By Andrew Bourne
The past few months have put organisations around the globe under unprecedented pressure. Few have been spared the economic fallout, with many unable to survive. Others have had to downscale and even those operating at full capacity have quickly had to adapt to new ways of working.
Offices that were used to having everyone onsite suddenly had to deal with fully remote teams. And even as people slowly come back into the workplace, it’s far from business as usual. All of these changes, in combination with the ongoing pandemic, have put employees under incredible strain.
As organisations move beyond the measures needed for short term survival, they should return to focusing on employee wellness and engagement. Here are four simple steps they can take in doing so.
Train your senior and mid-level management
The significance of effective communication during a crisis is obvious. What is even more important is ensuring that the right parties are equipped with the right skills. In any organisation, middle management is largely responsible for making employees feel truly valued. During periods of high anxiety, employees will appreciate team managers who are empathetic and practice clear communication.
As much as managers need to be accessible and reliable, they should also refrain from overdoing it and remember to give people space. As employees get accustomed to novel working conditions, it’s important to be sensitive to their mental well-being and offer routine flexibility. Another key consideration to keep in mind is to avoid micromanagement at all costs and trust your remote workers.
Design wellness programmes
Just as workplace premises include facilities like coffee stations or playrooms to help employees unwind and re-energise themselves, stay-at-home policies should also carry an equivalent. With physical activity taking the hardest knock in the daily routine, healthy lifestyle choices are imperative. Think about introducing provisions like corporate access to online workout classes, yoga, and meditation programs to help people stay physically and mentally healthy.
The absence of a workstation at home means employees can end up lounging wherever they find space. Another option is to provide one-time allowance packages that enable employees to set up an ergonomically correct home office and avoid spinal distress.
Educate your talent
Now is the time to take a step back and reflect on your business goals. Take a good look at the evolving business environment, identify the technologies that will make a real difference, and build up your employees’ skills accordingly. You should, for instance, consider establishing an in-house Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) division if your business is exposed to large amounts of data. Doing so will equip your employees with a deep sense of AI/ML technologies and save you from having to outsource.
With every economic crisis, enterprises have experienced similar levels of unpredictability. Thoughtful leaders have, however, been able to adapt and rebuild their businesses to stand the test of time.
Keep up the team spirit
Loss of social interaction can leave people feeling disconnected and subsequently negatively impact morale. Keep your team connected by encouraging monthly or weekly online team bonding activities, such as virtual Wednesday lunches that allow for non-work discussions.
Another idea is to suggest employees team up and participate in open competitions, such as virtual hackathons or exercise challenges. Such public activities are an added opportunity for remote teams to showcase their skills and present ideas that can create a social impact.
While the concept of remote work has been around globally since the 1970s, most companies have only recently embraced the model as part of their Covid-19 response. This unexpected shift was a huge culture shock for many employees. As they reel under the effect and rethink their priorities, how businesses take care of their workforce now will determine whether employees decide to stick with their current employer in the post-pandemic era.