working from home

With a shelter-in-place order in effect in Illinois until April 7, our headquarter office is working from home. While our ROWE environment has made the transition seamless for most of the team, I’ve undergone the biggest switch from on-site office manager to work from home office manager. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learned so far and how they can apply when the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Make Sure Your Tools Are Up to Snuff

Since Chartwell is prepared to work anywhere, it was easy to grab a backup laptop and a few other nonessentials like a monitor and external keyboard before closing the office. However, many organizations were not ready to send their employees home with the tools they needed. A Forbes article stated that only 33% of people in the United States worked from home before this crisis. Many organizations have been required to order laptops in bulk, assist with Wi-Fi hot spots, etc.

Don’t just lock them back up in the closet when this is over and forget about them until the next crisis. Keep track of how your organization responded to this need both physically and mentally. Were there any challenges in getting everyone working again or what worked well?  Take the time to consider if this changes how your employees work going forward. Also, add this information to your crisis plan and you’ll be ready to deploy that much faster the next time you’re hit with a situation like this.

Be Flexible

The world is changing at a rapid pace and everybody has been forced to adapt. For me personally, it meant being more aware of people’s personal space when I went out, planning my trips more carefully, and giving grace when things don’t go as planned. Many organizations from schools to factories have had to completely shift strategies to continue to function. Things are not always going to go as planned and if you’ve prepared your team appropriately to respond, you can make the changes that you need to. We are now living in a “new normal” and that requires accepting the ways things have always been done may not work anymore. Use that to your advantage and strategize new ways of responding. You may find that in the long run, this helps grow your business in unexpected ways.

Overcommunicate

Schools and some businesses are closed, others are operating with social distancing, and all are responding to the crisis at hand. As more information comes out, questions arise about how it impacts us. This can lead to feelings of isolation both physically and mentally. Make sure you are communicating. This may be as simple as a quick check-in or ensuring your employees know about any changes that are happening.

It may seem redundant to reach out so much but since we can’t communicate in person, reading body language cues is even harder. It may be harder to identify when someone is having trouble. Our company president checks in with us constantly to see how we’re doing. Most of the time, it’s a simple “how are you doing?” It helps me feel that I’m not alone and I have someone to count on when I’m feeling challenged. Go beyond the normal day-to-day communications and make sure your teams are checking in with each other. You may find that your teams have a stronger bond when this is over.

Celebrate the Little Things

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the crisis at hand. We have enough being thrown at us and it can be very overwhelming. From not working to parents taking over the role of the teacher, it’s easy to feel like nothing is going right. Take a moment and acknowledge something that went right today. My husband celebrated a victory in learning a new skill, and I got my brother to donate blood this weekend. Both seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but according to Inc.com, recognizing your achievements boosts your mood, energy, and productivity. It also helps relieve stress and anxiety.

It’s OK to Feel Anxiety

We live in a world full of uncertainty right now and it is OK to feel anxious. In an article by BusinessInsider.com, Julie Pike, a clinical psychologist said, “Anxiety is Mother Nature’s way of trying to protect us by pushing us to resolve uncertainty and figure out a solution.” Take the time to recognize you’re feeling anxious and then make a plan. I had a minor panic attack last week that my cats might run out of their prescription food and I wouldn’t be able to get more. So rather than let it fester, I recognized it was making me feel anxious. I did an audit of their food and ordered some that was running low. Taking care of that small action was enough to reduce some of the anxiety I had.

Your employees have anxiety and that’s OK. Give them the grace to feel anxious and then be proactive in developing ways to help them deal with it. Employees that feel that their organization has their best interests at heart will remain loyal and stick with you even when things don’t go right all the time.

We live in a “new normal” and that means adapting to the situation, being flexible to learn from mistakes and developing new strategies, communicating with our teams, and helping them deal with the stress of the situation and celebrating the victories, no matter how small. Once this is over, take the time to review what went right and what area can be improved so your organization can be better equipped in a future crisis. In the long run, you may find your organization comes out stronger with new strategies, a stronger bond and better work efficiency. If you’re not sure how to deal with this crisis, Chartwell can help.