Photo by Chris Montgomery
How can companies create a remote working environment that is both productive and emotionally comfortable?
With offices forced to close for long periods due to COVID-19, many people have adapted well to remote working. They have found working from home offers benefits from more flexible working hours to fewer distractions. However, working solo can also make employees feel more isolated; they may struggle to separate work and home life. This can leave workers less motivated and affect their overall wellbeing.
Read on to discover four ways to create an emotionally comfortable remote working environment that supports your team while helping keep them focused.
Establish Boundaries Between Work and Home
Remote working often means more flexibility in working hours and no time spent commuting to and from the office. However, it can also make it harder to establish boundaries between work and home life. Employees might be tempted to work longer hours to maintain their productivity. Or they might feel like they need to be available at all hours of the day so can’t switch off.
It’s important to help remote workers establish a clear boundary between their working day and free time. Otherwise, their mental well-being may suffer. At the very least, their stress levels will likely increase.
Outline the hours, or at least the number of hours, staff should work. Even if an employee is flexible with their actual working hours, encourage them to not work beyond a certain time in the evening so they have a proper break.
Also, suggest ways in which they can keep work and home separate. For example: Setting up a dedicated office space away from where they would relax in the evening. Or switching off the computer at the end of the day and over weekends. And suggest they not check emails before their agreed-upon work-day begins or after it ends. Finally, share useful information about staying motivated when working from home like this post from the Productivityist blog.
And, of course, encourage people to take their annual leave. Even if they don’t have any holiday plans or the pandemic continues to make travel difficult, it’s important to take time off. And it’s crucial that every team member feels they deserve a break.
Ensure a Productive Home Office Setup
Even though we’re several months into the pandemic, not everyone has a perfectly productive space at home for remote working. But it’s important to do everything you can to set them up with a productive-as-possible workspace. Treat their home space the same way as you would getting someone set up in your office building. After all, space and equipment impact their ability to focus well enough to do their job well.
When possible, provide W-2 employees with all the equipment and furniture they need. From a technology perspective, provide a laptop, screen, keyboard, headphones, cell phone, and any job-specific equipment. Also, ensure they have a proper desk and an ergonomic good chair. To identify and resolve any issues, share a workstation evaluation checklist like this one from OSHA with all remote employees. Also helpful, StarTech has some useful guides sharing tips for ensuring fast internet connections, reducing eye strain, and creating a comfortable set up. Once an analysis is done, you can then send employees any extra equipment they might need such as audio cables, adaptors, wireless devices, and laptop stands.
Set Clear Expectations
When you’re working in an office, it’s fairly easy to have a quick five-minute catch-up conversation or ask questions about your work. You can spontaneously talk through projects and assignments. While face-to-face, it seems easier to provide a detailed handover of work.
To create an emotionally comfortable remote work environment, leaders and peers must ensure everyone is on the same page at all times. They must feel confident about what they are doing and who to talk to if they’ve got questions. Just as important, they need to know how to talk to people and when.
To generate this feeling of confidence, companies need to set up the right systems and procedures. It must be clear what someone is expected to do, specific tasks they need to complete, and how long it should take. Ensure you are effectively managing projects — provide clear, detailed briefs for work that covers everything they need to know and when it’s due. In all cases, expectations around deadlines must be properly set.
You can create a document management system by following the steps in this post from The Balance. The key: Keep documents stored in one easily accessible place, and establish a procedure for creating, organizing, and sharing documents or projects.
Maintain Regular Communication
Another important part of creating an emotionally comfortable remote working environment is keeping in regular contact with everyone. Your goal: To stop people from feeling isolated or alone. Remote workers can struggle to feel like they are still part of a team. Isolation can cause a loss of motivation, which may lead to a less engaged employee.
Use daily meetings to catch up on work progress. Arrange regular video call drop-in sessions where your team can talk about non-work related things and catch up. Also, add an extra five minutes at the start of scheduled meetings for everyone to chat a bit.
Every month or so, arrange a well-being check-in with individuals to see how they’re doing and to give them a chance to discuss any challenges. Regular staff surveys are also a useful way to connect and check-in with employees. You can use this survey template from SurveyMonkey to determine how your team is coping and the steps necessary to improve their remote working environments.
Create and Maintain a Comfortable Remote Work Environment
Overall, creating an emotionally comfortable remote working environment relies on maintaining contact between everyone in the business. It also means checking in to see how people are doing.
To successfully make it through the COVID pandemic, it’s important to make people feel like they are still part of a team, even when working alone.