How to help your team work happily from home

Earlier this month, we looked at the importance of resilience for leaders and how we might try to build our resilience in order to take on challenges at work.

This time, we’re looking at resilience and well-being of staff members – particularly those who are working at home during lockdown.

A few days at the computer in the back bedroom or at the kitchen table is one thing but it’s been weeks now – and as a manager, there is a lot you can do to help your team stay sane and happy to be at work, at home.

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We’ve pulled together some helpful tips that might be worth exploring with your team:

In our last blog, we talked about how focusing on what we can do rather than what we can’t do can help to build our resilience when facing a challenge. The Mental Health Foundation echoes this with its advice that we should try to see this period as a different period of time in life – a break from the usual routine and not necessarily a bad one.

The experts suggest that we create a new routine with a focus on what we can do to take care of ourselves – including exercise, eating healthily, learning new skills through online courses, relaxing by reading or watching films.

If you have staff working from home, it might be worth talking to them about whether it could be helpful to vary their daily routine a bit in order to look after themselves – for example by taking a longer lunch break so that they can go for a walk or do their food shopping, or by allowing some time for personal development.

If staff have indicated to you that they’re struggling, then you may wish to go further and talk to them about establishing a routine for their work from home. The MHF gives the following tips that might be worth sharing:

  • Designate a work space that is as free of distraction as possible
  • Get ready for work – don’t work in your pyjamas on the sofa, get dressed and sit at your work space to try and create a mental divide between work time and personal time
  • Set a daily routine, including regular breaks and use a shared calendar such as Outlook to indicate to colleagues when you’re working and when you’re on a break
  • Agree amended hours with your line manager and set a daily routine that incorporates periods of childcare or home-schooling where necessary – ask your partner and older children to help you to manage this routine if you can
  • Set clear manageable tasks for the day to keep you on track – as managers, you may need to make sure that you’re giving clear guidance on what you expect staff to do and by when, to help them to understand what is required of them and to prioritise their time.

Consider checking in on staff individually to see how they are, and bear in mind your position as a role model and use that to show staff what is expected of them – are you having to modify your hours to look after your children, are you making sure that you’re taking a lunch break or setting yourself a logging off time? If so, let your staff know, it will give them the confidence to do the same.

It would be easy for people to feel isolated at the moment – even staff who are working at home with their families may feel cut off from the important relationships and stimulus of work colleagues. The MHF confirms that most people work better when they feel connected to others. You may want to set up a regular team video conference to keep everyone in touch – this could be for work-based discussion, or it could be simply social.

Consider a variety of forms of communication – video conferencing is great for maintaining face to face discussions, but what if staff just want to ask a quick question? Would a team WhatsApp group be a good way for people to help each other with simple queries? (Remember that WhatsApp is not an official business tool and you might want to keep discussion topics light and remind people not to share confidential information on there).

Talk honestly with staff – you can acknowledge the current uncertainty and the stress that it causes, and let staff know what steps the business is taking to weather the storm.

You may provide more reassurance by using open and honest communication, than by putting on a brave face. You can also ask staff for their suggestions as to practical steps that you can take – they may have ideas for keeping up communications and morale, or even saving some money, that might surprise you.

If the business is facing a quiet period, staff may want to use the time to do some volunteer work that will be good for their self-esteem as well as their community – and something positive for you to talk about in business updates or social media.

Some of the above tips are taken from the Mental Health Foundation guidance – there’s more here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus