As the quarantine period is being slowly lifted in several states as well as countries around the world, many people are preparing to go back to the workplace. However, things at the office will not be the same.
Without a vaccine, the risk of contracting the coronavirus or Covid-19 remains high. Places, where congregation takes place such as malls, restaurants, and even offices, will be asked to observe social distancing and proper hygiene.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has asked organizations to cancel events that bring in more than 50 people in one location. The rule of social distancing requires people to be at least six feet apart.
So if your office is small, it’s possible that 50% of your team – or more – has to work from home.
That adjustment in manpower can change the dynamic of your workplace.
People that you are so used to seeing – perhaps having a morning cup of coffee with – will no longer be in the office on a regular basis.
Although shared space collaboration will remain, the lack of physical presence will create a feeling of emptiness that may be difficult for some people to adjust to. A workplace environment that is dealing with emotional distress will not be conducive to productivity.
The same can be said for your team members who have been assigned work from home duties.
It may sound like a great idea to wake up every morning without having to worry about traffic, but the change in the work environment will take a period of adjustment.
For one thing, distractions abound inside the home. Second, not having familiar faces – and voices – in the workplace will give your home office a different vibe that will take some time to get used to.
But this is the new normal.
To remain our overall health and safety as well as those of our loved ones, we have to observe social distancing which means working from home most of the time.
Given the changes in the workplace environment, is it still possible to create and nurture a culture that is conducive for productivity?
How To Create A Productive Workplace Culture – At The Office And At Home
The answer is “Yes”.
As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds”.
It may take some time to get used to the new normal but in a few months, the “new normal” will just be normal.
The great thing about humanity is that we adapt. We are resilient.
Not only will mankind eventually find a way to beat Covid-19 but we will ensure that the virus will not beat us.
Life – and work – will go on!
In the meantime, we’ll have to modify our business model to adhere to the guidelines in support of social distancing and other measures outlined by the government and health organizations.
Thus, if you decide to maintain an office, some of your employees will have to work from home to comply with social distancing guidelines.
Can you still be productive?
Yes! It’s a matter of finding creative solutions that can help maintain the dynamic within your organization.
Here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider when integrating a work from home or telecommuting program in your workforce.
1. Mix It Up
Who’s going to be assigned work from home duties?
Instead of designating specific people for office-based and home-based work, give everyone an opportunity to experience remote employment by coming up with a rotating schedule.
For example, if you have 20 employees, you can divide them into 2 teams with 10 members each.
- Team A – Office-Based
- Team B – Work From Home
After 2 weeks, switch up their assignments. Members of Team A will work from home while members of Team B will report to the office.
You should also change the composition of each team every month.
- Team A – Bill, Sally, George, Tom, and Raffy
- Team B – Bob, Ted, Sarah, Tim, and Gina
The following month, switch around your team members:
- Team A – Bill, Ted, George, Tim, and Gina
- Team B – Bob, Sally, Sarah, Tom, and Raffy
By mixing up the composition of your teams, no one loses the vibe they had with the other employees. Everyone gets a chance to maintain the same high-touch connection they have with each other.
2. Update Your Mission Statement
Once you have your team assignments finalized, gather everyone together, and discuss your company’s updated mission vision.
Why should you update your mission statement?
For the reason that work – and life – as everyone knew it has changed. There are new challenges ahead and coming to work is no longer just about commerce or having a means of livelihood.
Having a job is about helping the economy recover by generating employment, demand, and activity – all the while becoming mindful of health guidelines to remain safe and virus-free.
According to a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, more people are motivated to work if there is a stronger sense of purpose. The study noted that the rise in numbers extends across generations – Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.
The mission statement should be revised to keep everyone together even if their office mates are working from home – and maintain their focus.
3. Schedule Get-Togethers
Some team members may be working from home but this doesn’t mean they are exempt from meetings – and the frequent water cooler get-togethers.
At this time of the new normal, your mindset should be “Business as Usual”.
If you’ve been conducting pre-shift and post-shift meetings, continue the practice by getting your remote team onboard with the use of digital platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, or Skype.
You can also schedule company water cooler breaks or “Coffee Time” and invite your remote team to join in.
These informal “meetings” are a great way of helping the remote team to adjust to the work from home environment. The experiences they share can help the other team members prepare for their work from home assignments when it is their time.
You should take note of these experiences and use them to fine-tune your work from home program and come up with a company manual on telecommuting.
4. Encourage Friendly Competition
The workplace is a venue for competition. If you want to get the promotion, you have to stay ahead of the competition by accomplishing more and contributing to the success of the company.
That does not change even if you shift to a telecommuting arrangement.
You can spur productivity by encouraging friendly competition between the office-based and remote teams.
For example, you can create a contest as to which team can accomplish more tasks. Establish benchmarks such as quality, accuracy, and timeliness.
To the winner goes the spoils of victory – but they don’t have to be expensive. You can pay for food delivery for a week or give the winning team a day off from work.
Another benefit of having periodic competition is that it gives you a platform for measuring the effectiveness of the telecommuting program and the performance of your employees.
Let’s say the telecommuting team has been struggling regardless of its composition, use the available data to find out why.
- Are there latency issues?
- Are there distractions at home that have to be addressed?
- Are there specific people who are just not cut out for telecommuting?
- Are there individual behaviors that have to be addressed?
Like other new programs, you cannot expect to get the telecommuting arrangement right from the get-go. There is a learning curve to respect and growing pains to overcome.
5. Change Up the Scenery
With 50% of your team working from home, your office space will look – vacant. Meanwhile, those working remotely may find the surroundings more conducive to home life than getting work done.
The solution? Change up the scenery at the office and at the home office.
For example, add plants to fill out the open spaces in the office. A U.K. study has shown that plants can increase productivity in the workplace by 15%.
Here are other tips you can use to make the workplace interesting:
- Buy a couch and a few lounge chairs and create a lounging area where your employees can relax during breaktime.
- Introduce a standing desk area for employees who want to stretch out while working instead of staying cramped up in their seats.
- Buy succulents for your remote team. Succulents are plants that store a lot of water in their stems and leaves. They are highly resistant to drought which means succulents don’t require much water. This makes succulents very easy to grow and care for.
- Play music in the workplace. Music can help stimulate creativity. However, practice democracy in the main office. Make sure the music you play is acceptable to everyone.
Over at Silicon Valley, tech companies such as Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, Slack, and Alphabet announced that their employees may continue to work from home until 2021.
Other than safety concerns for their employees, adopting a telecommuting arrangement helps the companies save up on rental costs and expenses for travel and conferences.
Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta Inc., was pleasantly surprised that productivity has vastly improved with the integration of a work from home program.
Therefore, if you’re worried that productivity might drop if employees work from home – don’t be.
Simply look at the adoption of a work from home or telecommuting arrangement as a collaborative effort. Everyone will take part in it and do a good job as if they were back in the “old normal”.