woman working from home

In effort to keep employees and customers safe during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, many businesses are shifting to a remote work model. While there are many upsides to making this switch—including safety and the ability to earn income during a time of quarantine—unexpectedly going from office life to remote life can pose some new challenges for managers and employees alike.

If you’re having difficulty adjusting to a work-from-home setup, here are a few tips for remaining productive and maintaining communication with coworkers while social distancing.  

Be Aware of Work-from-Home Challenges

Common challenges of remote work include feelings of isolation among employees, shifts in work-life balance, lack of camaraderie, and increased distractions. These challenges can be especially apparent in emergency situations where businesses must make the switch to remote work on short notice. Employees who are accustomed to the rhythm and schedule of their workplace may find it difficult to quickly adjust from an office environment to working from home.

If not managed properly, these obstacles can lead to lower productivity levels and poor communication among team members. Fortunately, there are several things managers and employees can do to combat these challenges and support their coworkers during unexpected periods of working remotely.

Establish a Dedicated Workspace

If you are accustomed to working outside of the home every day, it’s likely that you do not have a dedicated workspace in your house or apartment. As a result, you may find yourself migrating with your laptop from the couch to the kitchen table and back again throughout the day. Constant movement like this can be disruptive to your workflow and productivity. It’s recommended that remote employees establish a dedicated workspace that is differentiated from the rest of their living quarters. Working from this spot during business hours can help minimize distraction.

Use Collaborative Communication Tools

It’s no surprise that isolation is one of the biggest challenges employees must overcome  when working remotely. In addition to phone and email channels, a company can encourage regular communication and collaboration among its employees by using an instant messaging app such as Slack, Spark, or Microsoft Teams. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype for Business, and Google Hangouts are also valuable communication tools to make available for remote employees.

Additionally, the absence of normal workday structure can be a difficult adjustment for team members who are used to more traditional office environments. Utilizing collaborative project management tools such as Asana and Monday.com are great ways to maintain workflow and structure while operating remotely.

Maintain Consistent Check Ins

Managers should consider touching base regularly with remote team members via phone call, instant message, or video chat. Having short, yet consistent, check-ins will keep managers and collaborators updated on project statuses, client goals, workflow challenges, and more. It’s also a great time to ask what you, as a manager, can do to help facilitate your team’s work. Do your employees have all the tools and information they need to do their jobs from home? If not, how can you help them get what is needed?

Regular team communication can also help establish a routine, boost morale, and create a sense of normalcy amidst uncertain circumstances.

Encourage Self-Care

As the news of COVID-19 and the uncertainty that it brings surrounds us, it’s more important than ever that workers take the time to practice good self-care. Prioritizing your physical, emotional, and mental health through self-care can be very effective in reducing stress, increasing productivity, and improving quality of life.

Clear time each day to take part in hobbies and other activities that bring you joy. And don’t forget to exercise! While it may be strange to miss your normal trips to the gym, there are lots of great workouts you can do at home with little or no equipment. Many physical training providers are even making their workouts available for free online during the coronavirus quarantine period.

Employers and managers can help do their part by regularly encouraging employees to engage in self-care activities and practices. Employers should also ensure that their workers are aware of any helpful tools and resources available to them through their benefits package. For example, if your EAP provides employees access to free telehealth counseling services, it would be beneficial to share this information with your remote staff, so that employees struggling with anxiety or work-life balance challenges can utilize their resources and get the help they need.

The many changes to work and everyday life brought on by coronavirus (COVID-19) can feel overwhelming to business leaders and employees. But with the right tools, routines, and good communication, companies can address workflow challenges and support their teams as they work remotely.

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