interaction they get while staying home all the time. Managers or team leaders can set up online games like bingo or even a virtual book club. You can also swap favorite recipes as everyone seems to be cooking more now!

    3. Set and maintain routines
    The typical 9 – 5 workdays may not work for everyone but it does set a structure for the office. It can be tempting to lie in when you don’t have a morning commute but it’s a slippery slope. Pretty soon, people lose sight of deadlines and their sleep schedule goes haywire. It can cause employees to feel lonely and anxious, especially with the current ongoing crisis.

    A good way to minimize these issues is to maintain a routine, even if no one is actually in the office. For example, meetings and weekly check-ins should be at roughly the same time so everyone knows the schedule. Encourage staff to wake up and sleep at their usual time even when they don’t have to drive anywhere. Instead of a commute, they can go for a walk (maintaining appropriate distance) or complete a brisk yoga session.

    Working from home also means you need to help staff maintain their work-life balance. It can be hard to separate your work and personal life when everything is happening in the same space. Before you know it, employees are replying to work emails at midnight. Help staff by letting them know it’s ok not to respond outside normal office hours. If you do need to send a work email, a quick ‘no need for immediate reply’ works wonders.

    4. Get the right equipment to work from home
    Working from home needs more than just the internet and a laptop. Depending on their role, employees may need complete desktops, dual monitors, fax machines, work phones, USB headsets, webcams, noise-canceling headphones, and other hardware. All employees should have a designated office space in their home, even if it’s just a desk in the living room. Not everyone has the space to set up a dedicated home office after all.

    Make sure your employees have everything they need and who they can contact if they need anything else. Some staff may even need help purchasing an office desk and chair. Employees with the right tools are healthier, happier, and more productive as a result.

    5. Check-in frequently and offer support
    Communication is the key for employees to successfully work from home. In a typical office environment, managers and supervisors often drop in on staff. It’s easy to check in with your team or show your appreciation with praise or other displays (bulleting boards, photos, team meetings etc.). But it can be difficult to replicate the experience when everyone is interacting through video chat.

    Still, most employees would like guidance and support from their managers. Set up a weekly call or video chat to touch base with everyone on the team. You can also organize a way to show approval with virtual bulletin boards, newsletters, or other online tools.

    Another way to offer support is by ensuring access to well-being practices like online yoga sessions, home fitness workouts or even appointments with a therapist. With telemedicine, no one has to drive to their doctor’s office anymore.

    Be proactive about helping staff. If this is the first time working from home for your employees, they may not know what they need either. Staff may be uncomfortable speaking up as they perceive it as asking for a favor or exception. Does someone need to reschedule meetings because of homeschooling their children or taking care of elderly family members? Let employees know they can come to you with any issue by keeping the lines of communication open.

    6. Set up a clear work from home policy
    If this is the first attempt at working from home for your organization, you may not have a clear work from home policy. Even otherwise, it’s a good opportunity to clarify policies and make sure everyone is aware of it.

    There is no such thing as a standard work from home policy as your business needs will dictate what it looks like. At a minimum, you should include the following sections:

  • Company policy on sick leave and vacation days. You do need to ensure the business is not short-staffed during a crisis.
  • You may need to update the usual sick leave policy to accommodate COVID-19 specific issues as well. What should staff do if they or a family member exhibits symptoms? Do they have telemedicine options or do they need to go to an in-house clinic?
  • The policy on purchasing and reimbursing office equipment such as chairs, printers, paper, toner, headsets, etc. Is there an expense limit for employees? Do they have access to all the necessary forms and paperwork?
  • Any changes to typical employee benefits like a parking pass, subsidized cafeteria food, public transport passes, and so on.
  • The process for IT support tickets for hardware and/or software issues.
  • Data security and privacy measures such as using VPNs and firewalls. If the staff has not worked remotely before, it is highly likely they will run into issues before things settle into a routine.
  • As you can see, no business can make working from home successful without effective communication. Support your employees and set them up for success with VoIPstudio. Sign up now for a free 30-day trial and experience the difference!

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