Summary: Companies can play an important role in keeping their workers both productive and mentally and physically healthy during the pandemic. This article will discuss out of the box ways leaders can support their teams.
As more states lift quarantine guidelines, companies are starting to get back to a semblance of normalcy. The only problem is that no one knows what “normal” should mean or look like for the foreseeable future. For that reason, plenty of leaders are focused on reinventing their corporate operations to serve all stakeholders, especially their employees, during and after the pandemic.
If you’re the head of a business, your role naturally includes making sure your workers feel supported, no matter what’s happening globally. Try the following non-traditional ideas to help navigate your team to increased engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.
1. Emphasize Work-Life Balance
The COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone’s life in some way, and many of your employees have probably found themselves with new responsibilities and sources of stress almost overnight. As a leader, you need to show your workers that their well-being comes first if you want your team to stay on your side.
Be sure to implement tangible directives around work-life balance if you want to see tangible results. “We encourage a healthy work-life balance at Nu Skin,” says Jeff Bettinger, Chief Employee Experience Officer at Nu Skin. “One of our values is to be accountable and empowered. We empower employees at all levels to act and take personal ownership for their actions. That’s no different from working from home, and our employees have embraced that in our new work environment. That includes being encouraged to spend ten percent of their time being innovative and for self-care during the week.” Many of your best employees are likely to work themselves into the ground if you ask them to, so be as proactive as possible about encouraging a healthy balance.
Members of your team who maintain a healthy work-life balance work 21% harder than others, so crafting policies that benefit your workers’ personal lives will benefit your company in turn. It’s a difficult time for employees, and you should be doing your part to ease their burden.
2. Rethink Who Needs to Return to the Office
It’s no secret that a large number of businesses temporarily moved to work-from-home situations during coronavirus. However, many people say they want to continue the carpet commute. For some, the reason is practical: Their kids aren’t able to return safely to schools, daycare, babysitters’ houses, or camps. But for others, telework has become an attractive way to beat the morning rush and spend less time in traffic. And statistics culled by FlexJob indicate that four out of five workers feel remote working reduces their stress levels.
Though you might have believed that the only way to work was your pre-pandemic setup, the past few weeks probably opened your eyes and made you question your assumptions. For instance, could some or all of your employees successfully manage to work from their homes, at least on a some-time or part-time basis? Would moving part of your workforce to virtual quarters allow you to rent a smaller space and save on capital expenditures?
You’ve already proven that telework is doable. Keep an open mind and figure out if it could be sustainable beyond the few months everyone was in quarantine.
3. Change Everyone’s Expected Working Hours—Without Touching Salaries
Did you know that a study from Vouchercloud revealed that most employees spend less than three hours each day doing productive work? Even if you doubled their self-reported productivity, you’d still lose two hours of effectiveness in a standard eight-hour office day.
The realities of how little people actually do when they have huge expanses of time have led many leaders to promote the idea of a four-day workweek or, if that’s not practical, a much shorter workday. The theory stands that even if you keep everyone’s pay the same, you could wind up getting more out of your people if you shorten the time they’re tethered to their desks.
Before automatically saying, “No way. That couldn’t work for us,” consider how the arrangement could benefit working parents or individuals with side gigs. As long as you have coverage for customers and everything runs like clockwork, a four-day week might be good for everyone, yourself included. As explained by Andrew Barnes, the founder of Perpetual Garden and a firm believer in shaking up the hourly status quo, “This is all about working smarter, not working longer.”
4. Pay to Upgrade Your Employees’ Home Equipment
Let’s say you decide that remote work has its benefits. Are you going to take the next big step and finally issue everyone laptops or chits to cover some of their Internet costs? During COVID-19, most workers had to make do with working on uncomfortable dining room chairs or using card tables instead of at ergonomic workstations. But if you’re going to push for permanent telework, keep comfort and efficiency in mind.
Examine your budget and see if it’s possible to help your remote crew outfit their digs with some improved furniture and technology. You could either purchase items on their behalf or give them stipends to be used for remote office facelifts. That way, you can be sure that everyone on your team has the tools they need to be successful.
5. Continue Online and Offline Team Building and Professional Development Activities
Did you spend a good amount of time during the coronavirus lockdown making sure everyone connected regularly? Maybe you hosted Friday night Zoom cocktail hours or set up a Slack channel dedicated to pet antics. Don’t let those wonderful ways to connect fade. Instead, double down on your commitment to bring everyone together on a consistent basis.
You may want to consider mixing up your activities with online and, when safe, in-person events. Have one of your exercise fanatic employees run an Intro to Yoga session early on a Friday morning to kick off the last workday of the week. Or ask an industry expert to share some cool tips and tidbits during a socially distanced luncheon in a large conference room or outdoor setting.
Just because everyone’s getting back together in person doesn’t mean that they don’t need an occasional push to socialize. Use what you’ve learned about videoconferencing and human nature to promote fun opportunities for everyone on your team to connect.
6. Hand Out Unexpected Bonuses and Awards
We’re moving steadily out of the earliest COVID-19 crisis management phases and into less rocky territory. Still, some of your employees are probably feeling uncertain and off-balance by the whirlwind of the past dozen weeks. Many workers gave you all they could, and probably a little more. Surprise your star performers and advocates by showing how much you appreciate their constancy and positivity.
Now is the moment to send gift cards, offer extra paid vacation days, and present people with swag they actually want. Get innovative and reach as deep into your coffers as you can. As an added side effect, your team members will respond to your random act of kindness and appreciation with a stronger sense of loyalty.
Your workers need you to be an imaginative leader now more than any other time in your career. Step up to the plate with your muse by your side and become the one-in-a-million CEO, supervisor, or founder you were born to be.
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