Regular check-ins, relaxed rules, leadership support among solutions
In the midst of a global crisis that is forcing many office workers to become remote employees, keeping a positive mental health outlook is key to surviving and thriving while at home, says the CEO of a company that has always had workers staying home.
Shrad Rao of Wagepoint, a Calgary-based payroll software provider, began his company as a remote-worker operation in 2012 because he “didn’t want to have to worry about where I found talent [as long as] they had payroll as a background.”
While people can definitely be more productive at home, there is a difference, he says.
“You do miss bumping into someone and having a quick chat.”
For those workers who now find themselves forced to work-at-home because of the pandemic, and who may be suffering from anxiety, Rao offers some tips to make the transition seamless:
Promote regular check-ins: “In a remote environment, people put their heads down and they just keep working and they can often miss things because there’s so much happening in their own world. If you’re in an office, you can see when people are going towards the boardroom because you think something is happening; you don’t have that same line of sight in a remote team, so [it’s about] just reaching out from a job standpoint, just to get alignment on what it is that you’re doing, making sure it’s fitting into the larger picture. You need to have a cadence for check-ins.”
Make deliberate connections with colleagues: “Find a reason to reach out to somebody, that’s super important. Don’t take it for granted that just because you’re at home, that people don’t want to hear from you: People do want you to reach out and have a conversation. Set the rules for how to reach out and how to interact with each other. You have to make it acceptable to be able to take the time to reach out to someone and have that conversation. As a business leader, you have to set the ground rules for what kind of communication you should have and what is acceptable in the framework of that communication.”
Reassure employees about job status: “Most people are probably worried about where they stand from a job standpoint. HR departments should definitely be open to having people talk to them about anxieties related to their job security, that’s a huge one. You may even want your leadership to pre-empt some of those worries by getting in front of that question. I took the time to actually let people know I’m available if you are worried about job security: ‘Come and talk to me.’ I’m going to tell you all the things that we’re going to do before they even have to worry about that.’”
Update company policies to reflect COVID-19: “HR departments have to have some of the company policies updated because nobody was expecting this to factor into a policy, but it’s a good idea to revisit policies to make sure that those things are updated. Whether it’s HR, the leadership or just each other, it’s really just to be there for each other when there’s these complicated scenarios like this. This isn’t a company problem, this is a humanity problem: ‘Take care of each other.’”
Relax rules around teleconferencing: “Obviously, you don’t want to be interrupted by your kids all the time but people have to understand that this is the reality for other people. Everyone right now is having the intersection of personal life and professional life, because these two worlds are colliding. Everyone has had kids in the background. Before, when a coworker’s kid came in the background, they were busy apologizing for it; nowadays, it’s like ‘This is life.’ There’s a merging between these two sections and now you’re getting a first-hand glimpse as to how little difference there really is in your personal life and your professional life.”
Support leaders: “HR should obviously be supporting the leader of the company because they have to make some tough decisions, and they already know that. This is just one of those times, and I think even leaders of the company don’t fully know what to do.”