Remote work is here to stay for now. It has proven to be an effective way for companies to continue to operate and minimize disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, working from home has proven so popular that some Canadian employers, including Shopify, have announced that their employees do not have to return to the office after the pandemic is over. The reality is some people may never go back to the office and remote positions may become a permanent fixture.
However, transitioning to working from home doesn’t come without its challenges. Especially for people who’ve never done it before. One of the biggest challenges is establishing a healthy work-life balance. When your work and home lives merge in one location the lines can blur. It’s easy to overwork or get caught up in distractions. Creating separation between work and home life reduces stress and the potential for burnout. This is easier said than done, of course. When working from home, it can be very difficult to get away from work. You’re in the same space all the time. It can feel like you don’t have any downtime.
As an employer, there are a number of ways you can support your employees and ensure they are able to create a healthy and effective work-life balance.
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Not everyone likes to work 9 to 5. Some of your employees may prefer to work at different hours. For instance, employees who have children home from school may prefer to work in the evening hours so they can focus on their kids during the day. As long as it doesn’t impede your operations give your employees the opportunity to shift their work hours to better suit their preferences. Working from home allows a lot of flexibility, so use that to support your employees. With the kids at home, doctors’ appointments, and errands, it’s a tough balancing act. Allow your employees the flexibility to fit in everything based on what works best for their schedule.
have set work hours
On the other hand, a solid structure is preferable for some other employees. Setting specific work hours makes it clear when employees should be working and when the workday is over and they can sign off without worrying they’re missing something important. This may even include scheduling in breaks and lunch to help people stay on track. If your team is able to sync up and share the same hours, it can be helpful to have a hard stop at the end of the day (whether that’s 5 pm or another time that works for your team), where everyone knows to put work down.
trust your employees
Trust your remote employees to manage their time and workload, as long as they are meeting deadlines and producing at an expected rate. Avoid micromanaging them on all tasks. Give them the time and space they need to do their jobs effectively. If you feel your team needs more structure while working remotely, you can have daily or weekly meetings to check-in on employees and make sure they have the tools, information and support they need to do their work.
minimize communications outside of work hours
Avoid making calls, sending emails or other communications to your remote employees outside of business hours. If you do, they may feel like they need to reply outside of business hours. That can blur the line between work and home time, which already tenuous when working from home full-time. If possible, have your team set a hard stop at the end of the day, when calls and meetings are not permitted. If everyone’s on the same page, it’s easier to stick to.
encourage defined workspaces
Working on your laptop on the sofa or at the kitchen table is not ideal. Provide your employees with tips and advice on how to set up a designated workspace at home. Or if you have the means to do so, provide them with the technology and resources they need to do their job. For instance, if you can ship monitors, office chairs or desks, that can help employees set up a proper workspace. Make sure they have access to the right hardware and software to stay connected with the office.
COVID-19 has been a stressful time. People are anxious, depressed, and are concerned about the uncertainty of the situation. Promote health and wellness. Offer perks related to wellbeing. Allow them time to take fitness classes online or maybe you do a remote group yoga session with your team,. Encourage an active and healthy lifestyle and give your employees the tools and resources to live well while working at home.
Just like at the office, you need to support your team. You need to communicate with them on a regular basis. You need to communicate even more with your remote employees. It’s important for managers to have regular calls and video meetings with staff. The communication can help people feel less isolated. Be social, be available, and do what you can to support your employees when they reach out for assistance.
Long-term remote work is a new experience for a lot of people during COVID-19. Companies and employees are both going through the growing pains of learning how to work effectively while remote, while also maintaining boundaries. Supporting your employees and helping them get settled in at home can help everyone get on the same page as quickly as possible.