We don’t know what the future will hold. The COVID-19 pandemic might start to recede, or it might worsen. Our children may continue remote education, or they may head back to school. The economy might begin to recover, or it might drop a bit more.
One major source of uncertainty for your employees is the question about where they might find themselves working in the coming weeks and months. Will they stay at home for the foreseeable future, or will they be called back to the office?
Your company may have had a work-from-home policy mapped out well before the pandemic. But it’s likely the pandemic rendered much of your carefully-planned policy obsolete.
Policies are all about certainty. Robust policies tell your employees where they stand and what to expect. So, now is the perfect time to revisit your work-from-home policy to update it for the COVID era.
How We Adjusted Our Work-From-Home Policy at WellRight
Here at WellRight, as in many other workplaces, we already had a flexible work-from-home policy in place before the pandemic arrived. Typically, most of our employees worked remotely once a week. And we made sure everyone understood they had the option to work from home whenever the demands of their lives required it.
When COVID-19 hit, our leadership team made the call to go 100% remote. Of course, at the time, we thought we would all be back at the office in a few weeks. But a few weeks gave way to a few months, and here we still are, working remotely.
Thankfully, the switch to all-remote work has gone swimmingly here. This is in part due to our readiness. For example, most members of our team were already expert Zoom users.
But our employees have also flourished in a remote environment because we’ve been deliberate, communicative, and transparent about updating our work-from-home policy for the times. Some of the steps we’ve taken include:
- Not letting uncertainty control our timeline. We’ve told our employees that our 100% remote arrangement will last at least through September 2021, regardless of the state of the pandemic between now and then. This has allowed our team members to settle into their home workspaces for the long haul. Some have even chosen to give up their apartment leases and move out of the city, knowing their commute won’t be a concern for the next year.
- Conducting regular all-hands meetings. We’ve decided it’s better to over-communicate than to under-communicate. We want to keep everyone in the loop on our decisions and business situation.
- Revamping our employee handbook to reflect the new reality. We are currently rewriting sections of our employee handbook to clarify our work-from-home policy and suggest best practices for successful remote work. This is our acknowledgment that the “new normal” shouldn’t be seen as a temporary solution but an intrinsic part of how we do business moving forward.
Creating an Infrastructure to Support Working from Home
Perfecting your work-from-home policy is just the first step towards empowering your employees to do their best work and stay safe and satisfied in a remote environment. The most effective policies are backed up by a company-wide infrastructure that supports your remote employees as well as—if not better than—your office workplace.
Some infrastructure improvements we’ve rolled out at WellRight include:
- Offering an allowance for creating an ergonomic workspace. To be comfortable, healthy, and productive while working from home, your employees will need certain amenities, such as second monitors, ergonomic chairs, and ample desk space. We offer our employees an allowance to purchase the equipment they require. We also allow them to take what they need from the office (as long as they let us know so we can track inventory).
- Providing free educational resources and videos that offer tips on the best ways to work remotely.
- Establishing regular hours for availability. We want our employees to understand we don’t expect them to be available 24/7 simply because they’re working from home. Our new policy says employees should commit to being available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.
- Providing remote IT support. Your employees need to know your IT department is standing by to solve their problems whether they’re working from home or in the office. We provide all our new hires with a document outlining the services available from our IT help desk and how and when to contact IT.
- Connecting new hires with mentors. It always takes a while to get the lay of the land in a new job. When your work is remote, and you’re not surrounded physically by coworkers, it can take even longer. We’re experimenting with a mentorship program that assigns “buddies” to new hires that come on board during this challenging period.
Keeping Remote Employees Happy, Engaged, and Productive
Adapting to at-home work can be a major adjustment for some employees, regardless of your policies. It’s never been more important to prioritize employee well-being and provide resources that help your employees stay centered and grounded throughout this pandemic. Employee mental health struggles like anxiety and depression are at an all-time high—and this can lead to burnout.
If your workplace offers an employee assistance program (EAP), now would be a good time to remind your employees of this valuable mental health benefit. Many employers are expanding their telehealth options, as well.
As we’ve written before in this space, wellness challenges are a good fit for the remote-work lifestyle. Wellness challenges can bring your employees together to reach a shared goal, and they encourage taking breaks for fresh air and exercise.
You might also consider offering activities that promote mindfulness. Meditation and yoga classes translate well into video formats.
As the COVID crisis continues, what matters most is that your employees feel they can rely on your company as a source of stability during a constantly shifting situation. As you strive to support your employees, you can count on WellRight to help with the resources, activities, and technology to promote a happy, healthy workplace no matter where your employees spend their days.
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