Large and small businesses are finding interesting ways to keep employees engaged and feeling like they are part of the team while they are all still working from home. And amid the new reality, workers are expressing a desire to make the new arrangement work, even beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Is remote work here to stay? The jury is still out on what the post-COVID world will be like, but some workers are already asking for a permanent work from home policy, or at least the flexibility of a hybrid office-home situation. Indeed, even before the pandemic, workers valued flexibility and have been voicing their preference for remote work. Offering it could be a competitive advantage for small businesses that want to hire and retain the best employees.
In a recent Gallup poll, two-thirds of US workers said they’d like to continue to work remotely as much as possible once public health restrictions are lifted. In all, 35% of those who have worked remotely would simply prefer to do so while 30% would like to do so because of a concern about COVID-19. Another 35% say they would like to return to working at their office.
Still, in another recent Gallup survey, the pollster found that the percentage of engaged workers in the US – i.e. they are not only committed to their work and workplace but they are also highly involved and enthusiastic, reached 38% during the pandemic – that’s the highest it has reached in several years. Companies are trying everything from sending employees lunches to hosting virtual happy hours to let them know they are valued.
RBB Communications in Miami took this to a new level with a number of virtual wellness activities like yoga classes and stress management webinars. To lighten things up, they also had a take your pet to Zoom day.
As the pandemic stretches on, more companies are considering continuing with permanent or voluntary work-from-home arrangements long after we are past COVID-19. In addition to getting creative with your Zoom sessions that encourage engagement and team spirt, HR experts recommend that small businesses follow similar protocols that larger companies would in setting up guidelines for permanent work from home arrangements, including:
- Set clear expectations: Clearly define what job requirements can be performed from home and what cannot. Set clear expectations on what virtual meetings they will need to participate in and, once your physical office is open again, make clear whether office visits will be expected and the frequency.
- Help employees feel comfortable: Give employees advice and financial assistance if possible to create efficient workspaces with the proper technology, good lighting, ergonomic chairs, headsets that suit their needs, etc.
- Set clear ground rules: Set guidelines for work hours, family time, virtual calls, etc. Some companies provide flexibility on working hours, but make the rules clear, particularly around how you will communicate and when team engagement, albeit virtually, is required. .
- The tech is key: Ensure workers have the high tech devices and high-speed connectivity needed to perform their tasks to your expectations.
- Security training: A work from home situation may be cybersecurity challenges. Make sure employees get the training – and protocols — they need to avoid trouble, such as by using public wifi.
- Take stock: Very important – establish how job performance will be determined and measured and how your feedback will be delivered.
Want to learn more? A recent Florida SBDC at FIU webinar focused on hiring and managing employees, especially now. View it here.
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