We’re all going through a crash course in remote working due to Covid-19. While the process of adopting work from home programs with little time to prepare may have resulted in quite a bit of stress and friction, we believe that, in the long run, many credit unions and their employees will also discover some benefits of working remotely and start thinking about implementing more permanent work from home programs for their teams. Remote work has been a growing trend and is one of the top questions asked of hiring managers, but it’s not without a learning curve.
When the dust settles and you begin to flesh out a more permanent remote work strategy, there are three steps you can take towards applying the same level of thoughtfulness and employee support to remote working as you do to your corporate office work settings. We’ll also give you some tips about what you can do right now to get your team working more effectively. Don’t leave the success of remote working up to chance!
Step 1: Understand your staff and the work they do
This may seem obvious, but it is an often-overlooked step in developing any workplace strategy. You want to begin by documenting and quantifying the work being done in your organization at the team and individual level. A survey is a great way to do this. Make sure you cover:
- What level of interaction they have with members, vendors, and coworkers
- How they are supported by their current workspace
- What, if any, workspace they have at home
- What technology they use
Starting with a deep understanding of how your employees work is critical to understanding how you can best support your remote workers in their home offices.
Step 2: Ensure that your employees are supported by their home workspace
This is often left to the discretion of employees, and many work-from-home veterans have excellent setups. But it’s worth the effort and investment to help your staff achieve the highest level of comfort and performance in their home offices, and for credit unions there are unique security considerations involved.
For the physical environment, the main focuses are ergonomics and interruptions. Can your employee work comfortably all day? And don’t forget the embarrassing video conferencing fails that have hit social media in the past week, from cats interrupting videos to un-clad spouses unknowingly walking in the background!
From a technology standpoint, you want to make sure that there is no difference between the home or office employee experiences. For example, staff in your office can work off of network drives seamlessly while the delay in reading or writing files for remote workers connecting with a VPN can be frustrating. Services such as Box or One Drive, where files can be securely stored on the employee’s encrypted hard drive with changes synced to the cloud, can allow both office and remote workers instant access.
We recommend kicking off this step by making a checklist of every source of physical or technology friction in both the office and home working environments to ensure that all of your bases are covered.
Step 3: Set policies that support employees and help them feel connected
The biggest challenge of remote work (aside from Netflix, cats, and children) is the isolation. It can be difficult for those working from home to feel like part of the team and engage in collaborative activities. You can mitigate this by setting policies and implementing technology solutions that bring people closer together.
Consider setting a certain number of days per week or per month where everyone is in the office, or hosting team-building events. And for day-to-day collaboration, consider transitioning internal communication from email to Slack or Discord, where employees can communicate quickly and casually in groups or individually and seamlessly jump into voice chats or screen share. I’m sure you’ve read many articles blaming these chat apps for a lack of productivity, but if you think about Slack memes and personal conversations as drop-in replacement for office banter this is actually a benefit that builds stronger remote teams.
Like physical workplace policies, remote policies have the greatest chance of success and buy-in when you involve your staff in the process and give them a sense of ownership.
That’s good and all for the future, but what can you do right now?
We recommend focusing on communication first. If your staff are working from home long-term for the first time due to the Covid-19 outbreak, they are likely feeling disconnected and coming down with a case of cabin fever. Consider getting the whole team on Slack or Discord and rebooting the office banter, something that is awkward in Reply All emails but comes naturally over chat. Also consider expanding access to your video conferencing platform, expanding the number of concurrent users so that your staff can casually start unscheduled meetings.
It’s also important to stay active. When working from home it’s easy to hunker down and not move all day. Remind your staff (and yourself!) that the time they spend commuting, eating lunch, talking to coworkers and grabbing a coffee, etc. is all an active part of their day and that they should substitute it with walks around the neighborhood, exercise videos, and any other way they can work in activities. On a phone call or facetime? Stand up and walk around the block!
Another high-priority issue to address right now is ADA accommodations. Any accommodations provided to employees in your offices, such as special desks or A/V devices, must also be provided to staff working remotely. This is not only a compliance issue; it also sends a message to your team that they are being supported and that their health and comfort is a priority.
Good luck with your remote working strategies and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. This is a difficult time, but we’re all in this together!