The coronavirus pandemic has not only upended our social and family lives, for many of us it has also required us to fundamentally change the ways that we work, including working remotely. When once employees could meet up to collaborate on projects, or chat face to face with each other, employees have now been confined to their homes, physically working in isolation.
Opportunities to talk to colleagues, meet up for coffee or have lunch together, which were an important part of the social experience at work, are now lost due to the geographic divide and necessary social distancing requirements.
The online workplace
Having employees work from home presents businesses with a range of challenges, not least of which is ensuring that employees remain connected with their colleagues, team members, managers and leaders.
Although employees may be working remotely, there should be little excuse for employees not to remain in contact with each other. In this digital age, there is a myriad of tools available for businesses to use to make sure that employees can communicate with each other and continue to work on projects and discuss issues – moving the physical workplace to a virtual one.
The challenge is that for many, it will be the first time that the business and its employees are required to work remotely and to use such tools, leading to a huge shift in how employees communicate with each other and how teams can remain connected.
How can employees remain connected?
Slack, Microsoft Teams (our preferred method along with Facetime), Zoom , Skype, Yammer and Google Hangouts are all examples of communication applications and services available for businesses to use – we do recommend assessing their privacy practices and policies before selecting which service to use. These are in addition to the more traditional forms – email, phone calls and text messages, which are already available to keep the lines of communication open between staff.
Employers should encourage employees to make use of these types of tools to ensure that they remain in contact with each other.
This could be as simple as scheduling regular team discussions to check in with how employees are progressing with work and projects or encouraging employees to reach out to each other to discuss work – that way, they do not feel like they are working alone.
Working remotely does not mean employees should not be connected socially either – if your workplace had regular team lunches, these can continue – just virtually. Teams may wish to dedicate a lunch hour to a video or telephone chat and discuss how their day or week has been.
Why should employees remain connected?
Regular check ins with colleagues and staff can be a useful gauge for how they are progressing with work and how they are managing the change in environment. An employee may find it difficult to reach out to their colleagues or their manager for assistance – they may be thinking that they cannot contact their colleagues or that their manager is too busy to chat or discuss a work issue. By taking proactive steps to maintain contact with employees, they may feel more open to reaching out when required.
Keeping up connections while working from home also has the benefit of maintaining the social connections we have with our colleagues at work. This is particularly important now when everyone is encouraged to stay inside, meaning that personal social connections have also been limited.
Maintaining camaraderie with colleagues is so important for staff morale during a time when we are the most physically distant.
Employers should be mindful of the ways and the need for employees to remain connected while working from home. Working remotely can be a solo experience but by using tools and maintaining regular contact with employees, it can go part of the way to easing the burden of social isolation.
Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.
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Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog.
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