Employee Management even under normal circumstances is a machine with a lot of moving parts. Successfully managing employees in the time of COVID-19 is a whole other story. More and more businesses are reopening from full or partial shutdowns while relying instead on safety measures such as social distancing and face coverings to regain a semblance of normal operations. At the same time, new case numbers are continually high. But there are strategies that can help you to successfully manage your employees during and through this global pandemic.
Cultural Shift Toward Safety
Compliance with state and local regulations about workplace safety is one thing, and it’s certainly something your business needs to take seriously. But you also want to make sure that your entire workplace culture shifts to hold safety at its center. Your employees will notice if your compliance with guidelines is enacted begrudgingly. While no one wants to have their operations slowed down by safety measures, putting your employees and their health first is far more important. Being sympathetic about workstyle changes is one thing ‒ a good thing, in fact ‒ but acting inconvenience because of basic safety measures is only going to demonstrate to your employees that they aren’t valued, whether or not that’s the case.
Instead, make safety a top priority, even if your workplace has shifted to remote work. Simple things like making sure the use of on-site equipment is pre-scheduled so that there isn’t any in-person employee overlap, or any ways that you can think of to increase safety beyond the call of duty to comply with all applicable guidelines, are going to meaningfully demonstrate to your employees that their safety is your top concern.
Communication is Key
Moving to remote work is one of the best ways to continue to operate as a business while making sure your employees are as safe as possible, but it also means drastic shake-ups to longstanding routines and communication structures.
You want to make sure to establish a clear communication plan for all of your teams and everyone on them. Start by working out what the best medium is for communication. A lot of teams are turning to applications like Zoom and Skype, of course, but that doesn’t mean that these are your ideal solution. Sometimes phone and email work just as well if that is what everyone is used to, as long as everyone is on the same page. This process could include some trial and error, and will likely result in a variety of communication methods being utilized, which, after all, is also the case for most traditional working environments.
That said, while your team might be communicating with one another via whatever medium suits the given message being delivered (for example, email might be better for something that isn’t time-sensitive, and can include email attachments such as graphs or documents, while Zoom might be better if more than two team members need to link up at the same time) your methods of communicating to and with your team should eventually settle into some sort of regularity. Regular Skype meetings, for example, can be really beneficial. If you and your team know they need to allocate a specific time in their schedule every day, then there will be no time wasted trying to get everyone on the same page. Likewise, your standing meeting shouldn’t flip flop between communication mediums, because that too will only add confusion and wasted time to the equation.
You also want to make sure that everyone knows how to use the selected platform effectively. While some people thrive on remote work, others may have a more difficult time adjusting. You want to make sure that everyone not only knows how to utilize your selected communication application, but you also want to make sure they are aware of the various additional functions that many of these applications have. You may, for example, run into a need for one employee to share their screen during a video conference. If your employee has been instructed on all of the functions of the application, this screen sharing can go off without a hitch and you won’t lose any time or, crucially, anyone’s attention.
Make Sure Employees Have What They Need
Working from home sounds like a pretty good idea from the outset. Everyone gets to have their own workstation set up exactly as they see fit and in a way that is most conducive to their individual workstyle. The problem is that employees regularly rely on standard supplies, technologies, and processes that the office setting has to offer but that not every home office does. While it’s not necessarily required to make sure that all of your employees have the same level of resources in their home office as they would back at the office, it’s easy to see that if they find themselves in need of something that they don’t have access to, then the overall work is going to suffer. Still, if you don’t have the resources to provide everyone with, for example, a scanner or a photocopier, you can still set up a scheduling system to have your employees access these tools within the office without running into other employees. That said, providing your employees with the necessary resources to work as well as they would within the office can see a tremendous return on investment. It’s not at all uncommon for businesses to provide remote employees with a stipend to spend on home office supplies.
Examination of Long-Term Goals
It may be some time before work can return to normal, and when the possibility presents itself, it might be the case that some work can actually be preformed better remotely. While remote work does have a host of advantages, from reduced costs to elimination of time wasted commuting, some businesses will find that not all tasks are able to be completed remotely. As remote work stretches on longer than some anticipated, many businesses that typically rely on in-person work are starting to realize the limits of remote work. That said, remote work as a concept isn’t always the limiting factor, and a lot of work that traditionally relied on in-person communication can now be completed remotely with the support of new tools, technologies, and adaptive thinking. Still, you will want to take stock of your long-term goals now in order to better plan your team’s workflow for not only the coming months but the coming years. Now might be the best time to fully invest in remote work, but it also might shine a light on the notion that not all work that your team does can be adequately completed remotely. So it’s time to ask yourself and your team what work is able to be performed remotely.
If there is work that relies on in-person communication and collaboration, you’ll want to establish an action plan for performing this work safely. In the case that all work can be meaningfully completed remotely, you may want to consider establishing new habits now that will continue beyond the scope of this pandemic.
Transparency should be a through-line in your management approach to this pandemic. Be honest with your team not only about your expectations for them and their productivity, but also about the difficulties that you may all face together. Be open and honest about your safety measures and the reasons behind them. Keep everyone on the same page about the, in many cases, continually evolving communication situation. And don’t forget to individually touch base with your employees to understand how these changes and goals are impacting them. Finally, make sure that when you do establish your long-term goals, that your team is a part of that decision and kept in the loop during the process.