These are strange times, punctuated by vigorous hand-scrubbing, and rationed toilet paper.
The continued spread of Covid-19 has corralled most of us into makeshift home offices. Ironically, what would normally be a staple of flexible working has now become an entirely inflexible reality – we’re working from dining tables, sofas, beds, whether we like it or not.
So, business-as-usual these days isn’t quite business as usual. It’s now the responsibility of employers to consider: what can be done to support employees’ development and success while working remotely?
To help you provide this support, our business psychologists have identified five key WFH behaviours for you to nurture. We’ve also offered tips on how to help your people adopt them, even if they don’t necessarily come naturally!
Behaviour 1: Concentration
Newsflash: home environments can be distracting. Whether it’s a similarly home-bound partner, an untidy flat or even just the TV, there’s plenty to prevent you from focusing and hitting that work groove.
How to improve your employees’ concentration:
Encourage breaks. Your people can only stay sharp for so long. Why not empower them to break up their day and recharge? Time outdoors, for example, has been proven to boost concentration (though make sure to keep your distance from others!).
Establish priorities. Don’t let your people drown in a sea of ‘top priorities’ now they’re alone for long periods. Instead, check-in frequently to establish what’s most important, so they can allocate their focus in the most effective way.
Behaviour 2: Innovation potential
Enforced remote working will, for many, be a first. How well your people adapt and thrive under these circumstances will determine your business’s continued success.
Adapting to these conditions as they become the new normal will be crucial.
How to improve your employees’ innovation potential:
Encourage creativity. Innovation will require new ideas, some of which might fail. With more than 85% of workers found to stifle their brightest thoughts, it’s time to make sure their creativity is valued.
Maintain contact. Groups tackle problems faster – we’re social animals, and encouraging your people to reach out and collaborate (perhaps over Zoom or Skype) will help them establish new approaches to their remote working challenges.
Behaviour 3: Self-discipline
This one’s all about keeping organised. It’s the act of getting dressed every day as if you were heading into the office. Or maintaining a tidy, productive workspace.. It’s even making sure your diet doesn’t fast become biscuits and coffee!
How to improve your employees’ self-discipline:
Help with structure. Routine’s the name of the game when everything’s up in the air. Not sure whether to cancel that weekly meeting now you’re all remote? Keep it! A sense of normality will help maintain standards.
Commit to deadlines. Try to avoid assigning open-ended projects. Those with lower self-discipline can employ a more sporadic work style, so goal orientation will be vital in a remote setting.
Behaviour 4: Management of uncertainty
Do your people thrive amid ambiguity? With so much uncertainty around Covid-19, it’s likely that priorities will change as time progresses. This can be confusing and deflating for some, so it’s important you plan for this!
How to improve your employees’ management of uncertainty:
Define “success”. What does a good post-virus outcome look like for each employee’s function? This definition can act as a beacon through any confusion or conflicting directions.
Identify quick wins. There’s nothing worse than incomplete projects, left on the dust heap of history when your business changes tack. Quick wins can keep personal and team morale high amid frequent change. Make sure you’re clear on what a difference these wins make to the business!
Behaviour 5: Optimism!
Covid-19’s not just a matter of working from home. For many, it’s indiscriminately affecting health, finances and social lives.
It can, therefore, be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. While we’re not so naive to suggest that you, as HR personnel, can make single-handedly overcome the above factors, there are some steps you can take to boost employee optimism.
How to improve your employees’ optimism:
Encourage face-time. Loneliness really is the enemy of optimism. Encourage your people to seek out contact with colleagues through tools like Zoom or Skype – even if it’s not necessarily work related. Consider a virtual ‘water-cooler’ channel, for example.
Reinforce mission. Ultimately, what’re your people working towards? Find ways to ensure the collective understanding of your mission remains strong, even as your workforce remains remote and distributed.
There’s obviously no one ‘right’ way to work from home – everyone’s different. That said, adopting these behaviours ought to help set you up strongly for success if, as expected, we’re all holed up in our living rooms for the long-term.
Despite all the advice above, though, the most important thing will be to always put the health of yourselves, your loved ones and of wider society first. Stay safe, and look after each other.
Stuck indoors? Why not learn something new with our upcoming Lunchtime Learnings podcast series? Browse the upcoming episodes here!