woman working from home at desk
From performing daily check-ins to providing emotional support, there are many ways to encourage employees to stay productive and on track while working remotely. — Getty Images/AlenaPaulus

There’s no doubt coronavirus (COVID-19) has drastically changed the business landscape in 2020, with more businesses than ever encouraging or requiring employees to work from home. While many employees already do some work remotely, many workers and managers are still trying to adjust to this paradigm shift.

Working from home means more distractions, fewer ways to interact naturally with fellow employees, and more social isolation — all of which can lead to less productivity. To overcome these challenges, employers should explore new ways to manage and collaborate with employees and enable more ways for employees to connect with each other.

Here are six ways you can keep your team productive while they are working from home or in the field.

Equip your team with tech and productivity tools

First and foremost, one of the most important ways to help teams succeed while working remotely is to get them tools to help them stay connected and productive. These include project management tracking apps such as Asana and Airtable, chat/messaging apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, and video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Equipping teams with these new technologies allows managers and employees all stay on the same page no matter where they are working from, whether it’s from home or waiting in a long line at the grocery store. These new apps might also help keep your team more productive and connected after COVID-19 fears lessen and people go back to work.

Establish daily check-ins

With managers no longer getting daily face time with employees and employees not being able to chat around the proverbial water cooler, creating a daily check-in routine is an important way to set priorities and foster connections. A morning check-in via video chat, phone call or instant message can create a sense of normalcy. These check-ins can be one-on-one or held among small groups.

The tech and productivity tools mentioned above can be vital for revamping regular check-ins. For example, if you previously held a daily all-hands meeting in-person, you may want to use a video conferencing app to have a virtual version of the same meeting each morning. Revamped meetings that adapt specifically to remote workers can help you maintain productivity.

Set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging apps throughout the day to help employees.

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Encourage dedicated workspaces

Many regular office workers have never needed dedicated workspace in their homes, but if they are now regularly working from home, managers should encourage the creation of home offices that are separate from communal space. In some cases, companies have even offered large stipends to help workers create appropriate, productive spaces for remote work.

Dedicated workspaces can help free employees from the normal distractions from home life. With many parents needing to be at home with their children due to school closures, an office away from family can allow you to maintain focus and stay on task. Even if this office is a temporary makeshift space — such as a guest room, basement, attic or walk-in closet — this can help you mentally separate work from home.

Provide emotional and steady support

As working from home can contribute to loneliness and negative emotions, employers should do what they can to provide emotional support to employees. Leaders should set the tone for their virtual offices with a calm and upbeat presence, which helps create a level-headed workplace where people can still get things done.

In a fully remote work setup, managers should also be more available than usual for check-ins and other questions that may come up given the unfamiliar circumstances. Set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging apps throughout the day to help employees.

Leaders should additionally encourage self-care among their employees, who mentally are trying to adapt to remote work, the stress of new environments and the stress of daily updates around COVID-19. Managers should advocate for Remote employees to exercise, get quality sleep, take showers, and continue on with lives as normally as they can.

Dress for success

While it may not sound important to be dressed for business while working from home, psychologically it does help many workers to not be wearing sweatpants and pajamas while trying to be productive. Dressing up for yourself can also mentally help you feel better, thus making it easier to focus on checking important tasks off your list. Dressing appropriately also allows employees to feel more comfortable hopping on an impromptu video call with clients or coworkers.

Don’t forget about non-work interactions and team building

Finally, one last thing that may not be obvious to managers is the importance of facilitating non-work interactions among remote workers. Creating time and space for workers to talk about news, hobbies, and other topics — just as they would have done in the office — helps them relieve stress and feel better connected. One way to do this is to leave a few minutes before and after video conferences open for people to catch up. Another is to host a weekly virtual happy hour (drinking not required) or a virtual team-building exercise to build bridges between employees.

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

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Published March 19, 2020