Working from home took on a new connotation when the COVID-19 crisis shut down businesses globally and across North America. People ordered to stay home had to find new ways to get their work done and businesses needed to adapt accordingly.
Of course, challenges arose.
One of the biggest problems with this new, larger remote workforce is the isolation that many people are facing and its effect on productivity and the businesses they support.
Not only are people missing out on the inter-office collaboration, but the lack of water cooler talks could be taking a toll on the workers who are used to being in an office daily.
A recent Canadian poll found that more than half of Canadians feel isolated and lonely because of physical distancing during this crisis.
“One thing we’ve really missed since we’ve all switched to working remotely is the office vibe—that feeling of togetherness and productivity that you get when working in an office. I’ve personally found it harder to focus without having my coworkers around me as I would normally have in the office, and I definitely think it has affected my productivity,” says Sam Williamson of CBDiablo UK.
Studies have previously found that loneliness has a direct impact on an employees’ productivity. These employees take more sick days and are less committed, with weaker performance noted.
What can employers do?
Understand the work-life balance.
Now isn’t the time to saddle your employees with more work.
Many employees who are working from home are now also managing their children and homes in ways they weren’t prior to the beginning of the crisis. With reduced or no childcare, having to homeschool their children, as well as feed and care for them will take up a considerable chunk of their day. Not to mention, being home 24/7 with children amid a health crisis means taking added measures to ensure safety. These unprecedented measures in unprecedented times are stressing people out.
“It is important for employers to remember this is a very strange time in the world, and one of the main focus points with moving people online should be ensuring they feel supported. Many people are scared, which can easily cause accidental distraction and a lack of productivity. Employers and team leaders should ensure they are checking in with staff to keep up to date with people’s individual needs (some may be dealing with the family being at home, others may be struggling being completely alone.) It is more than likely that the personal issues will be what creates difficulty in the remote working environment. Be a supportive leader – people aren’t just working remotely, they are working remotely during a pandemic,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry and Loanry.
“It can be easy to go to the negative during these times. Revenue is down in most companies. People are getting laid off in all sectors. But, the trick to keeping workers motivated and happy is to stick to the positive. “Try to keep the work chats positive where possible and focus on achievements. Let the team know how you are all working together to get through this. It’s amazing how a supportive, honest team with good communication can really help at least a small part of your day feel normal,” says Elliot Reimers from Rave Reviews.
“This may go without saying, but make sure to thank your employees. Whether it’s approving their work or just checking in, tell them how much you like what they’ve done. Or simply tell them [they’ve done a] good job. Most people take pride in their trade, and recognizing their skills will make them go above and beyond for you on the next job,” says Andrew Helling of Rethority.
With little face-to-face communication, remote work can be unpleasantly thankless. If you need a reminder to thank your employee who is going above and beyond during the crisis and keeping the ship afloat, set one in your calendar. Find unique ways to show your employees you appreciate them, as that just might be the right step to motivating them to do more.
Once the crisis is over, we may see a push for more and more employees to remain remote. And there will be a lot to learn about what we experienced both as employees and employers.