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Working From Home Continues:
Helping Employees Stay Productive and Connected

Although states are lifting stay-at-home orders, many employers say they’ll continue to require employees to work from home through the summer. For some, that’s welcome news. For others struggling to be productive at home, it might not be. In this blog, we share our tips and lessons learned for keeping up morale and helping your employees maintain their productivity and well-being during this challenging time.

Continue to check in with employees.

While we are more than three months into this pandemic, it’s still critical for managers to proactively touch base with staff, especially now that routines may be different without school in session. Some questions managers can ask their employees include:

  • How are you doing?
  • How can I help?
  • How are the kids? Are you parents doing OK?
  • Is there anything I need to know about your schedule now that school is out?

Also, pay attention during video calls—who is not speaking up? Who seems disinterested? When you aren’t face-to-face, it can be tough to pick up on emotions, so make an extra effort to engage each team member on the call and follow up with those who seem to be participating less.

One more thing—now that we’re all working from home, those drop-in, casual conversations with managers don’t happen naturally. It may be smart to hold “virtual office hours” where team members can join you on a video conference to address small questions or concerns.

Combat Zoom fatigue.

After three months of remote work, we can all agree on one thing: video meetings are draining. As Sheila Hamilton, founder of Beyond Well Solutions, a new podcast series offered to WebMD Health Services clients, stated in a recent webinar: “You just don’t get the energy from Zoom meetings that you do in person. In fact, it has the opposite effect—it saps our energy.”

So, what can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Decide whether the meeting needs to use video in the first place. At WebMD, we try to specify whether the call will require video or just audio so there’s no ambiguity.
  • Reserve video calls for internal meetings—if you’re talking to someone outside the organization, make it a phone call.
  • Try to avoid multitasking during the meeting. Close your browser tabs and email to avoid losing focus, and consider putting your phone in another room.
  • Look away occasionally to reduce eye strain.
  • Take breaks between video meetings. Shorten meetings by 5 minutes to allow for a stretch break.
  • Make sure each meeting has a designated meeting leader, clear agenda, note-taker, and someone to assign next steps.
  • Institute “Zoom-free” Fridays so employees can take a break from being on video.

Look for informal opportunities to connect.

Zoom happy hours are still a great idea, but aren’t always convenient for those with small children, or if you have staff in different time zones. Can you create time during the workday for some informal interaction?

At WebMD, we’ve held the following types of virtual connections:

  • Dress-up themed meetings
  • Virtual water cooler conversations
  • Manager-initiated walking meetings
  • Midday trivia contests

Set a good mental health example.

As we’ve written before, the pandemic is most definitely taking a toll on our mental health. Many of us are more stressed, anxious, and maybe even feeling depressed as we face a long summer of disrupted routines and worry about the resurgence of the virus.

Before the pandemic, studies showed that employees wanted more openness about mental health issues in the workplace, and were eager for employers to expand mental health benefits. Now, it’s even more critical to be open and honest and ensure employees know how to access the mental health resources you may have in place, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or telehealth visits.

It’s also essential to let employees know it’s OK to share how they’re feeling during this time. Managers can model good mental health practices by admitting they “need a mental health day,” or blocking their calendar between 12 and 1 when they take their daily walk. These small actions by leaders can go a long way toward destigmatizing mental health concerns in the workplace.

No one knows for sure when we’ll all get the green light to go back into the office. So, as we move into these next few months of working from home, it’s important to continue to be flexible, show compassion for employees’ well-being, and tap into some creative ways to stay connected to one another.

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