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How to create a healthy workplace remotely

As we see parts of the world slowly reducing pandemic-related restrictions, a new question arises for all those dealing with employee wellbeing. Can we ever get back to how it once was? The answer is most probably no. But then again, should we? 

If the pandemic taught us anything, it is how to adapt and grow in unprecedented environments. We have all been forced to change our routines in some manner, whether as an individual or as a company. 

Even prior to the pandemic, Rebecca experienced a very busy schedule. Rebecca has always thoroughly enjoyed sports and tried to live a healthy lifestyle, however during the pandemic she sometimes forgot to take these little physical and mental well-being breaks in her schedule. She found herself juggling the care of her toddler, managing the remote-schooling for another young child, whilst working full time, and still managing her team. 

Therefore, as I am sure you can imagine in situations such as this, the necessity to ensure that ‘remote working’ is still a healthy workplace for employees is even greater.

Rebecca discovered various strategies which proved successful in promoting workplace wellbeing, boosting productivity, and employee satisfaction.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

We can not stress enough the importance of communication. Rebecca quickly realized that even with her team able to work within the same office, misunderstandings and communication breakdowns can be a part of daily life. Thus, with the requirement for home working, sitting at home with laptops, the possibility of toddlers and pets running around and demanding attention, this became an even greater risk. Regular and clear communication is key to a successful team dynamic in both office and remote working environments.

It is important that for any regular or in-depth meetings, that agendas are preplanned and organised, and result in follow-up actions. This often requires a systematic chair to guide the meeting and ensure that all topics listed on agendas have been covered. Some departments opted to use a project management software, which simplified their task distribution, increased transparency, improved productivity, and reduced the number of emails exchanged among team members.

For those shorter meetings and day-to-day catch-ups, platforms such as Facebook’s Workplace have proven to be especially effective. This platform allows all employees to communicate with each other in a fast and direct manner, allowing individuals to keep track of projects, discuss ideas, ask for help, share success, or talk about life beyond work. 

On a final note, it is also recommended that managers attempt to regularly check in with individual employees on an informal basis to allow for the maintenance/creation of strong relationships, create a confidential space, or simply check in on any issues the employee may be be facing both inside and outside the workplace.

Encourage time off

The remote working lifestyle inherently keeps us connected throughout the day. Hearing the chime of a new notification or e-mail arrival might create psychological pressure for many or result in certain team members connecting almost 24/7. 

Managers are advised to encourage their team members to take time off. Fully disconnecting will help employees decompress and rest up properly, hopefully allowing them to spend quality time with their friends or families, take time for themselves, and return feeling refreshed and more productive.

One size does not fit all

We must take into consideration that whilst a simple reminder to Marius to log off on an afternoon might do him good, suggesting the same method to Kate might not be so effective. Individuals may be at their most productive at different times of the day. The post Covid-19 reality has more than ever enhanced the importance of flexibility, and enabled us to better understand one another’s needs. Research shows that some of the most successful companies worldwide offered flexibility even before the pandemic. 

Offer mental (and physical) health support services

Another great lesson from the pandemic is that seeking help is not a crime. Sometimes, a simple reminder to employees that there is support available, may provide them a level of stress relief. Offering complimentary de-stressing classes such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can also help staff switch off and take a much-needed break. 

Don’t forget about fun activities

Similar to the use of yoga and meditation classes, additional activities/classes could be organised to keep up team spirit and help employees relax. Try to arrange activities or introduce conversations that engage employees on a personal level. Events such as Quiz or Game nights can be engaging and fun ways of reminding employees to stop and enjoy the ride. Between Arnis hosting a live DJ for a virtual Christmas party and Ayushi organizing online Diwali celebrations, we have now literally seen it all. 

Do your research

Finally, there is no single set template for effective employee wellbeing strategies. Personalization is the key to fulfilling the needs of each employee. While this task may seem particularly complicated for the Human Resources department, the first step could be implementing an anonymous survey to discover initial team needs. Once these results are gathered external providers can be investigated who offer the requested solutions or services, such as financial consultants to help manage employees’ taxes and investment needs, corporate tie-ups with local grocery apps to provide quicker and better service, and virtual or personal trainers.

Pivot, Pivot, Pivot

As famously used to maneuver a sofa in the TV sitcom Friends, the notion of ‘pivoting’ has become ever more apparent in day to day life. As Rebecca enters into the post Covid-19 workplace reality it is clear that things will not be the same again, thus now the key to employee wellbeing will likely forever remain a moving target. Continuous evaluation, improvements, and growth are vital to creating a healthy workplace, be it remote, in-office, or a hybrid situation.