How can you create a “best place to work” while not in the office? As the CEO of a back-to-back winner of Best Staffing Firm to work for, here are some things that we have been doing (that you can easily adopt) while we work from home to make our “office” a best place to work and keep all of our teammates engaged and on the same page.
Schedule Check-Ins With Your Team
These can be individual or team check-ins, or both. Video is best; it holds people accountable. Scheduling one for the morning and one for the evening works best. Talk to your employees like people. Ask how they feel about working remote and social distancing, and ask if there’s anything you can provide them with that would make it easier. You don’t stop managing your people when you stop managing a physical office.
Why: People need human interaction to thrive, and we work best when we’re communicating with others. Science agrees; Simon Garrod and Martin J Pickering, two European scientists, analyzed language processing in human beings. They discovered that the long-held belief that “monologue” was simpler than “dialogue” was untrue, and humans in fact are designed for dialogue with others. A simple conversation with your employees will make a big difference in how isolated they feel.
Have Virtual Happy Hours
Half of the fun of working in an office is the relationships and friendships you bond over as teammates. We all have a “work-wife” or a “work-husband,” that person you can’t get through the day without, who’s always willing to grab a coffee with you when you need to destress. Working from home takes away that opportunity to interact as an office; bring it back. Schedule some time once a week, half an hour before the office would normally close, and invite your team to hop on a video call to chat and hangout. You’ll all feel more connected by the end of it.
Why: Human beings do not do well in social isolation; this is a well-known fact. (Consider that captors use social isolation as a torture technique with prisoners of war). People need human interaction to thrive, and carving out time for your employees to have it will be a big help for everyone in the long run.
This isn’t merely a “work from home” situation. This is a major pandemic with life-altering effects on people, and your employees are only human. They’re coping with anxieties about the world and their families, trying to get used to staying indoors all the time (notoriously bad for both health and spirit), and reeling from the abrupt end of their life as they know it (for the current moment anyway). Be kind, and show them some flexibility in this time. If they need the morning off, let them have it. If you sense someone might be struggling or overwhelmed, suggest that they log off a little early to take care of themselves. If their spouse/kids/pets are taking up their time, understand that it’s unavoidable, and allow them the time they need to take care of it. Being home, you are essentially in your “office” 24/7/365. Ensure your employees know that you understand they’re only human, and you’ll see a big jump in happiness and productivity.
Why: In stressful, possibly traumatic situations such as a pandemic, everyone reacts differently. The CDC tells us stress may manifest both mentally and physically, causing trouble sleeping and concentrating, worsening of chronic and mental health conditions, and even increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. In other words, it’s something to take seriously, and most of your employees are probably dealing with these effects. If their family is sick, it’s probably worse. Now is not the time to be riding your employees to work harder and faster; it’s the time to be patient and understanding.
Make the Work Day Fun
This can be anything! Set a workout for the same time everyday to encourage your employees to get up and do something, whether it be yoga, dancing, pushups, anything. And put it on the calendar and follow up on it. Make sure the team feels this is for their benefit. You could all learn a special skill together, like calligraphy or painting, or even a new language. Talk to your team. Figure something out that will make everyone a little less bored and a little more excited about life, and then do it together. Set up an office group chat to keep up with the banter you’d normally have in person. As a leader, make sure you’re participating in this as well.
Why: Not only does working out decrease your risk of major illness, but it also helps to combat anxiety and depression. Harvard Medical School tells us that learning new skills in adulthood slows cognitive aging and improves memory. Whatever you decide to do, it will have enormous effects on your mental (and likely physical) health, as well as helping to build those social ties that we discussed earlier.
Create a Team Competition
This can be anything (at Syfter, we turn everything into a competition). If there’s a project two people are working on, make it a contest to see who gets it done first. If you have two people creating content, make it a competition to see who can do it more creatively. If you’re a staffing firm, like us, make it a contest to see who can get more interviews for a certain role. This can even be as simple as one of our favorites: a water-drinking contest. See who can drink a gallon of water the most days in a row. It keeps people engaged and active, and reminds you to think of your teammates on a daily basis to make sure you’re backing them up.
Why: Competitions are fun, especially for people who thrive on extrinsic motivation. A 2015 study showed that although competition could be harmful for memory-based tasks (and retaining that information), participants did react more quickly with physical tasks in a competitive environment. If you need your employees to learn and retain something, best to leave the competition out of it. If you just need a fun way to motivate people to get things done, try a little in-house contest!
The goal here is to maintain your company culture however you can. This will look differently than being in an office, but it will ensure your employees remain loyal to you and still love to work where they do.