As the novel coronavirus continues spreading throughout the United States and around the world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that Americans exercise social distancing. For an unprecedented number of businesses, this means having employees work from home whenever possible.
However, as we work to distance ourselves physically from one another, it’s vital that we stay connected digitally. This is important for maintaining business continuity and productivity, but also for our mental health. Technology, of course, is on our side. As information management leaders, GRM has some recommendations for online and offline ways that you and your employees can stay connected and healthy during this stressful time.
Have an “open phone” policy.
When everyone is working in the same building, it’s easy for employees to pop in with a question or concern. Or for you to stop by their desk to discuss an issue. Working remotely makes this challenging, but it’s still possible to maintain a solid rapport with your team.
In place of your usual “open door policy,” implement an “open phone policy” so employees feel comfortable calling you when there’s something they need to discuss. This will go a long way to maintaining that connection and ensuring business is being conducted properly and on schedule.
Keep in mind that during these uncertain times, some employees may be feeling the stress of current events and the strain of self-isolation more than others. Be sure to check in on them and be understanding as they – and you – adjust.
Schedule “face” time with your team.
Having team members all working from their individual homes can take a toll on a team, but it doesn’t have to. Scheduling regular “face-to-face” meetings using a video platform can help employees feel connected. Just the sight of teammates’ familiar faces can improve your team’s mood and morale.
Having these video meetings on a daily or semi-daily basis also helps keep employees on track and accountable with deliverables. The abrupt shift to working from home is an adjustment that may take a few days or even a week or two, but eventually new routines will be established that support productivity. Regular video meetings help employees adapt to these new circumstances more quickly.
Video meetings also provide an opportunity for you to set the tone for your team, department or company. If you’re a CEO or department head, consider having a company- or department-wide webinar to express your concern for employees, provide updates regarding any new safety protocols, and share any news about the company in general. If you decide to include a Q & A portion, be prepared to answer some tough questions – or to admit if you don’t yet have an answer. While written communications are an excellent – and, from practical, legal, and HR standpoints, necessary – way to inform workers, face-to-face communication can go a long way to reassuring concerned employees.
Start using group chats.
If you aren’t already using a group chat function such as G-Chat or Slack to quickly communicate with your team, you’re missing out on a valuable tool. The informality of most chat platforms is perfect for answering quick questions and having brief conversations. This saves time and your inbox. It also helps maintain your team’s rapport with one another as it fills in for the casual “water cooler” conversations that take place throughout the day in most offices.
Use the cloud.
Cloud-based content services platforms are extremely useful at any time, but when you have a substantial number of employees suddenly working from home? That’s when the benefits and capabilities of these platforms truly shine.
If your company already uses a content services platform, be sure you’re taking full advantage of its functionality. If your organization doesn’t have a content services platform in place, now is the time to invest in one.
The right cloud-based content services platform will provide a range of capabilities that enhance efficiency and support collaboration, and will be designed with security and compliance in mind. Choose a content services platform that integrates with your current system (EMR, HRIS, etc.). This will protect your existing software investment and allow you to continue using the interface that you – and your employees – know.
To support employees who are working remotely, yes, you’ll want a platform that enables the secure sharing of documents between colleagues, vendors and clients. But, more than that, you’ll need a robust platform that delivers customizable automated workflows with permission-based access and decision-based routing. Automated workflows streamline business processes by automatically alerting designated colleagues, vendors and clients regarding shared documents. They can then securely review, edit or complete documents using e-signature functionality – all within the platform.
Additionally, you’ll want a platform with a powerful analytics engine that delivers business insights via automatic, real-time notification so you can take advantage of business opportunities and proactively respond to potential problems.
And of course, any cloud-based content services platform worth the investment will adhere to the latest cyber security protocols. This includes everything from end-to-end data encryption, to following Safe Harbor and PCI regulations and complying with SOC 2 requirements.
Make your – and your team’s – mental health a priority.
We’re all relying on technology to do some heavy lifting as we manage the day-to-day with employees and teammates working from home. And, while tech is proving to be incredibly helpful at staying connected during this time of necessary social distancing, there are traditional, offline things you and your employees can do to remain mentally strong and healthy during this stressful time. If you or your team aren’t already employing these practical strategies, they’re worth your consideration:
- Stick to a Schedule: It’s important to establish a routine that’s close to what you normally do on a day when you head into the office. That means getting up at or close to your usual time, getting dressed (sorry, no pjs), and being at your computer with your coffee ready to start working at (or a little earlier than) your regular time.
- Get Dressed… Every Day: We can’t say this one enough. While the idea of working in your pajamas all day can be tempting, getting dressed helps change your mindset from relaxation to work mode. You don’t have to wear a tie or even business casual (unless your company requires it), just be sure your clothes are clean, presentable and appropriate for your colleagues to see. And remember to comb your hair in case you have any video meetings!
- Exercise, if You Can: If working out is a normal part of your routine, it’s important to maintain that. As long as it’s safe for you to workout, go for it. Just do it inside – or six feet away from anyone outdoors. Which leads us to the next point…
- Get Fresh Air: Psychologists say that fresh air and sunshine (if there is any) are important for our mental health at any time – and especially now as we stay home to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. If you have a backyard, front porch or balcony, try to get outside for an absolute minimum of 30 minutes each day – weather permitting. If you can go for a walk outside while observing the recommended six feet of distance, go for it. And if you can’t, or if you don’t feel comfortable going outdoors right now, try opening a window and sitting nearby where you can feel the sunshine and fresh air.
- Eat Healthy, Stay Hydrated and Get Your Rest: Comfort food is called that for a reason, but unless your idea of comfort food is of the more healthful variety, try not to overindulge. A little snacking and junk food is normal and, well, comforting right now. But, eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetable (fresh if possible, frozen or canned if not) will help support a positive mindset – and your immune system. The same goes for drinking enough water and getting a good night’s sleep.
- Ask for Help: We’re living in uncertain times, and the stress involved can take a toll on even the most positive, mentally strong people. If you’re feeling it, be patient with yourself and others, and if you’re really struggling be sure to ask for help. That may mean speaking with a friend, family member or trusted colleague, or reaching out to a mental health professional. Whatever you do, remember that everyone needs help sometimes and there are people available to help.
We’re All in This Together… Separately.
Working from home is necessary right now to slow the spread of this pandemic, but it doesn’t have to mean the breakdown of your team’s bond. By using technology to maintain connections, and employing practical strategies to support your own and your team’s mental health, you can help ensure projects stay on track and your business stays afloat in these tumultuous times.