Checklist: How to Support Emotional Wellness for Remote Employees
By Jay Forte, guest contributor
So many people today are working remotely. With a computer and Internet connectivity, employees can get most (or all) of their usual work done.
But working from home during a pandemic is drastically different from the traditional work-at-home mentality. Today, remote employees have to juggle so many things that impact their productivity. There is family, home schooling, shopping in a pandemic, having enough of the essentials, finding and using safety equipment effectively, and trying to still tackle the routine life tasks that have become much more complicated, like getting a haircut and staying fit.
There is a feeling of being disconnected and socially isolated. There is worry about family and loved ones. There is concern in how to be safe when the most basic of errands pull you into the outside world. There is frustration because there isn’t a clear path through this as a result of mixed, confusing, and inconsistent messages by national, state, and local governments.
All of this complicates the process of working at home. So, as a business and life coach, and to help managers better understand the situations, stories, and challenges of those working at home, I created this checklist to help you better manage your employees who have to get their work done in a new and more complicated physical and emotional space.
Listen more. It is critical in this moment that you are calm, responsive, present and interested in your people as people – in what they are experiencing and how they are dealing with their changed environments. Be an active listener. Really hear what they’re saying, both with and without their words.
Ask more. Be willing to ask more than you tell. One of the most powerful questions I ask my clients is, “How can I support you?” Try this out.
Observe more. To support your employees (so they are able to focus and get their work done) will require you to be more self-aware (of your strengths, liabilities, triggers, and emotions) to better manage them. Though we are all stressed, your employees will connect best with a manager who is consistent, focused and responsive. This is the moment for great emotional intelligence.
Guide more. Avoid directing and telling and instead be the guide. Help them to create a moment of calm and space so they can see how to be productive in their current environment. Guide them in seeing that productivity has a different face today, and that you are there to support them.
Create a stronger personal bond
- Be interested and present when you connect with your team as a group and individually. Increase your time with them; be more available.
- Create a list of what each of your team members needs from you today. Check weekly. This will help you manage your day.
- Increase contact just to check in on their mental and emotional state. Increase your “health” check ins. Know that each employee will be different so your plan should be built around what each employee’s mental state or need is. Increase your conversation with them about their health.
- Be consistent. Show up when you commit to. Get done what you promise. Ensure your team can rely on you.
- Solicit ideas. Encourage everyone to share ideas. Implement the best ideas. Build the team by activating its creative thinking.
- Be proactive with news. Share what you know to ensure everyone has the most current and most important news.
Focus on new ways of maintaining productive energy.
- Weekly huddle. Bring the team together remotely at least once a week. Use this time to share important information, share applause for achievements from the week, share personal stories, share specific needs, address challenges.
- Daily hot / not hot list. Provide a daily summary to ensure everyone is clear of what is most urgent and important. Create a summary list that is shared with the team each morning.
- Stories from the trenches. Share stories of what is happening in the lives of your team members. Focus on successes and challenges. Use the stories to learn and improve, as well as to solicit guidance and advice to help the team expand their reliance on each other.
- Provide a happiness index (scale of 1 – 10) to do a daily / weekly check-in on mental health so you know where employees are and why. Or, use the happy, neutral and sad face as a daily check in. Those in neutral or sad face may warrant an additional check-in during the day or week.
- Create an energy inventory. Create a central location of all ideas to raise the energy – things that can be done as a team or done individually. Encourage employees to own their mood and energy and to use the ideas to help raise each when they are down.
Get teams to invent, take ownership and be there for each other.
- Create a COVID-19 team slogan such as “Stronger Together,” “We’ve Got This,” or “Rebuilding Normal.” Use it to rally the team around something that matters to the team and the organization.
- Make time for fun. With all of the stress of the moment, we can quickly forget that life can also be fun. Have activities each week that remind everyone to relax into life instead of always focusing on anxiety and fear.
- Remind people of their connection to the organization and culture, that they are part of something important. This can renew their energy and refocus their attention off the negative and onto the positive.
Support the team as each of them navigate how to work in a new and unfamiliar way.
- Review daily work schedules. Help them re-learn to create time for work, home, schooling, family, and their own mental and physical health. Though this was previously not a manager’s role, in changed times, this is needed.
- Summarize and share best practices. Share success stories of others and what they are doing to be successful working at home, managing families, hosting home schooling, and caring for extended family or neighbors/friends. Create a page of FAQs that share answers to recurring questions in how to be in this unusual space of having to work at home successfully. Create a team of employees to research the best ideas of how people are managing their days and tasks to feel successful working in this new way. Share best practices.
- Review challenges on a case by case basis. Know first-hand what each of your employees are dealing with in their at-home work situations. Be there to listen generously, guide wisely and encourage honestly instead of feeling the need to solve. It is up to your employees to determine how to be successful in their situations, but your guidance can inspire ideas and help them feel confident and capable to make it happen.
- Review the employees’ performance expectations and how to complete them from home. Performance expectations in the workplace may be different than expectations delivered from home. What may be required may not change but how the work gets done will.
- Encourage employees to develop a flexible work schedule that completes the work but is built around the other needs of the home during the day.
Help employees develop a formal start and end time to their workdays that accommodates both their work expectations and family needs. Once determined, respect it to provide the employee the opportunity to separate work from life to allow for greater balance and normalcy. Be mindful of the new requirements your employees may have throughout their days that warrant their attention, especially for employees who also serve as caregivers.
This is new space for all of us. As the daily expectations of employees have changed, so have the expectations of management. Managing a remote team who may never have been remote requires different management behaviors. These more closely approximate workplace coaching. With some guidance, and a checklist, managers can learn to modify their approach to better support employees in this new normal. With it can come better management habits as we move through this period and onto to something better.
Jay Forte is President and Founder of The Forte Factor and Certified Executive Coach. Dedicated to sharing practical approaches to hiring, engaging, managing, developing and leveraging talent, he helps organizations build high-performing teams through his coaching, educating and consulting. He is the author of The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World. You can learn more at www.thefortefactor.com.
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