At People Matters HR, we are lucky to have a great bunch of clients. All of differing sizes and sectors, they have one thing in common – a real sense of team.

Businesses work hard to build a company culture over many years – so it’s essential to keep this going in tough times.

So, when the team are separated, just how do you do this? We’ve put together a guide of small things you can do as we all embrace our “new normal” and become a nation of homeworkers.

 

Daily video call

This is the most important way to maintain connection. The phone is great – but seeing each other face to face brings a new level of togetherness.

The technology out there at the moment is fantastic and so there really  is no excuse – from Microsoft Teams to Google Hangouts and Zoom, we are lucky to have many ways to keep in touch with staff.

Inevitably, some team members may resist this – they may be unsure of how to us the technology or just feel camera shy. We’d suggest that you make it compulsory – once staff have their heads around the idea, it’s really no different to a normal team meeting. Start and to end each day with a team huddle keeps the connection.

 

Work with video on

Most of us are used to working side by side with colleagues, so in theory this is no different to your usual office set up. We’d suggest pairing colleagues together and both work with their cameras on – silently. There will naturally be the odd bit of banter and conversation, and more importantly, your staff will have someone to bounce ideas off. After all – we know it’s good to talk!

 

Encourage the usual lunch and break times

We hear all the time that children need routine – but adults do, too. Try to stick to the usual brew run times, get the team to put on their cameras and all have a ten-minute chat – and a virtual share of the biscuit tin. At lunchtime, encourage your team to take their usual break, off camera. This will allow them a little headspace and time out to either get some fresh air or catch up on household jobs. They will return much fresher and ready for an afternoon of work.

 

Make allowances for interruptions

This strange new way of working means that you need to make allowances. Bring your cat/dog/ child to work day is now the new normal – but it can be incredibly stressful for employees who are still trying to maintain their usual professional presence.  Cats will naturally stroll across the screen and children will inevitably need attention – and to the committed worker this can be upsetting.

Embrace this – a quick “hi there Freddy, how’s it going!” will instantly break the ice and prevent any embarrassment on your employee’s part.

While some of your team will be lucky enough to have a separate work space, many will be working from their kitchen table, their living room – even their bedroom. Remember that that is people’s personal space, so don’t cross boundaries – but see this as an opportunity to get to know them better.

 

Be flexible

On that point – you may need to make some allowances for certain members of staff. It’s a harsh truth that you will have team members who are trying to keep up their day job while home-schooling their children – and that is really tough. They are unlikely to be as productive as you would like and will probably be highly stressed.

Acknowledge this. Talk to them and help out in any way you can. Can you be flexible with their hours? Reduce their workload? Give them more admin-based tasks to work on? If you can help them out, try to do it – and they will thank you long term.

 

Keep to workplace traditions

Friday bacon butties, Thursday beers or Wednesday dress down day,  it’s these things that build a company culture– so keep it going. It will give a sense of both normality and togetherness  to the team and break up the week.

This can now be adapted to include other members of the household. How about a “show off your pets” afternoon, a kid’s drawing competition, or even a Friday family quiz?

 

Appoint a wellbeing officer

If you don’t already have one. These are tough times and we are all under incredible pressure. While many have families to turn to, you may have some workers who are completely isolated – and they will be finding it hard. Really, really hard. Our mental wellbeing has never been so important, and loneliness is on the rise, so it’s your responsibility to check in on your staff on a regular basis. Nominate a trusted employee to do a weekly (or more if necessary) one to one in a safe environment where your team can download whatever is on their mind. Make sure they know this is completely confidential and ensure you follow up in accordance with your company policy is required.