With many countries in lockdown, many people are now working from home, some for the first time. How do you help them navigate the new way of working, and how do you keep them happy and engaged? Donna Bain, Senior Vice President, People and Development, shares what we’ve learned.

1. Share tips from the top

Most businesses have guides for how their employees should navigate their office environment. Now that we’ve mostly moved to working from home, they’ll need guidance for this type of work as well.

Many will be asking: How do you set up a workspace? How do you stay connected when you can’t meet face-to-face? When is the right moment to take a break? Add in the challenge of kids or other dependent family members at home – a reality for many of us during this outbreak – and it’s likely that some employees will struggle.

As part of our #StaySafeConnectedSecure initiative, we produced the two videos below to support our own teams, but there’s a wealth of free online resources to get you started, from Microsoft’s downloadable guide to Cisco’s proven tips and tools on how to collaborate effectively with teammates.

Watch our video for teams

Watch our video for managers

2. Manage back-to-back meetings

In the office, back-to-back meetings have natural breaks between them. We barely notice these little breathers when you can grab a coffee or take a toilet break. But when we work from home, we soon realise just how important they are.

To make sure you meet as often as you need to, but can take a break in between, encourage people to schedule meetings to finish five minutes earlier or before the end of the hour. This goes a long way towards avoiding burnout from uninterrupted back-to-back meetings.

3. Encourage video

Encourage your team to turn on their video. Video makes meetings more personal, because it includes many of the visual cues that are necessary in communication.

Non-verbal communication constitutes about two-thirds of communication between people. For instance, eye contact helps us to understand the meaning of a message from a speaker that voice alone may not completely convey. Video also encourages callers to get dressed, and stops them multi-tasking while on the call.

4. Encourage healthy boundaries

The move to remote work is all about protecting our physical health by minimising contact with the virus. That, everyone understands. What is less obvious is that working where you live can create its own kind of stress.

Taking time to exercise, eat well, and enjoy real downtime away from screens are all essential to maintaining mental wellbeing while working from home. But without normal workday signals like a commute, it can be hard to do this and unplug. Encourage your team take breaks, stay hydrated and ‘clock off’ at the end of the day.

5. Practise key management skills

Staff rely on their managers to check in, coach them through changes and show interest in their creativity. As your teams navigate a new way of working – while also navigating a global health crisis – they need your support as a manager more than ever.

Every employee faces unique challenges right now, and every employee will approach this situation differently. As managers, it’s so important to try to understand and react to their individual needs as much as possible.

6. Stay safe, stay positive

Supporting others is one of the easiest ways to stay positive and energised. Encourage everyone to share their lockdown stories and photos, and check in with each other throughout the day.

We set up a Global Employee Network in MS Teams where staff from all over the world can interact and engage with each other informally under the #StaySafeConnectedSecure banner – a great way to share experiences and help each other.

Cheering each other up is not just good for morale, it also helps keep your team together when you work apart. These lessons will have lasting value beyond the COVID-19 outbreak, as businesses continue to prioritise remote work.

If your business needs advice or guidance on how to enable effective team collaboration, our technology solution experts are here to help.

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Share your own insights and experiences of home working using the hashtags #StaySafeConnectedSecure, #RemoteWork and #WorkFromHome