We're experiencing unprecedented times which are proving challenging for us all. The majority of businesses are now allowing working from home, and leaders need to find effective ways to keep their people motivated and engaged. With International Day of Happiness on 20 March 2020 (somewhat ironic perhaps), it's a reminder to all leaders that they need to put their employees first, finding ways to raise morale and to pass on some happiness to a workforce in isolation. Here are some suggestions on how best to do this.
Firstly, do what you think is right as an employer, not just the things you are told to do. Do you really need to wait for the government to determine statutory sick pay requirements or a national policy for home working? People will always remember how their company took care of them (or not) when faced with adversity.
Encourage leaders to stay in touch. This sounds obvious, but employees will feel less comfortable phoning their leaders at home compared to popping by their office. Use tech to regularly reach out and touch base. Switch on the video for conference calls, pick up the phone and encourage others to do the same. Keep it personal and display humility as sometimes we just need to see another person’s smile or hear a friendly voice.
People should also be urged to have routine and balance. Start and finish times as well as breaks, for example. Home working can easily slip into evenings and weekends if not managed well, leading to stress and burnout.
In addition, employees’ comfort and safety must be addressed. Talk to people about the ergonomics of their home working space. Do they normally use wrist rests, back supports and screens at work and if so, can these be provided at home? Can they take their chair from the office? Taking good care of people requires more than just sending them home.
And remember to say "thank you" frequently and to recognise a job well done, despite the distance. It's more important than ever to ensure staff feel appreciated and valued, and providing someone with recognition may well give them that all-important boost.
Finally, think about the self-employed contractors and smaller suppliers that support the business. Their cash flow is their lifeline, so communicate well and frequently and pay outstanding invoices quickly. They are ‘your people’ even if not on the payroll.
With home-working and isolation expected to continue for some time, many people will be under a huge amount of pressure emotionally, physically, socially and financially. It’s therefore up to leaders to put the wellbeing of their people first and to try to inject a little bit of happiness into their daily working days.
Robert joined O.C. Tanner in 2014. From luxury retail at Harrods to Premier League football with Fulham Football Club, Robert's HR career spans more than twenty years. This, combined with his operational experience, gives him a real passion for creating a workplace culture that truly helps people thrive every day.