We were joined by Georgia Henry from Henry Reed Consulting, who shared with us her expertise on all things culture in the world of remote working. As teams are distributed we’re faced with a range of concerns which previously we wouldn’t have considered in an office environment. Read on below to explore how to engage your team whilst working remotely and how these changes will continue to impact us going into the future.
People need to have a purpose to be mentally well, how can businesses that can now have people retained on their books keep them occupied if the external demand is not there?
Firstly, there needs to be a series of regular, personalised touch points to ensure that your team members are on the same page. Talk to your people, find out which communication method works best for them, an open dialogue will allow for a discussion about how smaller workloads may be impacting your team.
It’s important to always bring your team members back to the “why” of what they do. Remembering there is a purpose and aligning to this purpose is key to maintaining value through these times. Disruption of business can cause doubt and confusion as the work may dry up. Consider aligning your people to work on strategic goals, work that is in their backlog, or have a brainstorming session where your team members can work together to identify areas to invest team efforts..
Is there an opportunity for your business to pivot, to keep employees working? An example we’ve seen of this in Brisbane is brewing companies pivoting to distil hand sanitizer. Or is there an opportunity to re-assign roles, for example, we are seeing waitstaff be reassigned as delivery drivers.
A final idea, if you offer a service, team members could use their time to support not for profit or charity organisations. This means they can continue doing meaningful work while giving back to the community.
We are currently in disrupted times, encourage your team to think outside the box when it comes to staying occupied.
When we’re in this environment of rapid change and being flexible, going above and beyond to change deadlines and timeframes, how do we manage expectations of our internal stakeholders that this can’t be the ‘new normal’, it needs to be the ‘temporary normal’ otherwise our teams will burn out
Recent times have shown many businesses just how dedicated their people are. It’s really important to recognise the amazing effort your team has put in over recent weeks, but it’s equally important to ensure senior leaders aren’t rewarding people for doing enormous and unrealistic hours. For example, give a team member a shout out for what they’ve achieved, rather than for ‘pulling an all nighter’ or ‘working until 8pm every night’.
Have the conversations with senior management and internal stakeholders early to manage expectations. It simply is not sustainable for teams to let work consume their life, especially at a time like this when so many are feeling external stress and pressures.
How should businesses plan to improve their culture in the new world?
What this crisis has made many businesses aware of, is the opportunity that working from home provides. As flexible working now becomes the new normal, businesses must no longer define themselves by the 9-5 culture, but by the values that they choose to align to.
Just as communication has increased with the transition to remote working, so too should this continue, practices to improve morale and engage the workforce should be rewarded.
What advice would you give to a HR manager or business leader that may have to deliver bad news at any time?
Delivering bad news is never easy. Empathy is imperative to conducting a respectful and effective conversation. Before you meet with your team member, have a clear idea of the key points you need to cover. Make sure your team knows that their contribution is valued and most importantly, listen and empathise with their responses. Give them the opportunity to ask questions. Make time after the initial conversation to touch base and provide any resources that might help them during this time.
How can we keep employees we’ve had to stand down engaged with our business? How can we support them during this difficult time?
If you’ve had to stand down employees, it’s important that you keep a line of dialogue open so that once your business is in a position to potentially re-hire them they’re still engaged. The economy will bounce back and you want to be in a strong position when this happens.
We’ve created an automated workflow as part of our free COVID-19 Essentials HR platform, that helps businesses keep in touch with their stood down employees.
Empathy is paramount here, follow up with them regularly, ask them how they are progressing and if there is any way that you can help them out. Provide them with mental health resources and offer to write recommendations for them.
Each person is different, some may not want any contact initially, and that’s also completely fine.
What methods are the most effective to keep staff feeling connected while many are working from home?
Connectedness is directly related to communication. Speak with your team often, check in with them on their projects, and ask if you can help with any of their problems.
When only communicating with messaging systems or through emails, tone and smaller details can be lost. Where possible, try to speak on a video call and make time for small talk so your team feels like they are connected.
How can we maintain the social side of work when everyone is at home? What are some fun ideas?
When working from home, it’s important to break up the day so that you’re not just working in one big slog. Consider introducing some fun challenges into the workplace that everyone can get involved in. It’s important to still maintain some cultural aspects that will heighten the spirits of everyone’s day. At the intelliHR home offices, we have introduced a few things that have been working well for us:
How can we support parents who are working from home and have children home as well?
As with some of the answers above, it’s important to recognise that every home situation is completely unique. Speak with your team members to see what works for them. Some of your employees may need flexible working conditions, whereas others may need hours that are more fixed so they can get to tend to other duties. Having empathy for their situation and being willing to compromise will foster a trusting value based relationship with your team. Many parents will find themselves needing to take ‘shifts’ looking after their children, so flexible start and finish times will really help facilitate this.
What are good tools for HR to use during this time?
The best tools to use during this time are ones that are going to help you support and manage your team. We’ve recently launched free HR software to help you support and engage your team, whether they’re working on the front line, for home or temporarily stood down. Our COVID-19 Essentials HR Platform gives you the tools to respond to these evolving business operating conditions. You get:
Any tips for developing trust in these times? Especially if trust has been an issue between manager and employee in the past?
Trust has never been more necessary between team members. As working from home becomes more common, it’s important that your team members can trust each other to complete tasks and communicate effectively. To help facilitate this, it’s important that business leaders take time to check-in individually with their team members to establish what’s going well, and where their help is needed. It’s best to communicate with clarity and empathy, if there have been previous issues with a manager and their employee, a task management tool and recorded check-ins could be a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal. With consistent communication that is focused, and action items being completed, trust will soon grow.
What are your observations about the more traditional ‘institutional’ organisations?
Institutions that have previously been slow to progress to remote work have had the option to choose removed. Positively, we’ve seen many embrace working from home to help combat the Coronavirus crisis. Each business is completely unique, and their approaches will differ vastly.
Companies that aren’t putting their people first and are forcing attendance will feel the ramifications in the future. As job seekers flood the market, one of the key questions they’ll be asking is “how did you look after your employees during the 2020 crisis.” Loyalty to a company that puts margins ahead of people is unlikely to retain talent long term.