On Thursday, 12 March, 2020, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the situation of the Covid-19 outbreak that it might continue for some time – a year, or possibly longer. Meaning, employees who have been working from home since the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) was raised to Orange might continue to do so in the months ahead.
Employees who are working from home initially might have experienced its early merits of increased productivity – being able to save time from their daily commute and streamline personal tasks while working throughout the day.
However, productivity levels might begin to dwindle down after long periods of working from home as employees begin to feel unstructured or isolated. Supervisors might begin to worry about losing control and command of the team virtually.
For those who are worrying about these problems arising, here are some tips to facilitate a positive and productive mindset.
1) Communication – and continuity – is key
Not only is it important to communicate, it’s equally important to preserve the beat of a typical workday. Workplaces should conduct meetings per usual – this period can be used to evaluate which meetings are worth the time investment. Otherwise, stick to the communication tools your team is best accustomed to, such as Slack, Zoom, WebEx, etc. Managers should use these tools to foster teamwork and encourage employees to voice any concerns or problems they are experiencing early on.
2) Set clear boundaries with your team
The boundaries between work and personal tasks can bleed over during this time – employees may feel the need to stay connected at all times (during lunch, appropriate breaks, and even spilling into the evening). To foster trust and understanding, it is best for managers to set clear boundaries with their teams early on to see what their preferred style of work is. You may have one member of the team who works earlier than others and another who prefers to work later.
Does your team have the appropriate resources to work remote? What can employers do to make the transition easier for them? These vary amongst different teams and it is important to address these questions so that everyone is on the same page.
3) Make working at home work for you
Working from home guarantees a certain level of comfort, be it wearing casual clothes or working on a sofa. However, it might be hard to switch gears into a serious mindset beyond a certain level of comfort. Creating a temporary ‘office space’ exclusively for work might help you get into the productive state that you yearn for.
Improving the ergonomics of this space either by sitting upright on a makeshift office chair or turning on extra lights to brighten your workspace can help. Creating an office space is also one-way to hint to your family members of the boundaries at home - so as to ensure that they do not disturb when you are in the zone.
4) Create a routine and stick to it
Staying at home for prolong hours can be detrimental to your health due to inactivity. With the time saved on commuting to work, there is ample time to squeeze in an exercise routine. Whether it is going for a run or hitting the gym, it is a good opportunity to keep the body healthy and the mind smart. If exercising is not your cup of tea, you can practice other mindful habits such as meditation or yoga at home.
5) Actively reinforce organisation sick leave policies
Employers should pay special attention to older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions in planning their operations or work schedules. As for employees who are feeling unwell, they should be given the benefit of doubt to see a doctor. Especially during this virus outbreak, employees should be socially responsible and take sick leave. Not only will you become a work hazard, it will also affect your co-workers as it might spread to others.
As an employer, now is the best time to get rid of negative stigma behind taking sick leaves. Employers should build a culture of trust with the workers and reaffirm to them that going to work sick is discouraged. Greater trust in employees can bring about positive empowerment and reassurance. This will lead to long-lasting impacts such as talent retention and greater productivity.
6) Lastly, keep your attitude in check
Working from home is a new experience for both you and the team. It will take time to readjust to a new environment. No doubt, there will be some teammates who experience difficulty transitioning. During this time, giving additional pressure to your workers may not be the best course of action. Instead, look on the positive side of things - caring for them might help to improve interpersonal relationships between you and the employee. After all, building a strong rapport with your employee is a key indicator of good leadership.
In times of difficulty, many team leaders have different approaches towards their employees. Always remember that no matter the approach, it boils down to how you communicate and treat your employees that will determine their working performance. View this situation as an opportunity to work as a team and overcome this challenge of working from home!
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